By CHELSEA JENSEN
Stephens Media Hawaii
NFL Pro Bowl Youth Clinics — an annual tradition for Hawaii Island students for the more than a decade — will not take place this year ahead of the Pro Bowl, which is Sunday on Oahu.
The clinics, which give public, private, charter and home school students a chance to take part in a variety of hands-on drills and activities with current and former professional football players as well as cheerleaders will not be held in Keaau and Kona this week, confirmed Char Shigemura, an executive assistant to Mayor Billy Kenoi who has organized the Hawaii Island clinics since the first one was held in 2003. The clinics are also not being held on any other neighbor island, she added.
Full details from the decision were not divulged to Shigemura. She referred Stephens Media Hawaii’s further inquiry into not holding the youth clinics here to the Hawaii Tourism Authority, which supports NFL efforts surrounding the Pro Bowl. An HTA spokeswoman subsequently referred Stephens Media Hawaii to the NFL.
An NFL spokesperson, who requested not to be identified by name, responded via email saying the league this year “consolidated efforts” to Oahu, but it plans to continue similar events on the neighbor islands in the future.
Thew email read: “The NFL has enjoyed hosting youth football clinics around the islands of Hawaii for many years. For this year’s Pro Bowl, we made the decision to consolidate our efforts on Oahu where our staff and players are based. The NFL is very committed to our youth football efforts, including Heads Up Football, a USA Football program to create a better and safer game. Tomorrow morning (today) we are excited to host high school athletic directors from across Oahu who will take part in a conference on Heads Up Football and share insights on the state of youth and high school football. Our plan is to bring similar events to the other islands in the future as part of our continuing efforts to grow the game.”
Shigemura said over the past 12 years an estimated 8,400 students have taken part in the clinics held in Kona and Keaau. This month would have marked the 13th year the event has been held on Hawaii Island.
“It’s really a thrill for the kids,” Shigemura said. “For a kid to catch a pass from an NFL quarterback is great.”
Besides the fun surrounding the event, Shigemura noted the important lessons such as staying in school, working hard and eating healthy that the NFL players and cheerleaders teach the kids not only at the youth clinics held at Keaau and Kealakehe high schools, but also at other schools around the island.
“It’s really for them,” she said of the clinics and school visits. “They have really brought a lot of excitement and smiles to kids on this island.”
The event was brought to Hawaii more than a decade ago when Kenoi was an executive assistant to former Mayor Harry Kim and part of the Hawaii Tourism Authority’s Hawaii Host Committee. According to the county, Kenoi played an instrumental role in bringing the clinics to the outer islands after seeing their impact on Oahu students. The Hawaii County Mayor’s Office helps stage the annual event.
The NFL Pro Bowl Youth Clinics, sponsored in part by the Nat Moore Foundation, give students a chance to take part in a variety of hands-on drills with pros; participants also get a Pro Bowl T-shirt autographed by each of the NFL players and a sling backpack. Major components of the event are teaching fundamental skills and teamwork. The organization also emphasizes the importance of doing well in school.
Stephens Media Hawaii was unable to reach Kenoi for comment via cellphone and email as of press time Wednesday. He is currently attending the U.S. Conference of Mayors in Washington.