The Way I See It

By Pat Bigold

Tuesday, August 26, 1997

Football’s here, so
where are the trainers?

DWIGHT Fujii's voice on the phone connection from Kauai reflected shock and disappointment.

"I have to apologize to the parents," said the Kapaa High School athletic director.

"We had a preseason meeting with them tonight and I told them there'd finally be a trainer aboard for the whole season. Now what am I going to tell them?"

Yes, there's yet another delay in the process of getting the most basic protection for high school student-athletes: full-time certified trainers.

It now seems that despite the fact that we were told, and we reported in early July, that the trainers would be in place by Sept. 1, trainer-less schools may be well into their fall sports seasons before they get a warm body.

The DOE says the time-consuming process is due to civil service regulations that can't be skirted.

Fujii is upset and I don't blame him. He's already had one kid go down with a fractured collar-bone in football practice this preseason, and he's currently named in a soccer injury lawsuit against his school. It's a suit that might've been avoided if he'd had a trainer.

"This means we're still in the dark ages," said Fujii. "We're still telling kids to put spit on their wounds."

ROOSEVELT High head football coach Les Parilla is worried too.

"It a little spooky," said Parilla.

He was somewhat shaken when junior 5-foot-6, 140-pound defensive back Alan Gregory suffered a blood clot in the small intestine after taking a hit in the rib cage Friday night at home against McKinley.

"He got up at first then he fell right back down to the ground," said Parilla, who added, "It's a good thing McKinley had a trainer because we don't."

Two years ago, Fujii had a trainer's room built at his school. This week he repainted it in anticipation of the trainer's arrival.

In 1992, the Legislature hired 10 trainers -- one for each school -- in a pilot program, hired five more the next year and then sat on the program.

This year the Legislature approved money to put trainers in each of the remaining 25 schools.

The Department of Education advertised the positions on July 13.

From what I can gather from various sources, there were between 65 and 70 local and mainland residents qualified and interested back then.

But a DOE personnel official said last night that lists of local candidates only recently went out to Oahu's school principals.

AS for the neighbor island principals, there are no lists immediately forthcoming because the DOE says there aren't enough candidates for them.

Besides Kapaa, schools like Baldwin, Hilo and Honokaa also are without certified trainers.

There are between 35 and 40 Oahu applicants and there were about 30 from the mainland early in the summer. But Hawaii Athletic Trainers Association president Cindy Clivio said the mainland pool is dwindling now because these applicants can't wait past the start of school to be considered.

Mainland applicants' names can't even be released until the local interviews and hirings are completed.

So here's the $1 million question: When will the kids finally have some assurance of safety while they practice and play DOE-authorized at-risk contact sports?

And the answer is . . . we don't know.

Clivio calls football season the period for the most traumatic injuries of the school year.

The good news is that Sen. Rod Tam, who rescued the trainers' measure from committee death and shepherded it through the Legislature, said last night he will call for emergency hires at all schools where there is no trainer.

Pat Bigold has covered sports for daily newspapers
in Hawaii and Massachusetts since 1978.

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