Keeping Score

By Cindy Luis

Monday, February 22, 1999

Crabb’s career as
coach has been a ‘10’

WHAT they do, they do for love.

"They" are the coaches of minor sports, ones that receive little attention outside their intimate circle of peers and parents.

The sport of gymnastics is losing a good one, whose coaching performance is a "10."

Paula Crabb has decided to step down after 23 years of leading the Punahou girls' gymnastics program. Last Friday, she finished a perfect 23-0 in ILH Championships.

"I've stayed because I've loved it," said Crabb, a gymnast at Southern Connecticut State College in the early 1970s. "You stay because you want to coach athletes until they graduate. But then you find another group you want to stay with until THEY graduate. The girls have kept me there.

"I believe in the sport and what the athletes learn and get from it, especially the fitness level. It's not a sport that pulls in a lot of money but, obviously, women's gymnastics has taken off."

Crabb was there at the Montreal Olympics in 1976, when the sport skyrocketed in popularity. That was the Games were Nadia Comaneci scored the first perfect 10 -- her first of seven -- with a routine on the uneven bars.

"That was so exciting," said Crabb, whose favorite event is the unevens.

Crabb, who coached intercollegiate gymnastics at Cal in 1978, prefers the high school level to the club level. Even though only three teams participate (Punahou, Kamehameha and Pac-5, "high school offers a lot for the kids and less intensity," she said.

"And I think it's important to enjoy participating with your classmates and represent your school. Even though there are few schools competing, the level of participation is high."

The cost of equipment and liability has forced some schools to drop the sport. The ILH stopped sponsoring boys' gymnastics during the 1980s, although several males still compete as individuals in the league meets.

Crabb will remain at Punahou as the new department head for physical education. She also wants to spend more time with her two children, ages 7 and 9.

One thing she is not giving up is canoe paddling. She took up that sport in 1978, completing her first Na Wahine O Ke Kai in 1981 for Outrigger Canoe Club.

Crabb steered the winning Outrigger crew in 1992. That was the last Hawaii crew to win the women's Molokai-to-Oahu race.

"The thing about gymnastics is you kind of outgrow it," said Crabb, who also competes in one-woman canoe races. "With paddling, you can still be competitive as you get older."


THE Hawaii High School Athletic Association made a good move by putting the boys' state basketball championship in the Stan Sheriff Center. Now it's time for the officials and high school athletic directors to consider some even bolder steps: expansion and a two-division championship.

Why not add four more teams to the Division I state tourney and create a separate DII state championship? Hawaii is long overdue in moving to class play based on student enrollment and a second tournament would give more student-athletes a chance at postseason play.

As for expansion, the OIA certainly deserved more than four teams in the state event. The league also needs a better format for its own playoffs.

The OIA might consider giving its Eastern and Western champions automatic berths with the Nos. 2-5 finishers in both divisions going to a single-elimination playoff. The ILH sent its top two finishers to the states with the remaining five teams and the Division II champion competing for the third state berth.

Here's hoping the prep athletic directors will continue to make more good moves at their meetings in June.

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

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