Cougar athletes miss playing

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, most high school sports have been postponed indefinitely, and many Cougar athletes are anxious to resume play.

For student-athletes here at Kaiser, sports are more than just exercise. Cougar athletics are a lifestyle choice as a positive force for mental health as well as physicality. Soccer satisfied both of those needs for player Kealohilani “Faith” Bloom, who “loved feeling healthy and happy,” while she played, she said. School sports in particular allow for unique bonding opportunities. Swimmer Kayleigh Hanaoka in her past seasons “got comfortable with a lot of new people…that I never would’ve met if it wasn’t for swimming,” she said. The cancelation of most sports seasons took away those moments, leaving players disheartened. Kyler Halverson, a kicker for the football team, misses “being out there and getting to experience new things with my teammates,” he said, a sentiment shared by many members of team sports. 

Players initially wanted to practice with their teams, but social distancing restrictions limited the extent to which athletes are allowed to gather. And for the athletes, virtual practices weren’t the same. “I didn’t have the team to interact or have any connection [with],” said Bloom. Despite this, individuals are keeping active in their own ways, training in small groups whenever possible. Kenji Toyama, a boys’ basketball player, has been “lifting weights with my teammate Mario,” he said. Although he used to work out in the Kaiser weight room, he does what he can with his limited equipment; “there’s not much else we can really do right now,” he said. 

Although the timing of the return of high school sports is uncertain, players are optimistic. With Interscholastic League of Hawaii (ILH) teams starting to practice again, Oahu Interscholastic Association (OIA) athletes—which includes Kaiser students—anxiously await their notifications. “I heard that the ILH is going to start next year in January, so I am kind of hoping that the OIA follows that,” Toyama said. Seniors have been especially eager to round out their high school athletic experiences. “I’m looking forward to my senior year. This is my last year of playing high school sports, I just want to leave on a good note,” Toyama said.  

Despite the hiatus, experiences of the field are still strong. “The thing I look forward to most about sports coming back is the atmosphere at football games,” Halverson said. “Feeling the roar of hundreds of fans at your back.” Hopefully, Halverson, Hanaoka, Bloom, Toyama, and all of the other athletes will get their chance to start making memories again. 

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