HIGH SCHOOL REPORT
JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARBULLETIN.COM
Word of Life intermediate girls basketball coach Roy Alvarado gave pointers to his team at the school's new gym on Auahi Street.
New gym, new Life
Athletes at Word of Life finally have a place they can call their own
THE FACTORY of champions.
That's what people in and around the Word of Life athletics program are calling their new practice gym, which officially opened on Feb. 1.
"We've been waiting for this ever since we joined the ILH, about six years ago," Word of Life athletic director Joe Onosai said.
"In a couple of months, it's going to be very impressive."
What Onosai described as a "really ugly" warehouse has been fixed up, painted and transformed into a work of art.
Outfitted with Sport Court, the same type of playing surface used by many top collegiate volleyball programs, the Word of Life Gymnasium takes on a new-age look with blue hues everywhere -- including the walls, floors and equipment. In addition to a court, the gym will soon include a weight room once the equipment arrives next month.
"It's a nice color, it's very blue," mused Onosai's daughter, Careena, a senior at Word of Life.
"It's going to be really top-notch."
The next step for the Firebrands would be a gym which includes bleachers, enabling them to host games. But Joe Onosai said that would be something farther down the road and likely at another site, as the school first wants to expand its enrollment to 1,000 students over the next five years.
For a school of about 450 students, the opening of its own gym ends a lot of headaches. Located on Auahi Street, just a couple of blocks from campus, the gym brings a lot of continuity and stability to the Firebrands program.
"Before, we had to bounce around, trying to find an open gym," Joe Onosai said. "Our kids and our families have been very patient."
"It's hard finding gym time in Honolulu," varsity girls volleyball coach Lee Ann Satele said. "A lot of times, two teams had to share a gym, and they would overlap."
IN ADDITION TO Word of Life athletes having to travel separately to various locations to lift weights, they were relegated to 6 a.m. and 7 p.m. practice times. And those practices were often at different locations from week to week, sometimes day to day.
"It was a scheduling nightmare," Satele said. "There was no consistency throughout the season."
Aside from the obvious practical advantages, the gym has just as importantly increased school spirit among the athletes. The banner posted outside in big, bold writing proclaims the building as "Word of Life Gymnasium -- Home of the Firebrands".
"I can see that the kids have a sense of pride, a sense of belonging," Satele said, adding that the students spend a good portion of their free time at the gym.
"It's like a new home, a place we can call home. That's important," Careena Onosai said.
A three-sport standout, Onosai, who has just a few months before graduation, said she is extremely grateful that her teammates will now have a place of their own.
"They should take advantage of it," said Onosai, who has brought a lot of attention from top Division I colleges to Firebrands athletics for her All-State performances in volleyball and track and field. "It's a privilege for them. They should feel honored."
Not only do current Firebrands feel the deep connection to the gym, but perhaps even more so do the alumni, says Satele.
"They know they were the foundation for the whole program," Satele said of the Word of Life alumni, made up of two classes. "They're really proud."
FACTS OF LIFE
World of Life Academy was established in 1993 with students from kindergarten to the third grade. It has since grown to serving youngsters from kindergarten to the 12th grade.
Enrollment: 251 (intermediate and high school); 186 (elementary)
Principal: Dr. David Sauceda
League: Interscholastic League of Honolulu
Athletic director: Joe Onosai
Sports: Football, basketball, soccer, volleyball, track and field, cheerleading, paddling, tennis, wrestling, judo, baseball, softball, bowling.
(Note: Not all sports participate in all levels; some compete in intermediate only, and others field teams in varsity and junior varsity. Athletes in tennis and bowling compete with the University High team, and paddling, wrestling, judo, baseball and softball players are with Pac-Five.)
On the Web: wordoflifehawaii.com