THE HIGH SCHOOL REPORT
PAUL HONDA / PHONDA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Farrington coach Jenic Tumaneng explained a play to his team during a practice session. The Govs are dealing with a crisis.
Lady Gov's making a choice
The decision not to play has created a tumultuous situation for the Governors
Some say it's free will. Others claim it's a matter of choice.
Whatever it is called, the freedom to choose has tested the mettle of the Farrington girls basketball team.
Because two Lady Governors chose to buck their coach's request to go back into a game, an avalanche has ensued. In the mire of further rebellion and rumors that certain players wanted the coach fired, the Farrington administration decided it was time to step in.
And now, the basketball future of five Lady Govs hangs in the balance as their coach ponders their futures. The remaining 10 players, who still suit up for head coach Jenic Tumaneng, closed out nonconference play with an 8-3 record. Farrington began its OIA season last night at home against Roosevelt.
In an age when college and pro sports dominate youthful minds, some coaches and athletic directors are hoping to bring back high school athletics to its original direction. Longtime Kamehameha athletic director Blane Gaison, who starred locally before going on to a career with the NFL's Atlanta Falcons, has seen it all. Since retiring from pro football, he has coached the sport and is now a dedicated administrator at his high school alma mater.
Gaison is a proponent of Positive Coaches Alliance, which recently partnered with Kamehameha.
"It's getting back to what youth sports is all about: building a culture or community where kids can learn life lessons. Winning is important, but it's not the only thing," said Gaison, who also has the perspective of a parent of student-athletes.
In PCA, he sees an important bastion of common-sense values. PCA provides information to parents, coaches and the administration about what the athletic environment needs.
"Look at the influence pro sports has on youth sports, mom and dad fighting with officials and things like that," Gaison said.
KAMEHAMEHA'S CLAY Cockett has been involved for more than 30 years in girls basketball. The workshops that have begun at the school are a first, crucial step.
"If we understand what PCA is trying to do, then it's up to the parents to try to adhere to the principles," said Cockett, a retired police detective.
"In the OIA, it's a different situation. You're not going to get that kind of support a lot of times. Only a few parents support their children's participation enough," he said of the private- and public-school worlds.
"We've become too routine almost to the point of boredom of some of our girls. We lacked a lot of discipline, so we've had to address our attention to details a little more," said Cockett, whose Warriors are 11-0 and ranked fourth in the state.
"So now, we've been winning and you get tough on them, the question is, 'Why? We're doing OK.' But that's not the point," he said. "We're doing OK, but we're not taking care of the little things."
A little thing turned into a big thing on March 2 when Farrington met Maryknoll at the Punahou Wahine Spring Classic. Four games into the nonconference schedule, Tumaneng's team went on a second-half roll with reserves Angie Gasio and Kirsten Vaa on the floor. With the lead secure at 18 points with 30 seconds left, the coach summoned twins Kapio and Kalani Alatasi into the game.
The sisters, who played the majority of minutes in Farrington's previous three games, refused to re-enter. After sitting for most of the second half, they felt insulted by Tumaneng's request. He sent in two other players to finish out the game.
Instead of feeling good about the performances of Gasio and Vaa, the twins dwelled on their embarrassment and hurt. When the Lady Govs sat down after the game, the twins were gone. Tumaneng never got a chance to talk with them.
IN HIS NINTH YEAR at the helm, Tumaneng did what most veteran coaches would do. He disciplined Kapio and Kalani. But unexpectedly, three of their teammates later protested and refused to suit up for practice and games.
One of them, returnee Bryanna Tatupu-Leopoldo, said she was more concerned about the twins' feelings. Now she says that the team's success is more important than any player's minutes.
In another odd twist, one of the other "protesters" who refused to suit up was Gasio, who had played most of the second half. The result was an emotional decision that left Farrington with five fewer players. The tumult that followed included a meeting on March 6 with athletic director Harold Tanaka and principal Catherine Payne. The administrators stood by their coach, deflating a coup attempt by at least one of the players.
"That only becomes an issue if the athletic director makes it an issue," said longtime Kalaheo coach Chico Furtado. "You squash that very easily if you get support from your athletic department."
Tumaneng wasn't worried about losing his job, but the toll this crisis could take on his team remains an issue. By last Saturday, with the Alatasi twins and the three protesters still out, the Lady Govs continued to roll. They posted another win over Maryknoll, the same team they played on the night Kapio and Kalani made their decision not to play.
On Monday, the five sat in the gym, away from the court. They've done this every day since the incident; sitting by a doorway, doing crossword puzzles and talking story. They aren't watching practice, but each one expressed a desire to return soon.
That may be easier said than done. While Tatupu-Leopoldo, a center, is also missed, she doesn't regret any of her actions. In her mind, she was standing up for her friends.
FOR KAPIO ALATASI, there is also no regret. Even if she could, Kapio says she would never change what she did that night when she chose to keep sitting. But Kalani pauses when the question is posed. Would she change what she did? She won't answer, even as Kapio urges her to comply.
Jackie Sablan, a team mom who watches every practice and game, sees the lessons learned for players on both sides of the fence.
"My daughter tried to bring the team together," she said of Janiene Telefoni-Sablan, a junior guard.
"This situation kind of discouraged the team, but I tell my daughters, 'Don't be followers. Be leaders.' "
With one player visiting family on the mainland, the Lady Govs worked hard on Monday afternoon. Nine players hustling across the floor in practice jerseys, five others in a dark corner, hoping for a decision by their coach that could reinstate them.
"We're trying to do what's best for this team. If we could, we'd make a decision today," Tumaneng said.
"The girls who stuck it out want what's best for the team."
Complicating matters, Tatupu-Leopoldo's father and aunt coach the JV team.
"I can't knock parents for their opinions," Tumaneng said. "But I can't please every parent."
Above the trophy case of the gym, just a few feet away from the sidelined Lady Govs, is a trace of Farrington's past. Engraved on a plaque honoring Richard Kitamura, a former coach and athletic director, is an apt quote from poet James Russell Lowell.
"In the scale of destinies, brawn will never weigh so much as brain."