Kalani Simpson


By Kalani Simpson

Wednesday, August 1, 2001

Love of football
transcends tough practices

FOOTBALL season is starting again, with kids across the state participating in preseason practices. They are out there, sweating, working, straining in this oppressive heat.

This time of year is always nostalgic in a way. Wasn't walking with a limp cool?

Our football coach tried to toughen us up one year.

Actually, he tried to do that every year. But one summer camp he really put a lot of thought and planning into it. He decided to execute, to step up, to eliminate mistakes and take it to the next level.

He decided to show us anything is possible if only you dare to dream.

He was a policeman. Which meant that we didn't listen to him in these "good old days" only out of a sense of honor and duty and respect for him. Our coach had a gun.

We were, as University of Hawaii associate athletic director Jim Donovan told our Dave Reardon last week, "in the air and asking how much higher we should jump."

Coach decided to have us travel to Oahu and practice with Waianae for a week. This was the big time. Waianae was where the biggest, roughest, toughest guys came from. We knew this because we'd read it in "Pidgin to Da Max."

Our coach decided to whip us into shape so we wouldn't embarrass ourselves. He would show them his neighbor island boys could play. He would have us crash into each other until we got better. He would run us into the ground to prepare.

Two weeks of summer camp before another week at Waianae. That should do it.

But we lived.

Then he added a third practice per day.

One practice. Painful.

Two practices. Cruel and unusual punishment. Agony. Fatigue. The slightest move could cause full-body cramping. Not fun. But survivable.

Then came No. 3. Yes, it was mostly a non-contact run-through. But football players need that time between practices, so they can spend it moving as little as possible, groaning, and getting engrossed in "One Life to Live." It's part of the healing process.

WE HAD REACHED our limits. Body parts started falling off people during jumping jacks.

Exhausted, we all came down with something. The coaches thought we were faking until they caught it, too. We barely made it into the airport. We limped into Waianae. Our obituary was written: "They died of complications from shin splints."

And then the Seariders saved us. It was wonderful. Water and sunshine and a field at the beach. Waianae didn't need to run down its players, didn't need to macho out. They didn't need to convince themselves they were tough. They were tough. And so their focus was football and not survival of the fittest.

It was refreshing. Collegiate.

We recuperated. We saw our first "Circle-K."

A crazy Waianae assistant coach camped out each night on the 50-yard line.

We knew how he felt. In a week on the leeward coast, our love for the game had been born again.

Kalani Simpson's column runs Sundays, Tuesdays and Fridays.
He can be reached at

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