LIHUE — Some of Kauai’s young football players got the chance to work one-on-one with college coaches hoping to step up their game.
“It was actually really fun. I learned a lot, I improved on some skills and met some cool people,” said Kapaa High School linebacker Jayson Hawthorne. “I wanted to do better on my man-coverage skills, and I worked on that a lot today. … It was very cool. I’m very thankful for them to come to our island and take out their time to come and help us.”
University of Hawaii’s football coaching staff were on site for the Rainbow Warrior Football Camps at Vidinha Stadium on Wednesday.
More than 300 keiki participated in the first camp, which was for youngsters from age 5 to those entering eighth grade in the fall.
“Really good turnout. This morning was incredible as far as the amount of kids that were out,” said UH head football coach Nick Rolovich. “We probably couldn’t have handled much more. I think we had a lot of fun.”
In the afternoon, about 75 high schoolers took part in the prospect camp, in which the coaches led the athletes through numerous drills.
“Great effort. A couple of jokesters. There’s a real want to learn. There’s a real respect level that most local kids have,” Rolovich said of the high schoolers. “I think the feeling from grandmas, grandpas, dads, moms, uncles and their feeling for UH football, it kind of trickles down to how these kids look at these opportunities. I think they’re very appreciative of it, and not one of them is taking it for granted.”
Also among the 75 high school student-athletes who participated was Waimea High running back Cody Taniguchi.
“It was fun and great. Yeah, they gave us all kinds of work to do, and we do,” Taniguchi said. “Our footwork and our stances to make it better and faster.”
Rolovich hopes that his and his coaching staff’s efforts will lead to these local kids excelling at the next level.
“We mentioned there was a time there was five or six Kauai kids on our football team at one time. That’s out of 105. Out of everyone in the country, everyone in the world, we had five from Kauai,” the Rainbow Warriors coach said. “It’s not that far out of the box for them. It’s one plane flight away. It’s one dream away. We want to make sure they know that.”
The camps were sponsored by the County of Kauai Department of Parks and Recreation.
“The high schoolers and the kids this morning, now when they see UH football I’m sure they’re going to get excited,” said Parks and Recreations director Lenny Rapozo, who was also in attendance. “To see the coaches on the field and say, ‘I was with that coach,’ I think it helps UH in terms of expanding their fan base. But I think for our kids, it gives them a chance to aspire.”
Rapozo added Kauai is the only one among the neighbor islands to have UH’s staff come and do the camps. He, too, hopes having these camps on island will lead to more of Kauai’s athletes getting a chance to play at the collegiate level.
“In 2008 until I think 2010, I think it was the most that I can remember Kauai athletes at UH. We had five. We don’t have any today. I want those numbers to increase,” he said. “I want our kids to stay home. I want them to represent Hawaii and Kauai. I think it’s great.”
Rolovich added he’s always enjoyed himself every time he’s come to The Garden Isle.
“I can speak for myself. Kauai has always been such a strong supporter,” Rolovich said. “Every time I come here, the genuine love of the program and the love people show when we come over here since I was a player, it’s really been consistent.”