Rob Hesia, the director of campus athletics and human performance at Kamehameha Schools Kapālama is spearheading an E Ola!-based approach to shaping future alakaʻi.
Grit, determination, camaraderie, humility. These are key attributes of a successful athlete and they are also qualities that mold a haumāna into an alakaʻi.
At Kamehameha Schools Kapālama, the ‘ālapa haumāna program is cultivating these traits a through its world-class athletic program for haumāna of all ages.
“There is a lot of good that comes from running a holistic athletics program,” says Rob Hesia, director of campus athletics and human performance at Kamehameha Schools Kapālama.
Unique to the Kamehameha Schools program is the E Ola!-based approach rooted in culture and character development the coaches weave into their athletic playbooks.
“We make sure our kids are of strong character because that will contribute to their success,” Hesia says. “We always want to be competitive, but we want to do it with class, humility and pride so that our kids represent their ‘ohana, our school and Native Hawaiians to the world to the best of our ability.”
This nurturing of student-athletes begins at the elementary level, where haumāna in kindergarten through grade 6 can gain exposure to the wide world of sports. Not only does this strategy enable coaches to grow talent from an early age, it also presents the opportunity to compete on a team to children who may otherwise not be afforded the chance.
“Our program subsidizes the fees to where parents pay $50 for their children to play in the league that they’re in. That’s been a great benefit to these kids,” Hesia says, adding that in sports like football, “if you’re not playing from a young age, it’s harder to pick up as you get older.
“Now, we’re seeing more and more kids getting involved and playing, wearing Kamehameha uniforms and developing a sense of pride in coming to this school,” he says.
Kamehameha Schools Kapālama has a 10U and 12U (pictured here) football team both into their second season. These programs and others foster a sense of pride in wearing Kamehameha uniforms.
KSK has a 10U and a 12U football team that are both into their second season. There also is interest in starting a water polo club following a clinic conducted by the high school team.
“We recently started golf, we’re going to start tennis – we want to showcase what Native Hawaiians can do given the proper opportunity,” Hesia says.
The program also provides a pipeline for ‘ōiwi leadership as upper-class students step up to the plate, serving as coaches for the younger teams.
“Our high school athletes are like superheroes to these kids,” Hesia says. “They show up with tremendous commitment and take great pride in teaching these students.”
As haumāna progress through the program, they have access to first-rate athletic facilities. The Koaiʻa building features weight rooms, a training room equipped with a hot tub, cold plunge, Whirlpools and top-of-the-line strength and conditioning equipment comparable to what you’d find at the college level.
“Our facilities are great here, and we’re slowly getting things even better,” Hesia says, referencing the recent additions of a jumbotron at Kūnuiākea Stadium and a large LED screen in Kekūhaupi‘o Gym.
This ongoing investment in athletic development is paying significant dividends. In 2023, the boys varsity baseball team brought home the Hawaiʻi High School Athletics Association (HHSAA) Division I state championship for the first time in 20 years. The girls water polo team also captured the HHSAA championship in May 2023, marking the second time the Warriors took the title since 2006. Additionally, three KS haumāna were named to the Enterprise Holdings/HHSAA Hall of Honor for their athletic excellence.
Marley Roe KSK’23, Tatum Moku KSK’23 and Elijah Dinkel KSH’23 were inducted into the Enterprise Holdings/Hawaiʻi High School Athletics Association Hall of Honor.
“Our goal is to inspire students to pursue excellence in sports, academics and life, while embracing the process and enjoying the journey,” Hesia says. “We want to win, but we feel that by helping build these kids’ characters, by training our kids’ minds and then teaching them how to give back and be good people, that ultimately leads to them being better people, and better people make better Warriors.”
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