Lessons learned on and off field
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By Stephen Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Stephen Tsai
No, they are not in Kansas anymore.
Or Utah, Arizona, USC or any other similar football camp.
"I've been to a lot of camps," said Punahou School quarterback Brett Kan, one of 230 high school players who participated in the Game Plan Football Camp in La'ie, "and nobody else taught the haka."
In recent years, summer football camps have become a big business on college campuses across the Mainland. The camps have served as a match-making service, with colleges showing off their facilities and high school campers auditioning for scholarships.
The University of Hawai'i last sponsored a football camp in 2000, June Jones' second year as the school's head coach. Game Plan organizers Eli Kapu and Asai Gilman wanted to fill the void, but their plan was to create a football camp that also focused on academic counseling and cultural lessons.
That's why the first camp, which ended last night, featured instruction on how to meet the NCAA eligibility requirements. The camp closed with the players performing a specially choreographed haka.
"We didn't want to just mentor in football," Gilman said. "If you have the talent but can't get into school, it ends, doesn't it? We wanted a full program to teach the players how to become better student-athletes."
Jones, who was among the guest coaches, said: "This is the first camp I've been to where they spent half the day on the football field and half of the day in the classroom. It's a very positive thing."
The camp drew a wide range of participants. Oliver Westlund, who will be a senior at Elmira High School in Oregon, learned of the camp through an Internet advertisement. Westlund, whose blond crewcut accentuated his sun-kissed scalp, praised the program, saying, "There's some good coaching here."
Eight players from New Zealand also participated. There are more than 1,000 registered football players in New Zealand, most competing in the junior division (18 and younger).
"We're rugby players who started playing American football," linebacker Brandon Ropher said. "It's a good sport. We like it."
College coaches are not permitted to offer scholarships during this period. But the more than 20 college coaches attending the camp used subliminal tactics to advertise their programs. They wore polo shirts, T-shirts and caps adorned with school logos.
Jones, who met with the campers Wednesday and yesterday, wore an aloha shirt both days.
"Everybody knows coach Jones," said Leroy Sisnett, a football official from New Zealand. "All of these coaches are known, but coach Jones stands out."
During a news conference two years ago, Jones accused Kahuku High coach Siuaki Livai of steering his best players to Mainland schools. Since then, Jones has insisted Kahuku players are welcomed at UH. Jones was warmly greeted yesterday at the camp on the Brigham Young-Hawai'i campus, located less than a mile from Kahuku High.
During yesterday's speech, Jones extended an open invitation to the coaches, players and parents to visit the UH campus.
"June has been the most supportive person," Gilman said. "When I explained what we wanted to do, he agreed quickly. He said, 'If you're going to include the education part of it, I want to help.'"
Jones said: "This is a good program. We already know what kind of athletes Hawai'i has. Hopefully, this (camp) will help these kids get noticed by coaches from all over the country, and hopefully it'll help them further their education."
Reach Stephen Tsai at email@example.com.