Good Sports

Kauai Interscholastic Federation (KIF) wouldn’t exist with out the hard work and dedication of high school athletic directors Greg Gonsalves (Kapaa), Jon Kobayashi (Waimea), Dino Pabre (Kauai) and Kaipo Kealalio Jr. (Island School). Together, they make KIF organization tick.

“There are a lot of things that we do – it’s an endless list, actually,” says Pabre, who recently filled the (big) shoes of Kauai High School’s previous athletic director, Ross Shimabukuro.

The athletic directors are responsible for running and managing the league’s programs from preseason to post-season. They each are responsible for about 39 teams (with the exception of Kealalio, who handles fewer) that include 16 sports: Football, girls volleyball, bowling, air riflery, cross country and cheerleading are offered in the fall; boys and girls basketball, soccer, canoe paddling, swimming and wrestling in the winter; and baseball, softball, track, golf, tennis and boys volleyball in the spring.

“We wear many hats,” says Kobayashi.

They all go above and beyond their full-time roles as athletic directors, working nights and weekends, assisting with fundraisers, creating schedules and even serving as travel agents during state tournaments.

“And sometimes at school events, we’re the plumber, the electrician, security and the custodian,” jokes Kobayashi. “We have to make sure the event goes.”

Kauai high schools have been competing in inter-scholastic sports since the 1940s, and KIF was born about 40 years ago. Sports initially were just for boys, like football and baseball. But it has grown over the years to include girls and a vast array of different activities that continue to expand. Wrestling was the federation’s newest addition, as well as JV softball and baseball, and there has been talk about including surfing, water polo and judo in the near future.

“Sports parallel life, to a great extent,” says Gonsalves. “Kids learn life lessons through their participation on a team. They learn about teamwork, about responsibility, cooperation, following rules and working hard to get results.”

Kealalio believes that athletics also helps develop character, boost confidence and promote a positive attitude. Additionally, it’s a way for kids to stay motivated and do well in school, according to Pabre.

One of the greatest challenges to the athletic directors in providing these opportunities to youths, however, is funding.

“Fundraising is a revolving door – the money comes in, the money goes out,” says Kobayashi.

Though the state provides some funds, the federation has been operating at a reduced budget for about five years. The money largely goes for transportation, supplies and uniforms, and a small portion is allocated to coaches.

“All the coaches put in the time, the effort and they don’t get any monetary rewards, but they have the passion and the love for the game and seeing the development in the student athletes,” says Kobayashi. “They are the key piece in the puzzle.”

The athletic directors agree that community financial support and volunteerism are huge, and they are thankful for the help. In fact, because of the community’s generosity, KIF schools recently were awarded $44,000 from the Kraft Shop and Score fundraiser.

This generosity demonstrates just how much sports are an important element of life on Kauai.

“Without college teams, high school sports is kind of the Mecca of sports on the island,” says Pabre.

Originally from Hawaii Island, Pabre has participated in track and judo, and continues to play basketball, golf and softball. He attended the University of Hawaii and majored in physical education. He served in the Navy prior to accepting his current position.

Kobayashi, who graduated from Waimea High School in 1986, credits sports as the catalyst that drove him to attend Linfield College in Oregon, where he played football and majored in physical education. Prior to becoming athletic director, he coached football and track at Waimea High School.

Gonsalves graduated from Kapaa High School in 1989. Before moving back to the island, he attended Brigham Young University in Utah, where he played volleyball and majored in education.

This is Kealalio’s sixth year serving as athletic director at Island School. He also is a volleyball coach at the private school, and previously taught the sport at Kapaa High School as well as at Hofstra University in New York. He attended the University of California at Irvine.

Like the others, Kealalio became involved in athletics because he believes it to be an important aspect of developing a child’s skills. “I also feel that I can give back to younger athletes and the community by being a part of athletics,” he says.

“Sports are the classroom outside of the classroom, something that is very worthwhile for young people to do,” adds Kobayashi.