Special Coach Opens Up Football World To Island Children
For Kaneohe resident John Waikiki, coaching flag football has become more of a lifestyle than a hobby. “I’ve been constantly going,” he said. “I haven’t stopped for one season since I started.”
If giving back to the community can be measured in part by the hours put in, then the 21-year-old already is a resounding success at any level. Ironically, it was by chance that Waikiki became so active in flag football.
“I always like to help out,” he explained. “I had coached Pop Warner football the year before, but I was just watching my nephew play flag football, and they would always lose. I’d always be making comments on the side to my sister, and one day she said, ‘Well, why don’t you guys go and coach a (flag football) team since you’ve coached football already?'”
This week, Waikiki is in Las Vegas with his 7-and-under team, 808 Wolfpack, as they prepare for the WASUP National Flag Football Tournament. 808 Wolfpack will be the first team within the 7-and-under age group to ever take part in a national tournament – since it also will be the first time it was open to a division that young. “Usually, they start at age 9 and up,” Waikiki said. “As a team, this will be our first trip together.”
For Waikiki, seeing his players enjoy the game and be part of a successful team is among the rewards. “It’s cool to see kids growing, and to see them improve every week is my whole thrill. They’re the younger generation.”
Waikiki grew up in Kahaluu, but also spent several years on Maui. He graduated from King Kekaulike in 2009 and returned to Oahu’s Windward side.
As his first foray into coaching was with full-contact football, Waikiki had to “make adjustments” when he began coaching flag football. “The age group I was with in Pop Warner was also 9-13, and I started flag football with the 5- and 6-year-olds, where the mentality is very different. It was a learning process. As I grew, I saw more improvement in them, too.”
On certain days, Waikiki will take his quarterback and receivers for additional tutoring from friends in coaching, including Ladd Mokiao, the head Pop Warner coach in Aiea.
Among 808 Wolfpack’s six-member roster are three players from Kaneohe – Ean Waikiki, Mason Ahuna and Jourdain Pyne. Ezekiel Olie (Waipahu), Laanui Mulivai (Waianae) and Kaden Cadang (Aiea) round out the team.