Nakamura's energy gives UH teams a big boost
GWEN Nakamura is one of my favorite people, and I've talked to her maybe three times.
She's probably one of your favorite people, even if you don't even know her name.
But if you've been to the Stan Sheriff Center you know her.
She's the lady with the rainbow on her head.
The one who gets the band going. The one who can't stop dancing!
The one who, on the School Kine Cookies commercial, says, "Is this a commercial?"
The one who makes everybody smile.
"She has so much energy," Riley Wallace once said, giving her credit for helping his team win.
GWEN NAKAMURA leads the pep band, and watching her, you'd think she's a kid. Until you talk to her.
And then you realize no kid could keep up with her.
No single person has a chance. The pep bands rotate members. But the constant is the lady who won't stop dancing, who wears balloons on her head.
How can she keep going?
"I just love UH sports," she says.
Good thing. Because she's at Stan Sheriff Arena so often, that might as well be where they deliver her mail.
Officially, she's the assistant band director.
Actually, she's the head dancer, and No. 1 fan.
"I've been raised with UH sports since I was born, I think," she says.
It's just in her. And she has to dance it out.
HER TWO BROTHERS played soccer at UH. She loved going to football games, volleyball, basketball, everything.
She says when the job opened up almost 20 years ago, she thought, "Wow, what better job to have?"
So there she is, leading the band -- football, volleyball, basketball, everything.
They even played at a swim meet once.
"I thought that was kind of neat," Nakamura says.
The first thing she did when Bob Nash was hired was send him an e-mail -- what can the pep band do?
"Our goal is to bring a lot of spirit and a lot of collegiate atmosphere," she says.
Lately, they've dedicated themselves to teaching UH fans the school fight song, 'Co-ed.'
"We started this at volleyball and basketball games: We made a big sign," she says. "And we put all the words on the sign and we hold it up and we actually do the singing version of 'Co-ed.' "
One of her kids flips pages to keep up with the lyrics.
MEANWHILE, SHE'S boogying down, directing the band, playing the tambourine, a rainbow balloon hat on her head.
It's not all fun and games. They do classwork. They have training camp.
She has to try to teach some former nonmarchers how to walk and play music at the same time.
There's recruiting. (Who better?)
But it's special when they crank up "Hawaii 5-0" as the team runs on to the Stan Sheriff floor, when they're rocking during a timeout at the stadium on a Saturday night.
Collegiate atmosphere. The kids keep her young. They keep all of us young.
When high school cheerleaders use the word "spirit" it can sound silly. But when Gwen says it you believe it -- she's one of your favorite people, even if you never knew her name.