Getting More Youths On The Field

The KYF lihue Bulldogs intermediate squad after a recent game. Photo courtesy Nicole Lucidarme

Growing up on Kaua’i, football wasn’t really my thing – playing it, that is. But with a grandfather who officiated through the Pop Warner and high school ranks for more years than I’ve lived my life, it was hard not to get familiar with the gridiron.

Although I’ve never played a down of organized football, it’s still one of my favorite sports to watch – and on the Garden Isle it continues to be king of all athletics.

A new youth league has sprung up on the island and is gaining momentum as it tries to expand. It all started in 2009 with former Kaua’i High School football player and longtime Pop Warner coach Brad Hiranaka.

While in his 14th year at the helm of a midgets division team, Hiranaka noticed, for both economic reasons and changing life factors, there weren’t enough players on the island to continue the division, so it was dropped.

“So I started looking on the Internet, did some research and talked to other coaches in Honolulu,” Hiranaka says. “We also asked parents if they wanted to get involved with starting a new league. We figured we needed at least 90 percent of them backing us up, and they did.”

So after a few meetings and more research, Kaua’i Youth Football was formed. KYF is a division of American Youth Football Inc. – a league with more than 515,000 members in all 50 states.

Kapa‘a and lihu‘e players square off in a recent game. Ron Kosen photo

Its specific objective is to promote the wholesome development of youths through their association with adult leaders in the sport of football.

KYF strongly supports AYF in its belief that every child who wants to play football or cheer should have the opportunity regardless of financial constraints, prompting the start of the “Circle of Giving Back” concept.

In this initiative, each child enrolled in the program is encouraged to thank their parents and the many volunteers who selflessly give of themselves to their communities, in order to promote community involvement to tomorrow’s leaders.

To start up KYF, Hiranaka took out a $15,000 loan. Teams were formed in Kapa’a and Lihu’e, with all players age 15 or younger.

“I want to give back to the kids,” Hiranaka says. “I want to try to keep them out of trouble. If we can keep at least one kid out of jail, I think we did a good job. We want to teach them the fundamentals of football and also life skills.”

KYF has spring and fall seasons, with about 60 players and a little more than 20 coaches taking part in the program.

One of the main differences from Pop Warner is that KYF doesn’t have a weight limit for its players.

“The bigger kids, who may be overweight, well, they can at least learn the basic fundamentals with us,” Hiranaka says.

The league has traveled to Oahu to participate in the Hawaii Junior Prep League, which is made up of 40 teams.

“We have teams from Oahu coming here every other week,” Hiranaka says. “We try to fly up one time a season.”

KYF’s next game is Friday at 7 p.m. against Ewa Beach at Vidinha Stadium.

“For those youths thinking about coming out to play, I’d like them to just come to watch our practices to see the other kids play and learn the sport,” Hiranaka says. “We could just break them in slowly. Football is a full-contact sport. We just try our best to teach them the proper fundamentals so they don’t get hurt.”

Hiranaka, the league president, is joined on the board by Nardo Nacnac (vice president) and Robyn Herbig (treasurer), while they continue to look for a secretary.

“We’d also like to start up a cheer program and we’re constantly on the lookout for more volunteers,” Hiranaka says.

To learn more about KYF, go to kauaiyouthfootball.com or call Brad Hiranaka at 652-9962.

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