MHS Athletics Struggle for Funding
Molokai High School Athletics Department is struggling to keep afloat this year, lacking thousands of dollars needed for 196 students in the school’s 12 sports to participate in off-island games. Yet with a $40,000 budget shortfall for travel expenses, Athletic Director Hoku Haliniak is determined to keep Farmers sports programs intact.
“I refuse to cut away games,” said Haliniak. “There has to be a way — where there’s a will, there’s a way.”
To help raise money to save the program, Haliniak said Farmer faithful will be asked to pay an admissions fee to home games this year. Previously, admissions were charged to volleyball and basketball events, but baseball, softball and football will be added to the list this year.
Adult admission to football is $6 and other sports are $5, with senior and child discounts. Students with IDs from participating schools are free.
“I don’t want to cut any sports because we have 196 students out of 350 high school students who want to participate in athletics,” Haliniak said.
State budget cuts for athletics from the Hawaii Department of Education began in 2008, when funding was nixed for extra-curricular activities like sports and the arts, Haliniak explained. Molokai High still receives just over $13,000 in state allocations for athletics, but that is barely a drop in the bucket.
Additional funding is given to Molokai from the Maui Interscholastic League (MIL), said Haliniak. Athletic directors at fellow MIL schools voted that Molokai should receive the bulk of transportation funding — almost $32,000 — because MHS athletes have to travel to Maui-based events, she added.
“But we still struggle,” Haliniak said. She has to eke out enough funding to cover 762 round trip tickets on the ferry to Maui this year — and that doesn’t include events for teams that make it to the state level.
“Last year, we had eight teams representing us at states, and three MIL champions,” Haliniak said proudly.
Molokai athletes and coaches have to work extra hard and make sacrifices for those titles.
“[Being from Molokai] we lose out on a lot of that extra play,” said Haliniak. “A basketball team in Honolulu would get 18 to 20 games before regular season, Maui would get maybe 10, and our players would get 3 or 4…before MILs.”
Coaches also have to make tough selections, brining only the minimum number of players to off-island games. Their opponents often show up with more than double the number of Molokai athletes.
“In some cases, we’ll have five girls against 18 girls,” said girls Air Riflery coach Eddie Gorospe. “What’s hard for us is that we have to travel to every meet. We don’t have the funding to fly 40 kids to meets off-island.”
Haliniak said most sports only go to two meets before MILs, and if teams want to attend more, they fundraise on their own.
In addition to charging admissions — which brought in about $7,000 last year during home volleyball and basketball games — the Athletics Department offers concessions, booths at various events, and participated in the Charity Walk, where they raised about $3,800 this year.
Haliniak’s commitment doesn’t end there. She herself spends personal time scraping together money for her teams.
For 21 weekends this year, she said she will be on Maui at Wal-Mart, selling Chinese Pretzels and Big Island Candies to raise money for the Athletic Department.
“Hoku goes out of her way to find any kind of funding,” said Gorospe. “She goes over and beyond for our athletics.”
Haliniak said part of the budget shortfall this year has come from the addition of two new sports to Molokai High — 8-man football and golf. She said she and the school’s administration try not to let funding dictate the sports that students can play, but base decisions instead on student interest.
She hopes to be able to add a Junior Varsity program to Molokai High’s athletic offerings in the future, so that more students will be able to participate in sports.
“For us to be competitive in the MIL and have representation is fabulous but if we had more opportunities, I think our kids would excel even more,” Haliniak said.
To offer financial support, Haliniak said donations can be made to:
Molokai High School Athletics
Save Our Molokai Athletics (SOMA)
PO Box 158
Hoolehua, HI 96729
Admission for Football: Adults $6; Seniors/Military $5; Children age 1-8 $4; Students from non-participating schools with IDs $4; Students from participating schools with IDs are free.
Admission for Baseball: Volleyball, Softball and Basketball: Adults $5; Seniors/Military $4; Children age 1-8 $3; Students from non-participating school with IDs $3; Students from participating schools w/IDs are free.