Chronicling 40 Years Coaching At UH
There’s a quote in the first chapter of Dave Shoji’s new memoir, Wahine Volleyball: 40 Years Coaching Hawaii’s Team, that tells you how far the sport of women’s volleyball and Dave Shoji have come. Just after winning his first national title in 1979 in his fifth year as head coach of the Rainbow Wahine, Shoji says he was “still looking for a real job.”
Shoji made less than $2,000 a year as a part-time coach of the Rainbow Wahine volleyball team. He also coached some junior varsity high school volleyball and worked as a substitute teacher.
“I subbed every subject you can imagine — math, social studies, everything,” he tells me. “I was a P.E. major in college, but there was, like, no hope in getting a full-time P.E. job in the DOE, and the prospects back in the 1970s in the private schools were even tougher. The jobs were coveted and people held onto them.”
Shoji admits he never dreamed he would be coaching Wahine volleyball for 40 years. He certainly couldn’t have imagined that he would eventually become the winningest coach in NCAA history.
“Over the past five years or so, people were suggesting that I write a book and chronicle some of the history behind the program and how it grew,” he says. “When (veteran Star-Advertiser sportswriter) Ann Miller retired, she came to me and asked if I was interested. We sat down for several interviews over the next year or so. I have to credit her with most of the writing; I helped with the revisions.”
For Rainbow Wahine volleyball fans, and for fans who passionately follow UH athletics, the book is a joy to read. You’ll love the touching story of how Shoji’s parents met at a desert internment camp in the early days of World War II, and later how Shoji and his brother Tom grew up as avid sports enthusiasts in Hawaii and Southern California. Somehow, the boy who played high school baseball, football and basketball in high school in Upland, Calif., became an all-American volleyball player at UC-Santa Barbara.
“It wasn’t my first sport, but volleyball came easy to me,” he says. “Playing it on the beach and in the gym, I fell in love with it.”
He tells how he practically fell into the job of head coach at UH in the mid-1970s, crediting UH women’s athletics legend Donnis Thompson and Punahou coaching great Chris McLachlin for his start at Manoa.
“I remember so many of the matches,” he says. “It was great looking back. Sometimes the losses stick with you longer.”
But there were many more victories than setbacks, and Shoji and Miller, Wahine beat writer for three decades, do a wonderful job of reminiscing. And the book is full of terrific photos from the past four decades, as well as statistics, rosters and much more.
Wahine Volleyball: 40 Years Coaching Hawaii’s Team is published by University of Hawaii Press and goes on sale this month. It’s available in both hard cover (list price $45) and soft cover ($19.99) at the H-Zone shop at the Stan Sheriff ticket office. Shoji will do his first book signings this week — Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at UH-Manoa Bookstore, and then at Barnes & Noble-Ala Moana Center Saturday from 1 to 2:30 p.m.
“When people characterize me as a legend, it’s pretty embarrassing,” Shoji says near the end of the book. But he is.