Kalima's dedication to weights paying off
By Stephen Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Stephen Tsai
In a game of word association, if the clue is "Eric Kalima," the response is . . .
"Psycho," said former University of Hawai'i volleyball player Pedro Azenha. "He's crazy about weight lifting."
"He can lift forever," UH teammate Matt Carere said after yesterday's practice. "He's still in the weight room working out."
It was Kalima's preference for heavy metal that inspired the UH coaches to suggest a position change. With All-American Alfee Reft entrenched at libero, Kalima, a fourth-year junior from Kamehameha Schools, was asked to move from the defensive-specialist position to outside hitter last fall.
UH coach Mike Wilton used this formula: BW x 74 = OH.
"Take your body weight, put it on a rack and power clean it 74 consecutive times, and that's a good argument for moving to the outside (hitter position)," Wilton said. "He did that. That's an endurance feat, of course, but it also takes a little strength, too."
"Something like that," said Kalima, who is 6 feet 2 and weighed 182 when he hit that mark in September. He tried to downplay the accomplishment, noting he had trained rigorously in the preceding weeks, and the power clean — in which the bar is raised to shoulder level — allows up to a 5-second break between each lift. "It wasn't like I was going up and down continuously," he said.
But UH associate coach Tino Reyes said the power clean is "more of a total-body lift. That's harder than the bench press. That's probably the reason coach (Wilton) decided to make him an outside hitter."
Kalima, who was a defensive specialist at Kamehameha, made an easy transition to left-side hitter, where he also is required to block the opposing team's best attacker.
In UH's "cauldron system" — in which statistics in practices and winning percentages in scrimmages are used to rank players — Kalima was No. 1 among outside hitters at the end of fall training. He did not start in the season opener against UC Santa Barbara on Friday, but came off the bench to put down six kills in 12 swings. He started in the rematch, hammering 11 kills and hitting .500. In the two matches, he averaged 4.0 digs and 1.5 blocks.
Kalima is expected to start at left-side hitter against Penn State in tomorrow's opening round of the Outrigger Invitational.
"He doesn't make amazing plays all of the time, but he makes lots of good plays," Carere said. "He doesn't make mistakes, and he never gets hurt."
Wilton said: "He does all of the little things. And, of course, if you think about it, there's no such thing as a little thing. If you have a system where you keep track of everything, the guys who do the little things win the most. He passes. He's attentive to details. He's a team player."
Kalima also remains upbeat — even when he did not start in the season opener; even though he worked as a waiter during the summer to pay for tuition. He does not receive any financial aid from the volleyball program.
Then again, he is the strong silent type. "He doesn't say much," Wilton said.
Kalima said: "I try to go out there and play my hardest and represent Hawai'i as best I can."
Kalima comes from rich ancestry. His family tree includes golfer Ted Makalena, sumotori George Kalima, All-America volleyball player Eddie Kalima, and musicians Jesse Kalima and Lehua Kalima Heine of Na Leo Pilimehana.
One of Kalima's best moments came in 1999, when his freshman class won the overall title in the Kamehameha Schools' Song Contest.
"I was singing," said Kalima, a tenor. "I was trying to sing the best I could. I'm not a great singer, but I was trying."
Reach Stephen Tsai at email@example.com.