Kapaa softball conflict still unresolved

KAPAA — Members of Kapaa High School’s varsity softball team are still on opposing sides after more than half of the players left the team about two weeks ago.

“We were talking about it for a while,” junior infielder Tyra Alao said last week. “We were trying to stick it out for each other because we want to play the game. We love the game. But at one point, you can only take so much. We all agreed if one goes, we all go.”

Six of the Warriors players left — Alao, freshman outfielder Taelyn Nunes, freshman infielder Shailee Telles-Kelekoma, freshman infielder Kendra Kupihea, sophomore catcher Sabrina Telles-Kelekoma and freshman infielder Shanaya Marshall.

In a meeting with parents and The Garden Island on Wednesday, the six say they left because of negative treatment and favoritism from head coach Aulani Kaui and assistant coach Scott Kaui, and refused to play for them.

“Some of them don’t run with us. We’re one team. We should be doing it together,” Sabrina Telles- Kelekoma said. “The favorites, they’ll get good compliments, and we don’t. They get a good attitude, and we’ll get talked about.”

The five remaining players are junior outfielder Jazmin Kaleiohi, junior outfielder Selena Morita, junior outfielder Jayna Balajadia, freshman infielder Tiani Kaui and sophomore pitcher Leipua Kaui. Leipua Kaui is the Kauis’ daughter; Tiani Kaui is the daughter of Scott Kaui’s cousin.

After the players quit, Kapaa High School announced in an email on April 1 that it could no longer field nine players and suspended its season.

Parents of the six players said the decision to leave the team was solely their daughters’ choice and they supported the decision.

“All we said was that night, that Tuesday night (March 29), to think it overnight. We’ll let them know, and we’ll have a meeting. What you guys decide, we will support,” said Dustin Telles, father of Sabrina and Shailee Telles-Kelekoma.

“The past two weeks, it started coming out. Slowly, it trickled. Then last week Tuesday, that’s when a lot of stuff was coming out,” Telles said. “I called (athletic director Greg Gonsalves), I told him, ‘This is going on. There are six girls ready to walk out. We need to have a meeting if we can.’ We met him the next day at 9 in the morning with the AD and (Principal Daniel Hamada).”

In that meeting, Telles said the girls had the chance to communicate directly with Hamada and Gonsalves.

“He asked them, ‘If you could change one thing about the coaches, what would it be?’ They were like, ‘Their attitudes and the way they talk to us.’ Then he asked, ‘If they’re willing to work on this, would you be willing to come back?’ They all said no,” Telles said. “They said they know what they’re doing, and it’s been going on for years.”

Aulani Kaui declined to comment on why the six players left.

Coaches wanted 1-on-1 meetings

Scott Kaui said he hasn’t had much contact with the six who left the team and their parents since the team split. He said he wants to meet with those players and resolve the issue.

“We never really heard their concerns. We wanted to meet with each parent. Every child has different needs and concerns,” he said. “They didn’t want to come and meet us with their child one-on-one. We didn’t really hear what each parent wants. We just heard rumors. If they could be specific for each one, then we could better answer.”

Telles said the players would be willing to meet with the Kauis, but not on a one-on-one basis.

“When I talked to (Gonsalves) last about they wanted to meet, he said they wanted to do it an individual player at a time. We told him that we don’t want the girls going in by themselves,” Telles said Saturday. “It took six of them to stand up to the coaches and do what they did. We don’t feel it’s fair to them to go in one-on-one. It would basically be the coaches against them.”

Scott Kaui said leaving the team not only affects those who left, but those who stayed.

“Not only themselves, but they need to be accountable for the team and practice hard,” he said. “You got to be accountable in life. Some of them don’t like being told that. They don’t like being corrected, especially when you have a small roster.”

Hamada said he’s had discussions with all sides separately, but has yet to gather everyone involved all at once.

“We’ve met twice with the parents, just to make sure we got everything. And we did meet with the coaches, to also get their perspective. I know we wanted to set up a meeting with the parents and the coaches. It’s always best to bring all the parties together to find out their concerns. But that never came to fruition,” Hamada said Saturday. “It’s unfortunate we couldn’t get the parents and the coaches together. But Mr. Gonsalves and I, we take any concerns from whoever it comes from. We shared the concerns with the coaches when we met them. We’re going to go forward from there.”

Hamada said he expects that he and Gonsalves, after taking enough time to consider everything, will make the decision together whether to retain the coaches sometime in late May or early June. Whatever that decision will be, he added, it will be in the best interest of the student-athletes.

“As the principal of the school, it’s unfortunate it’s come to this point. But at the end of the day, we’re going to do what’s in the best interests of the students. That’s what we’re here for,” he said. “It’s not something we’ll rush into a decision. But we want to hear from all sides. That’s what due process is all about. That’s what we want to make sure we do.”

Hamada added: “I think the girls are great individuals. I think the parents are great people, and I think the coaches are great people. I just hope when the time is right, we all can get together and move forward.”

Gonsalves couldn’t be reached for comment Saturday.

Player decided to stay with team

Another player also considered leaving as well — junior outfielder Jazmin Kaleiohi. She ultimately decided to stay with the team.

“My daughter was indecisive because we told her that you’re not going to start something and then quit,” said Jazmin’s mother, Teri Kaleiohi, on Saturday.

Kaleiohi added that she and Jazmin met with the coaches after the team had split to talk about possibly salvaging the season, but was told they wouldn’t be able to.

“As for Aulani, she’s pretty upfront with me with where my daughter stands. Aulani and Scott, I got to support to coaches because I got teenage daughters,” Teri said. “As a mother myself, and Aulani is a mother, I cannot see her and some of the accusations that they are making — that she just blow kids off. I cannot see that.”

Coach Aulani Kaui said that she’s worked out with four of the five remaining players since the season was canceled.

“First, it’s saddening. We’re there for the kids. We came into the season with a small number, but it’s a good team,” Aulani Kaui said Saturday. “They got along really well. We did our job as coaches. It’s hard because we want what’s best for all the kids.”

Tiani Kaui said the situation has been “just overwhelming.”

“It’s hard because mostly all the girls on our team are young. We know each other. We’ve been with each other for a long time,” Tiani said. “We love the game of softball. All the girls, we all from the first softball tryouts, we knew what was expected.”

She added: “Coach Aulani and Coach Scott, they’re good coaches. They know how to coach. They’ve been coaching for a long time. It’s true. Not that long ago, they went up to states. They proved (it) to Kauai.”

Current, former players share views

Freshman infielder Kendra Kupihea recalled an incident during practice, a couple days before she and the others left, in which she did a drill that left her hand bruised. She said Saturday that it was still sore.

“I’m all for hard coaching and hard practices. Getting in condition. That’s what I thought they wanted us to do,” Kupihea said. “But they turned it all into, even full practices, of just running straight. Not learning anything. Just the same thing over and over. Not learning what we should.”

Mahina Rodero-Workman, who graduated from Kapaa High School in 2015, played softball under the two coaches during her sophomore and junior years, and also during a summer league in 2011.

Rodero-Workman said she also played for them when she first played the sport in seventh-grade and that she liked playing for them, but then the coaches were different when she reached high school.

“They took over coaching high school my sophomore year. That’s when I started playing high school softball, because I really liked how they coached, but times changed,” Rodero-Workman. “They started getting more favoritism. I didn’t really like that.”

‘It came out of nowhere’

Assistant coach Ginny Pia said there was no sign there was a rift with some of the players.

“It came out of nowhere. The girls never had any indications that they were having possible issues with the coaches. Everything appeared to be going well,” Pia said. “I think both Aulani and Scott do a great job as coaches. That’s the reason I was there — to support them in any way that I could, which is helping these girls.”

Pia added: “There’s things that we will endure through life that we may not agree on. But just walking away from everything is just not the answer.”

Joanie Morita, the mother of Selena Morita, who stayed with the team, said she was surprised by what has transpired.

“I can only vouch for my daughter. I can only say that she never complained about practices. She would say it was hard, it was hot that day, or maybe she wasn’t feeling well. That kind of thing, like any other sport,” Morita said Saturday. “If anything, she would say practices weren’t as bad as in prior years.”

She believes the situation could have been handled better.

“As far as letting all of the parents know what was going on, like I said, we didn’t know,” Morita said. “The school administration didn’t call us parents to tell us there was a situation going on. … That’s not just impacted the team, but the whole island as well. The whole thing is affecting Waimea and Kauai High. It’s unfortunate that it happened. We’re very saddened by the whole situation. My daughter loves to play, and it’s very unfortunate she doesn’t get to finish her season.”

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