To play or not to play?
It wasn’t an easy question, Big Island Pop Warner president Chad Tolentino said, but the answer came decisively.
Safety and caution won out as the league canceled its 2020 youth tackle football season amid fears of further spread of the coronavirus. In a release, Tolentino said association presidents voted 9-2 on Sunday to call off the season.
“All presidents, as well as commissioners present, were extremely disappointed,” Tolentino said Monday. “However, the safety and well-being of our entire island and our people proved to be paramount.”
He said many members in Sunday’s meeting expressed a desire to hold the season in order to give keiki a chance to exert themselves after months of inactivity.
“Also, that having a season would also help families get back to a way of life pre-COVID-19,” Tolentino said.
Others wondered how Pop Warner could ensure a safe practice environment under county rules released for a “close-contact” sport while also following health department guidelines
“This challenge would require more coaches and volunteers as well as more financial support from our extremely limited sources of revenue,” he said.
Normally, Big Island Pop Warner would be gearing up to hold August practices in divisions ranging from ages 7-15, with games starting Labor Day weekend. Mayor Harry Kim’s latest emergency rule allowed for the resumption of organized outdoor practices — capping the number of participants at 35 —however, “close-contact” sports were not given the go-ahead to start playing games July 20 under the second phase.
Pop Warner’s national board issued return-to-play guidelines — which largely resembled those issued for by the county, Tolentino said — leaving it up to the individual leagues to decide how they wanted to proceed. In Hawaii, Tolentino said registration is ongoing on Maui and Kauai. He said Oahu was struggling with numbers.
He’s confident the Big Island’s spring flag football season will be able to resume as planned in next year.
“It is our hope that 2021 will be a more prosperous year for our organization,” he said. “We will use the next six months diligently preparing our return to the field of play.”