Friday, June 23, 2000
dream come true
for Kauais Wong
The two-way player for KapaaBy Brandon Lee
will get a chance to learn, rub
elbows with stars in the NFL
Special to the Star-Bulletin
Kapaa High School football player and senior-to-be Kalika Wong will board a plane extremely excited tomorrow morning on his way to meet some of his heroes.
The Warriors' center/linebacker and team co-captain will get the opportunity to rub elbows and learn from some NFL stars gathering on Oahu.
Wong will get his opportunity as one of the invitees to the inaugural Ohana Sports Maverick Football Clinic, which will be held at Iolani School tomorrow and Sunday.
The Maverick Clinic is not your typical summer fantasy camp where "monetarily advantaged" participants shell out the big bucks to share close space with their idols. Instead, the clinic attempts to provide equal opportunity to its invitees, support a good cause and galvanize the community all at the same time.
Through coordination by two local community organizations, generous sponsorship and volunteers, as well as the goodwill of several current NFL players, two varsity players from each high school statewide have the opportunity to participate in the clinic free of charge. The only clinic-related costs incurred by the players will be airfare by those from the neighbor islands -- like Wong.
"I never thought I would get the opportunity to be chosen for something like this," Wong said. "This is even more exciting than a chance to see a real NFL game because I get the chance ask questions and learn from these guys, instead of just watching."
Wong and his peers will get their opportunity through the coordination of two high school friends and teammates, and the community organizations they work for.
Clinic organizers Greg Andrasick and Tad Yamashita both played football at Iolani School and went on to college careers. As co-founders of Ohana Sports, an organization dedicated to the pursuit of education through sports, both saw a need for this type of clinic for local football players.
"We both came up with the idea after having fairly successful high school careers, but hardly getting any offers from colleges because of Hawaii's low profile," Yamashita said. "We also saw many Hawaii kids lacking confidence in their football skills and feeling that there was nothing beyond their high school careers. There is a lot of talent here in Hawaii and we want to help the kids playing now to get to the next level and beyond in both football and education."
The clinic will have a "combine" type of atmosphere with physical testing, drills and complete player profiles to be assembled for prospective college coaches. Yet unlike the one which the NFL players attended before they entered the league, this combine also includes an SAT prep course for the players and a benefit sportscard show.
The general public is invited to attend the two-day event with all proceeds going to Parents and Children Together, or PACT. Andrasick is a project specialist for PACT's Teen Program, and he and Yamashita also are volunteer basketball coaches for the nonprofit organization that is one of the largest in the state.
Headquartered at Kuhio Park Terrace in Kalihi, the Teen Program deals directly with about 400 youths from the housing project ages 7 to 17. The money raised will go toward providing the youths tutors at mandatory study halls, new sports equipment and uniforms. Kids from the program will be attending the clinic as a special summer activity.
"We see sports as a great motivational tool for education," Andrasick said.
"We already have regular study halls here, and we plan to make a requirement that the kids must participate in study halls in order to be involved in our sports activities. We definitely want to stress that school comes first."
The NFL players participating in the clinic include several with local ties, and others who Andrasick recruited from his playing days at the University of California at Los Angeles. The players are former St. Louis standout and current Pittsburgh Steeler Chris Fuamatu-Ma'afala, Chris Naeole of the New Orleans Saints, Sale Isaia of the Oakland Raiders, Donnie Edwards of the Kansas City Chiefs, Bryant Westbrook of the Detroit Lions, and Skip Hicks of the Washington Redskins.
"It's a pleasure to help the local players and also the community," said Isaia, who grew up in Oceanside, Calif., but married a woman from the islands and met Andrasick at UCLA.