POIPU — Thursday night’s membership meeting for the Kauai Chamber of Commerce at the Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort and Spa wasn’t an ordinary gathering.
It was a marriage between business and sports, specifically the University of Hawaii Athletics Department.
“Tonight is about celebrating our young people. It’s about young people on Kauai who are going to be recognized in the form of scholarships tonight,” said Mark Perriello, chamber president and CEO.
The Hawaii Lodging and Tourism Association, and Family and Friends of Agriculture, awarded UH athletics with a check for $10,000.
Five students from Kauai High School — Kylie Butts, Taylor Ragsac, Michael Dressler, Haley Soller and Bronwyn Kay — were each awarded $2,000 scholarships.
Galyna Galai from Kauai Community College was awarded a $1,000 scholarship.
Recognizing the accomplishments of local students is essential, said Senate President Ron Kouchi.
Kouchi added that allowing Kauai’s youth to dream and look up to student-athletes at UH goes a long way.
“The inspiration that your teams bring to our young people on the Neighbor Islands and the dreams that you create and then we get to see our kids on television competing at University of Hawaii venues, our hearts swell with pride and our aspirations are realized,” Kouchi said to the UH Athletics coaches and administration in attendance. “The impact you guys make in our lives is just incredible.”
Representatives from the Athletics Department included Rainbow Warrior football head coach Nick Rolovich, Wahine basketball head coach Laura Beeman, Rainbow Warrior volleyball head coach Charlie Wade, Rainbow Warrior basketball head coach Eran Ganot, Rainbow Warrior baseball head coach Mike Trapasso, Wahine beach volleyball head coach Jeff Hall and Wahine softball’s assistant coach Deirdre Wisneski. Athletics Director David Matlin was also in attendance.
“It’s really cool (to have UH Athletics here),” Perriello said. “It’s actually the first time that so many members of the UH Athletics Department have appeared at one event outside of Oahu, I am told. It’s really awesome.”
Rolovich, in between taking pictures and drawing up play designs on cocktail napkins to fans and supporters, said the support his and other programs receive from Kauai is beyond imagination.
“When you come to Kauai as a UH coach, it’s pretty instant that you feel the support,” he said. “I think the stats show, whether it’s pay-per-view, season ticket sales or just general fans of our programs, Kauai has that highest percentage.”
Rolovich feels the love for UH football on Kauai, and he makes a point to show that love right back.
“I got a wife who is from Maui, and I tell her that Kauai is my favorite island now. She gets mad,” Rolovich said. “But every time I come, there’s such great people. I mean, look at this. It’s almost like we should build a stadium over here.”
During Kouchi’s speech, he recognized how UH Athletics has directly benefited people on Kauai, singling out the likes of County Councilmember Ross Kagawa, Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. and Wisneski, who were all student-athletes at UH Manoa.
He said there is hope to bring the UH men’s volleyball to Kauai for an exhibition match later this year.
“The most interesting conversation I had tonight was with coach Wade,” he said. “You guys did a great job telling him how the men used to come down here on Kauai, and he’s going to do his best to see if this October and November to coordinate to get a green and white match played on Kauai.”
“We brought the coaches, the athletic director from UH, to really show them the strong support that Kauai has for UH athletics,” Perriello said. “But also so that they can witness that there are young people excited about their programs and are interested in their programs.”