Star-Bulletin Sports

Wednesday, May 23, 2001


HHSAA chief Keith Amemiya and his staff worked to schedule
six state tournaments in a compressed amount of time.

Amemiya comes
out a winner

HHSAA's head helped save
state tourneys for high-school
athletes despite the 3-week
teachers strike

By Jason Kaneshiro

In his seven years of practicing law, Keith Amemiya never experienced a trial like the one he endured over the last month.

The aftermath of the three-week state teachers strike forced the executive director of the Hawaii High School Athletic Association to reschedule and restructure six state tournaments this spring. And while the process reminded Amemiya of his days in litigation, none of his cases involved coordinating a thousand high school athletes competing at 17 venues on three islands with a window of just four dates to complete all of the events.

"Planning for these tournaments was similar in many ways to preparing for a trial," Amemiya said. "When you're preparing for a trial, you're in a state of constant chaos and you never think you'll have enough time to get the job done. But in the end, once the trial begins, everything seems to fall into place, and that's what happened in these state tournaments.

"When you practice law you have to expect the unexpected and prepare for everything. You try to keep an even keel at all times and be able to improvise when necessary."

The tournaments were almost scrapped when State Superintendent of Schools Paul LeMahieu announced April 24 that public school students would not be allowed to compete in state tournaments as teachers made up for instructional time lost to the strike. But LeMahieu reversed his decision two days later under the condition that students not miss class time for travel or competition.

"Usually state tournaments take months of planning," Amemiya said. "In this case we were reduced to two weeks in which to totally overhaul some our state tournaments, in terms of format, schedule and sites."

Amemiya, his two full-time assistants -- Jaylene Sarcedo and Tammy Goodall -- and the HHSAA sport coordinators scrambled to work out the logistics of the tournaments.

They got help from several businesses. The Kapalua Village and Kaanapali South golf courses sacrificed thousands of dollars in revenue by shutting down on a Saturday to host the boys and girls golf championships, while Hawaiian Airlines transported the bulk off the athletes to their tournament sites. And aside from one track and field participant and two tennis players from the Big Island, all of the athletes arrived at their tournament sites on time.

Amemiya also relied on the experience of sport coordinators like Alex Kane, who has run the girls basketball tournament for 30 years.

"Once the tournaments began I gave them full control," Amemiya said. "With experience like that, I would be crazy to try to micromanage them."

With the biggest test of his almost three-year tenure as the HHSAA head behind him, Amemiya is already starting to secure sites for next year's state tournaments. He's also looking two years down the line, when the current teachers' contract expires.

"I can't imagine state tournament planning being any more difficult than what we just went through," he said. "And I hope we never have to find out."

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