Play Sports Hawaii volunteers kick off youth football season with mentoring
Story and photos by
Staff Sgt. Gaelen Lowers
8th Theater Sustainment Command Public Affairs
AIEA — The Saints are looking for their next championship season this year, so they have been practicing and scrimmaging other teams.
The team is looking ahead and ready for what will come its way. They have their lineup set, players ready and coaches studied up for the season.
These Saints, however, are not part of the National Football League, and the coach does not get paid millions of dollars.
In fact, Sgt. Mark Kerns, current operations executive administrative noncommissioned officer, 8th Theater Sustainment Command, and coach for the Central Oahu Saints, does not get paid at all.
Like the rest of the coaches at Play Sports Hawaii, Coach Mark uses his free time — after sometimes 11-hour workdays — to teach and mentor kids for four seasons a year, each season running about eight weeks.
“Anything I can do to help develop our youth is a worthwhile activity,” Coach Mark said. “I want to be able to coach and mentor them to the best of my ability.”
And showing up for the game is just the tip of the iceberg for these volunteers.
“The volunteers hold, at times, two or more practices a week, stay in contact with parents, provide food and drinks, and pay out of pocket for things they want for their teams,” said Brian Kaupiko, president and game commissioner for Play Sports Hawaii. “We appreciate all the volunteer efforts that make this organization what it is. If it wasn’t for (the coaches) and families, there wouldn’t be youth sports.”
Play Sports Hawaii is an established nonprofit organization dedicated to providing Hawaii’s youth with a high-quality education in personal health and teamwork through sports participation, Kaupiko continued. Its purpose is to offer sports activities as an opportunity for self-growth and personal development. It strives to instill core qualities of commitment, sportsmanship and teamwork.
The league caters to underprivileged kids and sponsors more than 350 kids a year for free.
“We average about 600-700 kids a season,” Kaupiko explained. “We try to give back a lot, because there are a lot of single parent families out there, and we want to get kids off the streets.
“We really appreciate the military’s involvement with the league and the kids,” Kaupiko continued. “I give them the respect, because if it wasn’t for them, we wouldn’t be here.”
While Play Sports Hawaii is five years old, Coach Mark has only been around for three seasons, but starting slow has never been his style.
“My first season, I took my kids to the championship game and won,” he said proudly. “They have been my team for the past three seasons, but as the players grew and had birthdays, we had to move to a higher group.”
In April, Coach Mark plans on taking his team to Las Vegas to compete in a flag football tournament there.
“We raise all our own funds, but it is good for kids,” he said. “For some, this will be their first time off of the island.”
Coach Mark said he will continue to volunteer and help out for as long as he is on island, because the kids are appreciative and the parents are supportive.
“I love coaching and being with the kids. Whether we win or lose, the kids always have fun and learn something,” he said. “Rain or shine, birthday or holiday, I am out here because I love it.”