Players, Coaches Hone Skills At Tourney Before OIA Begins

As in past years, the upcoming 2012 Longy Okamoto Invitational Volleyball Tournament will be akin to a developmental league for area programs. Win-loss ledgers generally take a backseat to coaches having their first glimpse of their new team in a game situation.

“Players develop when they play,” said Aiea head coach Erin Okamoto. “You can practice as much as you want, but you never know what they’re going to do until it’s a game. This is the time for coaches to figure out what they have and what (player) combinations they’re going to use.”

While in past years the Longy tournament stretched over the weekend, this time it plays out Aug. 13-15. “There are so many tournaments these days,” Okamoto explained, “and our OIA season will start right after, so we couldn’t push it up and we couldn’t push it back.”

Participation is the name of the game, as teams generally get to play nine or more matches over the three days.

The late Longy Okamoto, Erin’s father, founded the Kamali’i Volleyball Club and had long, successful coaching stints at both Hawaii Baptist Academy and McKinley.

Unlike many local volleyball tournaments that cater only to varsity programs, the Longy also has a Junior Varsity Division and a Blue Division. “We’re one of the few,” said Okamoto. “My dad wanted everyone to have a chance to play.”

Perhaps most unique is that players officiate their own games, an arrangement that gives them a firsthand perspective on how challenging officiating can be. “They see things differently when our OIA season starts. Officiating is really difficult.”

The Varsity Division games will be at Aiea High, while Waipahu High School will host games in both the JV and Blue divisions. Among the teams expected to take part are University High, Pearl City, Waipahu, Mililani, Kailua, Christian Academy and Hanalani, in addition to host Aiea.

The event will come about 10 days after OIA schools begin tryouts and fall camp. In Aiea’s case, the matches played at the Longy Okamoto Tournament will be their only preseason games. Na Ali’i open their OIA season Aug. 25 at Leilehua, while their home-opener is set for Aug. 29 versus Campbell. Campbell won last year’s Longy tournament in the Varsity Division. Saint Francis and Mililani won the Blue and JV Divisions, respectively.

The tournament is still accepting teams, and they can register by calling 564-8125 or 393-5093.