don’t have that experience,” Molokai head coach David Kalani said.
Kalani also lost an assistant coach this season due to budget cuts and now runs the team completely on his own.
“It’s hard,” he said. “On the first day I had 30 kids. Sometimes you have some kids that don’t learn as fast, but you don’t get the opportunity to give them the extra attention that they need.”
In addition to coaching, Kalani also takes care of and repairs all the equipment himself. Without resources to travel, money for new or improved equipment is out of the question.
“It hurts the team,” Kalani said. “We’re shooting slingshots while they shoot M-1’s. From the beginning, we didn’t have much money to invest, but we carry on with what we’ve got.”
A Common Problem
The air riflery team is not alone. This summer, the state slashed the Hawaii High School Athletic Association (HHSAA) budget from $6.7 million to $4.3 million. Neighbor island schools like Molokai took the hardest hit because so much of their budget is dedicated to travel.
“The bottom line is we don’t have enough money,” Molokai Athletic Director Camie Kimball said. She said that last year she spent $97,000 in travel costs alone for her teams. Her current total budget is $55,000.
Kimball has had to make a slew of tough decisions this year in order to keep the high school teams afloat. Every team at Molokai High has been forced to reduce its traveling roster. Teams that do not compete in head-to-head contests, like the air riflery, cross country and swim teams, are limited to three trips per year. Kimball also had to get all of her coaches to sign off on an agreement which cuts 25 percent of their paychecks. A few coaches were lost altogether.
“We know most of our coaches do it because they love the sport, so we asked if they would be willing to lose some of the money,” Kimball said.
For most coaches, the smaller paycheck is the least of their worries. Molokai’s highly competitive basketball and volleyball teams are only able to pay for 10 of their players to travel to away games, as opposed to the normal 12-person team. The teams are also forced to fund any preseason tournaments or trips completely on their own.
Kimball said she was happy that so far she has not had to completely cut any of the school’s programs.
“I know we have some sports that are more active than others. But, you know, if you have kids that want to swim, then you give them the opportunity to swim,” she said.
However, if money to travel dries up, some programs will have to be cut. Kimball did not want to think about what would happen then.
“We don’t have malls to go to; we don’t have movies to go to. Sports is basically the way we keep kids out of trouble,” she said.
Kimball also said sports help student-athletes to learn lessons about responsibility and commitment they might not get elsewhere. Minimum GPA requirements for the student-athletes are the only reason many of these students keep their grades up, Kimball said.
The Common Solution
As it so often happens in Hawaii, private citizens across the state have stepped up to help bridge the gap for high school sports. The “Save Our Sports” initiative organized by the Honolulu Advertiser has already raised over $800,000 for the athletic budget statewide. The drive, which will end next month, set a goal of $1.2 million – half of the money originally cut from the budget.
But Kimball said she has not seen any of that money yet. A small school like Molokai is not likely to see much of that money. But the Farmers have received a lot of help from donors around the state. HHSAA Chairman Keith Amemiya personally donated $15,000 of his own money to Molokai High School. Kimball said she has received gifts from many community members and businesses.
Each team also holds individual fundraisers to help meet their own needs. The girls’ volleyball team has held an alumni tournament and sells t-shirts to pick up the slack. The cross country team ran a concession stand at the recent Pailolo Challenge.
“Everybody does their own things to help out,” Kimball said. But there is still a huge need. “Any donations, small or large, that people could make would be much appreciated.”
Kimball said anyone interested in helping to save Molokai’s sports could donate to the high school directly or to a group called Friends of Molokai High and Middle Schools Foundation. The foundation, which Kimball helped to start, cuts through a lot of red tape and still gives donors the ability to choose where there money will be spent. They will be holding a fundraiser called “A Hundred for a Hundred” throughout the month of November to help close the gap.
Molokai’s athletes have always provided the island with a great source of entertainment and pride, now they need help to keep that tradition alive.