Pearl City Head Coach Running Volleyball Academy For Keiki

Stephanie Shigemasa always believed there was a need for a volleyball academy in West Oahu. Two years after she started the Lil Spikers Volleyball Academy in Pearl City, her faith in that vision has been rewarded with large turnouts.

“For us, we’ve been real excited and very pleased (with the results),” said Shigemasa. “When we first started, we had about 50 kids. At our most recent session, we had up to 170 kids. We’ve really grown, and we’ve been fortunate. It shows the kids are loving volleyball.”

Shigemasa and fellow local volleyball standout Fiona NepoFonoti created the academy for children ages 5 to 10 to give them a solid volleyball base. Volleyball-related opportunities had been few for that age group – even with reputable traditions in place at Pearl City, Aiea and Waipahu high schools in their respective communities.

“Mostly, kids already are 10 or 11 years old when they begin playing Club, and they don’t get the foundation or fundamentals down at an early age,” she explained.

Lil Spikers emphasizes “speed, strength and coordination” and offers five sessions throughout the year. “Soccer, baseball and football have programs, but there aren’t many for volleyball.

We hope kids will start playing (volleyball) younger and stay with it.

“Everything is new to them, and it is fresh and exciting for them.”

In Shigemasa’s personal history, there were not many programs either. “I started just playing with my parents because they played,” she said. “We also had Crush volleyball then. It was like a league. They had different teams, which were named after flavors of a (soft) drink.

“We just want to introduce young kids to the basic fundamentals. We want to give kids who don’t have the chance to learn (the game) that chance – versus having no background (by the time they’re ready for Club play). Nowadays it’s so competitive.”

Shigemasa played her prep volleyball at Pearl City and is currently the head boys varsity volleyball coach there. She was head girls coach for 14 seasons. In between, she had a stellar collegiate career at UH Manoa under coach Dave Shoji. Shigemasa’s husband, Reid, is Pearl City’s athletic director and a former player and coach in the Chargers boys program.

Nepo-Fonoti played locally at University High before going on to play for Big 12 member Nebraska at the college level. Other head coaches at the academy include Pearl City products Dayne Tevis and Brandon Chang.

High school and college players also play roles in developing Lil Spikers volleyball students. “We emphasize with our staff that they love kids,” Shigemasa said of assembling her coaching staff. “They really enjoy being out there. They have fun doing this, and that makes a huge difference.”

Lil Spikers has begun signups for Session 5, which will run Nov. 10, 17, 24 and Dec. 1, 8, 15. Cost is $100 per session (siblings thereafter $85).

For more information, call 561-2239.