Collias: It’s time to come together and find solutions

Between the Lines

It was just over a week ago that we learned, for certain, that it would be at least a year’s time that Maui Interscholastic League sports would be dormant.

Now, as we search for answers, some things are becoming more and more clear.

Let’s start with this: People care deeply about this conundrum on every side of the issue, from the school administrators who wrestled with this decision for months, to the parents and relatives of student-athletes, to the student-athletes themselves.

Now, it is time to come together, find some solutions and remember we are fighting an invisible and unrelenting foe in COVID-19.

Jamie Yap, the Maui High School principal who has acted as the MIL spokesperson through all of this, said “the focus for us right now is getting the spring sports started in a way that hopefully — hopefully when the superintendent allows it to happen — that we can work things out for the low-risk and moderate-risk (sports). Hopefully when we get to that place maybe even the high-risk sports would be allowed.”

The MIL is one of two leagues in the state that includes both public and private schools, which complicates the whole plan when it comes to getting back to sports.

The private schools here have been on campus since August, while now even the Feb. 1 date for the return to mostly on-campus learning in public schools is in serious jeopardy with the growing COVID case numbers in recent weeks.

“I want to commend the league in its nature of private and public schools and that the dialogue stayed focused on being united as a league,” Yap said of last week’s MIL meeting that determined the cancellations. “That’s very commendable because private schools could have easily said, ‘We’re going to start our own league and we’re going to break off and do what we like.’ By saying that, the league kept the students in mind and kept the focus on the students.

“Collectively the private and public schools are working together and that’s a big statement.”

Maui Preparatory Academy athletic director Keenan Reader said his school is happy to be part of the MIL.

“As a private school we value the partnership between our public and private sectors,” Reader said. “Unfortunately although it comes with some hardships, it’s part of being committed to the league and we believe that partnership is what’s best for kids on the island of Maui. It just stinks that this happens to be during COVID and it’s not working for us now, but this is going to be over soon. That partnership was the top priority for us.”

With the writing on the wall for some time that fall and winter sports were not going to happen, Reader started working on a club basketball tournament for the MPA’s brand-new gymnasium, the Bozich Center, to host in about a month. It is just one of numerous club sports options to arise recently, across the island, from track and cross country, to soccer, to baseball, to flag rugby.

“We are hopeful that we can get some things going on this island partnering with some clubs and the County of Maui and see what might happen,” Reader said. “Unfortunately with the (Department of Education) not being in school for in-person learning there really was no pathway to resume (MIL) sports.

“We’re hopeful that we can get the support of the county to host a safe event for kids. It would be great. I don’t think it will include fans, but our priority is to see these kids active and give them an outlet for competitive athletics.”

Multiple sources have told me that the MIL’s five private schools — Maui Prep, St. Anthony, Kamehameha Maui, Haleakala Waldorf and Seabury Hall — discussed forming their own league, a thought that has been floated over the years, but became much more prevalent recently with the frustrations that have arisen during the COVID ordeal.

That thought was pretty quickly shut down when the logistics of the whole thing were examined. The legal paperwork, the expenses, the liability, competitive imbalance and lack of competition were the leading reasons that the discussion was very short-lived.

With the world we are living in right now, the need for strength and unity is more prevalent than ever, and the MIL sticking together, I think, is essential for all of the 13 members.

We have to remember the travel challenges that the league has with three islands and the drive to Hana involved.

Things get much more complicated with the DOE’s decree that it will at some point back away from athletics, both administratively and financially — something that could happen by the fall.

The advice behind that thought is coming from the state attorney general and will make things much more complicated for the MIL to generate enough revenue to stay viable.

There are so many storylines that we have all missed with the cancellation of fall and winter sports: an intriguing girls basketball season wiped out, the move of Lahainaluna football to Division I, the hopes of powerhouse programs like King Kekaulike girls soccer and Lahainaluna wrestling to challenge for state crowns.

One that keeps coming up for me is not of winning a state title, but rather just staying on the upswing after one of the most frustrating losing streaks in MIL history: King Kekaulike football.

“We’re definitely sad for our kids, you know not getting a season or having a season coming up,” Na Alii coach Tyson Valle said last week. “It’s not a surprise. It’s kind of at a point that we’re kind of glad that there is a decision. I think from what we know and what we’ve been seeing out there, numbers are growing. Things are definitely getting scary and we’re still going into the unknown, so we don’t even know what’s going to happen in the future.

“For us, it’s just good to finally get an answer as far as what we’re headed towards and what we can do from here on in.”

I see promise for the future, all over the place.

A Maui News colleague and my daughter — a DOE teacher on Maui — have both received their first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.

I see eternal optimism from coaches, including the always-optimistic Valle. Na Alii broke a five-year, 41-game losing streak with three wins in 2019.

“I think we will continue to be on the upswing,” Valle said. “We have a lot of young guys that are feeding through our Big Boys program up to high school. I think the challenge for us right at this point is to get that offseason program going, try to get our kids to be somewhat active but at the same time it depends on what happens with COVID.”

* Robert Collias is at rcollias@mauinews.com.


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