Star-Bulletin Sports

Wednesday, June 13, 2001


Federation leader
impressed by
Hawaii’s resolve

By Jason Kaneshiro

The crisis overcome by the Hawaii high school sports community this spring was noticed by the head of the organization overseeing the nation's prep athletic associations.

Robert Kanaby, executive director of the National Federation of High School Associations, lauded the work of the state's athletic administrators for saving the sports season after a three-week teachers' strike in April.

Kanaby was on the Big Island last week for the 41st Hawaii Interscholastic Athletic Directors Association conference, held at the Outrigger Waikoloa.

"I don't know of any other situation where (nearly) every (public school) teacher in the state struck as was the case here," Kanaby said. "So no other state has probably ever experienced this kind of situation.

"I think it's a prime example of what good people can do when they put the concerns of young people in front of partisan politics or personal feelings or any of those kinds of things."

Kanaby said administrators around the nation watched Hawaii when the state tournaments were in danger of being canceled following the strike.

"All of our state associations turned to see the outcome of that situation," he said. "In theory, depending on the actions of a governor or a state department of education, it could occur in other parts of the country."

While Hawaii's plight this spring was unique, Kanaby said the state faces many of the same dilemmas prevalent on the mainland.

"The same topics regarding concerns over Title IX issues are the same all across the country," he said. "The same concerns regarding public versus private schools exist in virtually every state in the country. So in that sense the problems are very, very similar.

"One of the differences obviously has to be the distance between other state associations and the Hawaii association. Unless all of these folks are keenly aware of keeping good lines of communication open, it's easy to get isolated and lose track of different things that are happening all across the nation."

On the national level, Kanaby said high school sports is as healthy as ever. The federation oversees 51 associations, representing nearly 18,000 schools.

He cited the 6.5 million student-athletes participating in prep sports as an indication of the strength of the programs across the country.

But providing proper training for administrators, teachers and coaches is a key to fostering the growth of high school athletics, he said. That issue will be addressed when the federation holds it annual meetings on Maui later this month.

"We've clearly identified that our contribution to the educational process of young people is in the area of character development, to use high school sports and activities to create better human beings and better citizens for this country," Kanaby said.

"I think one of the other things that's very critical is to continue to build a sense of awareness ... that one of our principal charges is to continue with our leadership development programs. Our rate of turnover is extremely high and we need a planned program to introduce people to the concepts of what high school sports are supposed to do for young people."

Kanaby's career spans nearly 40 years. He spent 14 years coaching basketball at St. Anthony High School in Jersey City, N.J., and served a total of 19 years working in the public school system. He was executive director of the New Jersey High School Athletic Association for 13 years before moving up to the national organization.

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