A Different Kind Of Youth League

Bob Hogue
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Wednesday - June 25, 2008
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Nyla and Nu’u Lolotai have football in their bloodlines. Nu’u's father Al Lolotai was the first player of Polynesian descent to play in the NFL. Nu’u played at Utah, and his and Nyla’s son Mana play linebacker for the University of Hawaii.

And now they are both helping other families who love the game, in a league that offers youth football with a positive twist.

“It’s about giving back,” Nyla says. She’s the league administrator for HALOS football. Nu’u helps coach the Windward team, one of eight teams in the league - the others are located in East Oahu, Kapolei, Waikele, Honolulu, Aiea, Kalihi, and North Shore.

HALOS football began two years ago in Hawaii. The acronym stands for Hawaii Athletic League of Scholars. The tackle football league has two divisions - 12 and under, and 13-14. Unlike Pop Warner football (the nation’s largest youth football league in participation), HALOS football has no weight limitations.

“It was started because so many kids fell through the cracks due to the weight limitations,” Nyla says.

But besides giving an opportunity for kids of all shapes and sizes, HALOS offered what they believe is a major difference from other youth football experiences. “There is no screaming and yelling,” Nyla says. “All the coaches have to be certified by Positive Coaching Alliance. We emphasize respect and education. The coaches do grade checks and the players must maintain a minimum 2.0 grade average or they don’t play. We emphasize to our players that they are ‘scholar-athletes’.”

And to enforce these rules, Halo’s football doesn’t hire special security. There are no “yelling-and-screaming police” anywhere.

“We have what we call ‘culture keepers,’ parents who monitor that the sidelines culture is always respectful and that players and parents are kept to the same standard as the coaches,” Nyla says.

But it wasn’t easy to change the culture - not immediately anyway.

“The first year was difficult,” she says. “We had to correct our coaches many times. One of the coaches even suspended himself. He talked to his kids and told them, ‘I lost my cool and that’s not what it’s all about’. That sent a strong message. After that, it’s gone excellent.”

Nyla also has a personal reason to be involved in HALOS. Her son Mana was an outstanding high school player at Kamehameha and was offered a full-ride scholarship to play for Oregon State in the PAC-10. “Mana met the SAT requirements, but not the GPA. It was disheartening. We learned to recognize that many kids may fall short. We needed to create an environment to help assist them along the way.”

One of Nyla’s other sons, 18-year-old Tevana, has cancer. Nyla changed jobs to be closer to home to help care for him. “He’s doing well,” she says.

But his challenges also showed their family what’s most important in life - that there is more than playing a particular sport, and that there is opportunity for an entirely positive lifestyle and culture.

“We try to train all of our kids in the league to be of service,” she says. And on a lighter note, she adds, “We don’t mandate potlucks.”

Registration for HALOS football is scheduled for Sunday, June 29, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at Kaneohe District Park. For more information, you can also log on to the league’s website at www.myhalos.com or call Nyla at 384-4020.

Practice for this upcoming season begins in late July and early August. League play goes from September through November. It’s all positive with HALOS.

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