Chris Blake, a 1991 graduate of Kamehameha Schools Kapālama, marks his 15th year of service to KS. Blake is head of KSK’s science department as well as head coach for the girl’ s volleyball team.
At 6 years old Chris Blake made one of his life’s most important decisions. Fresh out of kindergarten, Blake had the choice to move to Hawai‘i island with his mom, or continue his education at Kamehameha Schools Kapālama.
He decided on the latter.
Fast-forward nearly 35 years, and Blake will tell you how he’s, “been at KS forever and just can’t get away,It’s been quite the ride,” he said, “but I enjoy every minute of it.”
Blake, who marks his 15th year of service to KS as a science teacher at KS Kapālama, has spent 13 of those years as head of KSK’s girl’s volleyball team, arguably one of the best programs in Hawai‘i girl’s volleyball history.
Prior to accepting the head coaching position at Kapālama, Blake spent three seasons as an assistant under Ann Kang at ʻIolani and in the late 90s at KSK under Dan Kitashima. His coaching experience, however, began at Kapālama on the boy’s side during the 1992/1993 school year, alongside Reydan “Tita” Ahuna and her staff.
In October, the Warriors captured their 20th girl’s state championship and eighth with Blake at the helm, defeating ʻIolani in a five-set thriller.
“Honestly, I don’t think it was our best game, we’ve played better ones, but it was the best game we could play at the time,” said Blake. He said that the culminating moment for he and assistant coaches Rebekah Torres, Koala Matsuoka and Lesli Akeo, came between sets four and five when senior Brooke Kaawa and junior Kayla Afoa took control of the huddle around the bench.
“We were on the outside looking in and they were saying all the things that would’ve came out of our mouths, and that to me was it. The girls internalized everything and you know the things that were said were taken to heart because they were able to execute,” Blake added.
Trophies and accolades aside, for Blake, the real success as a coach is seeing former players and managers move on to the next level of play, and then return to Kekūhaupiʻo Gym to give back to the current roster.
“The strength of our team is our team. We talk about playing with one heart, with each other and for each other,” he said. “I tell the girls every season, ‘you want to not only play for the girls who are on your team, but the ones that came before you and the ones that’ll come after you’.”
Off the court, Blake utilizes his degree in physics and physical science from the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa as head of KSK’s science department and teacher of all things physics.
He also heads a year-long science elective, Mālama Honua, which came about after talk of the science department looking for ways to diversify its offerings.
The course, designed to give students the opportunity to experience the Earth through huaka‘i while identifying, examining and working to come up with solutions to various sustainability issues, also follows the Polynesian Voyaging Society’s Mālama Honua World Wide Voyage, which Blake added allows his students to see sustainability on a global level.
Only in its second year of instruction, Mālama Honua has already taken Blake and his haumāna on huakaʻi to Aotearoa to meet up with Hōkūleʻa and Hikianalia in Auckland, Kaʻūpūlehu on the west side of Hawai‘i island and various KS lands around O‘ahu.
“We have all these wonderful lands so what better way than to get our kids out to see it, to experience it. By getting them out there, they establish a sense of place and identity,” Blake said. “They may feel that one person can’t change the world, but the idea is that one person can change the world, you can change the sphere of influence to make things work.”
For Blake, the success of his career, both on and off the court, directly relates to the decision he made at 6 years old.
“I take my position seriously and I tell my students choices or decisions that they’re making now are going to have long lasting effects. That one choice I made is the reason why I’m sitting before you today,” he said. “I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
This story is part of “I Mua Kamehameha,” an ongoing effort to celebrate the excellence of KS campus and community education programs. Inspirational stories will be shared throughout the year about KS servant leaders who are improving the lives of KS haumāna and contributing to a thriving Lāhui.