From the outside looking in, Cecil Hasegawa has a difficult time comprehending what has happened with the Kapaa softball program.
Hasegawa, a longtime head coach at Pac-Five, says he doesn’t have any details about why six Kapaa players walked off the team last week. That forced the program to shut down, having played just four of its 12 Kauai Interscholastic Federation games. (Here is the full story in this morning’s Star-Advertiser.)
“I’m sorry to see that happened, but that helped us out,” he said.
With head coach Aulani Kaui and her staff, as well as Kapaa athletic director Greg Gonsalves declining to comment, Hasegawa can only wonder. His team is a beneficiary of a golden opportunity now that Kapaa is done for the year and the KIF has just two teams.
The HHSAA, in its by-laws, cannot award an automatic seeded berth to a team that plays in a league with less than three members (in a sport). The KIF is down to two softball members for this season: Kauai and Waimea.
The KIF lost its chance to pit its second-place team against the Interscholastic League of Honolulu’s runner-up in a play-in game to qualify for the HHSAA Division II softball state tourney. That means that the two ILH D-II teams — Pac-Five and St. Francis — locked in a fierce battle for a state tourney berth can breathe a little easier. Nothing is automatic; winless Sacred Hearts still has a shot when the league playoffs arrive.
With Pac-Five and St. Francis going neck-a-neck in the ILH D-II standings so far, Hasegawa had already started preparing for the possibility of a trip to Kauai.
“I had started making plans for reservations if we were in the play-in game. I wanted to go early and settle in,” he said.
Hasegawa empathizes with his peers when it comes to differences with players and parents.
“Every team has issues with playing time and accusations of favoritism. As a coach, you have to work it out. There’s no guarantee every player will play. Halfway through the season, you get calls and e-mails,” he said.
Kapaa’s situation, though, was more about leadership style by the coaching staff and a majority of players who simply revolted. With just 11 players, roughly half being freshmen, almost everyone got major playing time. Unlike Kapaa, which has a three-person coaching staff, Hasegawa has a larger core at Pac-Five, which may be one reason why he makes it a priority to develop communication.
“The relationships you have are important so they know where you are coming from. You have to be able to relate to the person. You want to treat everyone the same, but it doesn’t work that way,” he said. “When you run a young team, you need a lot of help, especially for the players who lack some skills. They need one-on-one work.”
Pac-Five played in Waimea’s preseason tournament this year. Hasegawa’s team played Kapaa twice.
“I knew Aulani (Ryder) from Kaneohe Bobby Sox,” he said of the Kapaa head coach and former Kamehameha player. “I knew her father. When we played them at the Waimea tournament, I didn’t see any problems.”