Keeping Score

By Cindy Luis

Monday, January 11, 1999

Yoshida hopes to
polish preps’ image

SOME might consider it a regression of sorts. Why leave a job at the University of Hawaii to work for the Hawaii High School Athletic Association?

Because, according to Thomas Yoshida, it's an opportunity he couldn't pass up. The 35-year-old Yoshida began a new career this morning as the first sports information/public relations director for the HHSAA.

"I'd like to help bring the pride back to high school athletics," said the 1982 Leilehua High graduate. "High school sports used to be a very integral part of this state but it's been lost in the shuffle between UH, the Pro Bowl, and sports on television.

"I'd like to see us bring some of it back. For most of our athletes, the state tournament will be the highest level they will reach. I want to make the state tournament experience their NCAA Tournament."

Yoshida has the experience and the vision. Fresh out of UH, he was the public relations director for the Hawaii Islanders Triple-A baseball club for two seasons until the franchise folded in 1987. He then spent five years in the UH sports information office.

For the past 61/2 years, Yoshida had worked on UH's upper campus, supervising the Campus Center information and ticket desks. He also was the editor of the faculty/staff newsletter.

"I've always been involved in sports, though," he said, "and I like helping people. I like to motivate people to do their very best and I feel I can bring that to the high school level."

YOSHIDA definitely has the P.R. part down. It's a skill he's honed on the basketball court as a high school official.

"I've had everything happen at games, down to coaches wanting to kick my car," he said. "You've got to be diplomatic, and that's pretty good training for a public relations career.

"The hardest part about officiating is making sure that it's not the coaches' game. The game is for the kids and a lot of times the coaches try to make it more. I feel that high school is the last avenue to have fun."

Yoshida, who lettered in golf at Leilehua, said he wanted to be a referee since he was a 10-year-old rookie playground official at Kaala Elementary. He said he was influenced by some of Hawaii's more colorful officials back in the 1970s, including Fuzzy Richards and Koko Mahukona, and "I always got a kick out of watching the referees," he said.

BY moving to the HHSAA, it also allows Yoshida to become a certified WAC official, something he could not do while being employed by UH. His goal is to become the first Hawaii official since 1979 to become a traveling WAC referee.

"There's been no one since Craig Peterson, Pat Tanibe and Larry Yamashita were certified in 1979, the first year UH joined the WAC," Yoshida said. "This new job gives me a lifetime opportunity. It allows me to pursue a dream that I've wanted for so long."

"I know Thomas has some new ideas," said Keith Amemiya, the HHSAA executive director. "I'm not one to micro-manage and I'm looking forward to seeing what he'll come up with."

"I give credit to Keith and the board," Yoshida said. "They've made a commitment to expand their staff and enhance the image of the HHSAA. That's why I feel good about taking the job."

Yoshida wants to upgrade the association's website ( with the ultimate goal of having same-day results posted. In the works is a fan poll, which probably will begin with boys basketball in the next few weeks.

"We also want to create opportunities for high school students to write for our website as well as offer looks at scholarships and internships," Yoshida said. "High school is all about opportunity and our job at the HHSAA is to fulfill the dreams and expectations of the student-athletes."

Cindy Luis is a Star-Bulletin sportswriter.
Her column appears weekly.

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