Through hard work and dedication, County facilities for community sports and recreational activities in North Hawaii are getting attention and growing. While facilities are improving, operation budgets to support those activities still need help.
To make up the difference, Waimea Athletics was born two years ago with a mission to keep local programs alive and residents of all ages healthy.
Melissa Samura, recreation director for Hawaii County Parks and Recreation Waimea for the past five years, saw the desire for healthy activities, but a budget spread thin to support it.
“Coaches were purchasing uniforms out of pocket,” Samura said. “That bothered me.”
The purpose of Waimea Athletics is to increase community participation in athletics, recreational and special events that promote the health and wellness of all participants for their physical and emotional development, according to their website.
Taiko drumming, mini modeling ceramics, table tennis, line dancing, indoor bubble ball – all are activities not usually on the roster in a small community. But with the help of Waimea Athletics, any activity a resident dreams of creating is within reach.
The program also sponsors Biddy Basketball, age group basketball for boy and girls, age group volleyball and tee ball and coach pitch, tennis, and track and field.
“P and R is going to run and coordinate it (the different activities), but Waimea Athletics will provide the equipment,” Samura said. “The primary function is to provide uniforms and equipment to sports teams.”
Waimea Athletics operates as a nonprofit organization through the Kanu o ka Aina Learning Ohana. They are able to provide supplies and to purchase field equipment through donations from sponsors such as Parker Ranch, West Hawaii Concrete, S & A Fleet Service and Kukio, as well as through private volunteers, such as ArtBros, who help with T-shirt printing through owner Scott Nelson. They also built a website, which went online on July 1, created through time donated by Ryan Inagihara and Rob Landers.
“They did it as a free service for the community,” Samura said.
Waimea Activity hub
The website includes a Waimea Athletics directory, available for any sport or activity in Waimea to use and post their schedules or registration information.
“It was meant to be a central hub of sports and recreational activities in Waimea,” Samura said. “It is set up with the people who have responded to me.”
Though Waimea Athletics focuses their support on programs that don’t have national sponsors, though all groups are welcome to list their information on the Waimea Athletics website schedule.
Waimea Athletics board members are Maile Lewi, president, Noe McClintock, vice president and Kevin Painton, treasurer. Samura is not on the board, but serves as the volunteer community liaison.
President Lewi said she wanted to get involved so community families could participate in activities in Waimea.
“A lot of people and parents can’t afford to buy equipment, so it is a really big help,” Lewi said. “That is important.”
She also said she believes sports and recreational activities for youth help in both their physical and emotional growth.
“They can learn responsibility and respect as well through sports,” she said. “Working together as a team, being kind, helping other people – sports can bring out a lot in a child.”
Domanic Tagabi, a volunteer Waimea Athletics basketball coach, has been serving as a volunteer coach for many years.
“I have kids I have been working with since they were 5 – some I have only worked with for three months,” Tagabi said. “It is cool for kids; you build relationships with the kids and the parents.”
Tagabi said that as a coach, he appreciates the sponsorship of the kids and the backing for volunteer coaches.
“They help support the sports in Waimea,” Tagabi said of the sponsors. “It makes it easier for the kids –that is my biggest thing. It is a support that keeps the sports going and keeps the kids active.”
Tagabi said he grew up in Paauilo, and they had only one coach for basketball.
“He committed his time and he supplied what we needed – he would supply us with trophies,” Tagabi said. “That is what we try to do … That is one thing –I feel that if you do good, they (the players) look forward to their progress.”
He said he initially began coaching his own children, then he saw a need for coaches in town. He now loves changing the lives of kids that otherwise wouldn’t be on a field or court learning new skills.
“It is for the rest of the kids that want to play that don’t have that option to play,” he said. “The coaches are limited; kids go play for different towns. Now there is more of that so they can stay and play right in our community.”
As a coach, Tagabi enjoys watching his players’ progress and grow in sportsmanship. He keeps his coaching positive, and he finds players respond best when “you just talk to them.”
“You start seeing them come together as a team,” Tagabi said. “I don’t care about the score; I always tell kids that. (I tell them) ‘It is about how you kids play together. Make sure you are having fun. Don’t let anyone stop you from learning and enjoying the sport.’”
Tagabi said he is grateful for Waimea Athletics for coordinating the programs.
“The time and effort that they put out is just as hard as doing the coaching,” Tagabi said. “They are the ones that have to put it together and support it. That is the part that is really cool. The people that are starting to come together and work as a team – to work as a community.”
Waimea Athletics also supports special events, like the Super Sunday Slam Baseball and Softball Clinic they organized on April 20. The event was conducted by the University of Hawaii at Hilo men’s baseball and wahine softball teams who served as clinicians, mentors and role models for the day. Waimea Athletics will also sponsor the 2nd annual Waimea Sports Expo and Family Fun Day on Saturday, July 26, at Waimea Park Complex.
Waimea Athletics not only supports sports, but it is involved with recreational events, including arts and craft programs for all ages.
“We are doing mini modeling in August,” Samura said.
She said she even hopes to see programs in health and nutrition. Using the County Parks and Recreation facilities, volunteer instructors can create programs and register participants, and Waimea Athletics will pay for the materials or fund an instructor so students may participate for free.
Waimea Athletics also sponsors four middle school dances per year to help youth develop social skills through dancing and fun. They include Xbox games, table tennis and arts and crafts at the dances, which are hosted within a safe and monitored environment through community volunteers.
Waimea resident Mel Sanchez, who was born and raised in Honokaa, has three children involved in Waimea Athletics program.
“What is neat about it is, growing up, we watched many of our family and friends involved in sports,” Sanchez said. “We see the same adults like Melissa (Samura) giving back to the community for the next generation. It keeps moving forward and that is what I appreciate of all volunteers as well that make a difference.”
Sanchez said when her son began playing baseball 10 years ago, her husband coached his team. She said not only was coaching a big investment in time, they bought much of the equipment to have the right tools for the players. She said as Waimea Athletics grows, it will make it easier for both coaches and players to participate in sports.
“It makes complete sense to have a program like Waimea Athletics, especially for our community,” Sanchez said. “I think that it’s needed – that it caters to the needs of the young kids and teenagers and even the seniors. It is bringing our community together.”
For more information, for a schedule of events and activities or to donate to Waimea Athletics, visit their website waimeaathletics.org.
Waimea Athletics will sponsor the 2nd Annual Waimea Sports Expo and Family Fun Day on Saturday, July 26, at Waimea Park Complex. The free event will showcase community sports and ﬁtness programs in the community that “encourage health and wellness opportunities for youth, adults and families.” All participants can engage in instructional clinics and try out different sports and activities. Featured sports include soccer, football, basketball, tennis, volleyball, table tennis and baseball. An entertainment stage will also feature health and wellness demonstrations, concessions, information booths, a jumping castle and waterslide for the keiki. For more information, visit the Waimea Athletics website.