Merry Christmas readers! Or Happy Holidays, whichever you prefer. This week is a short week for me, what with travels out of town Wednesday evening for Christmas, so I thought I'd get into the holiday spirit and release two interviews for everyone! This first one is a really interesting interview to have done. Two quick updates before we go further. First, American Pyramid is looking for 3 to 4 quality sponsors for 2016 to help take this site to another level. If you or someone you know would like to be a sponsor, let me know. Second, I will be writing some long form articles on all kinds of soccer related things over at The Football Experience. Check them out, solid stuff.
Now, a preface about this interview right up front. Donna Fouts is the volunteer president of the Hawaii Soccer Association. Due to her volunteer status, and the fact that she took the time to do this interview on top of those duties and the duties of her regular job, I wanted to take the time to extend a very heartfelt, 'Thank you' to Donna right up front. Soccer in Hawaii is something deeply fascinating to me, and Donna was more then willing to answer questions about the state of soccer (no pun intended. Okay, maybe a little) in the state of Hawaii.
American Pyramid: Tell me a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you're from, what your role is with the Hawaii Soccer Association.
Donna Fouts: My family moved to the islands just before statehood in 1959. We came from Connecticut, and have lived on the windward side of the island, Kailua. I am a Kailua High, Surfrider graduate. I have had the good pleasure of being the President of Hawaii Soccer Association, for the past 10 years.
When did you first get interested in soccer in general and working with a state association in particular?
As parents of a son who started AYSO at 5 we began to be introduced to the sport in the early 1980s.
Was there a certain event that got you into the sport, or has soccer always been a part of your life?
We had a parents vs kids game when our son was around 8. Several of the moms really enjoyed ourselves and decided to form a team to play in the Women’s Island Soccer Association league. Soccer had not really been a part of my life until my son began playing.
Now tell me about Hawaii. I know that when I think about soccer and the United States, Hawaii is not the first place that comes to mind as being a hotbed of players or support.
Sadly it is not the first place on thinks of for soccer---but it really should be. We have 12 months a year of ideal soccer playing weather, with a state with just a little over 1 million people we have produced both a female Olympian in Natasha Kai and a male soccer Olympian in Brian Ching. Many, many of our youth players are now going to the mainland to top schools on soccer scholarship. Hawaii has and continues to leave its mark on competitive soccer.
How would you like to see the HSA help the state grow it's soccer footprint?
One of the biggest gifts we would like to offer is to advocate and help get more play space. Sadly leagues actually have to turn adult players away as we do not have adequate playing spaces on Oahu or the neighboring islands. We want to see soccer be a game for life. As all the first, second and third generations of AYSO soccer kids have grown up and are now all adults there are not enough fields to keep soccer alive and well for them.
Running a soccer association is Hawaii must be difficult. What are some of the challenges you've encountered in growing the game?
Since we are all volunteers, with H S A, it at times can get hectic and soccer may not be top priority in terms of getting things done for each of the volunteers. Many states have offices, and paid staff to get the job done. We obviously don’t, but technology is helping with some of these issues.
What exactly do you do to help drum up support for the different leagues?
H S A is there to help logistically in terms of getting necessary insurance for players and leagues. We sanction and sponsor tournaments along with financially endorsing training, park equipment and needs, And we work closely with the referees, insisting that all are trained and qualified to be out on the field calling a game.
If a player is looking to join a league, what would you tell them?
It is my hope that if you sign up for a H S A League, you can rest assured that the fields are safe, FIFA rules are followed, and the game is run by a qualified referee. Additionally should there be accidents or incidents there are standard rules in place that will handle the situation fairly and consistently. Thought it does not sound like flashy goals or outcomes---without consistent rules and procedures we would have chaos.
Whats the highest level league on the islands right now that people should being following and watching?
College D -1 and D-2 games. Both the Men’s and Women’s Leagues have open divisions which features many college and semi pro players.
Cast a vision for me: Where would you like to see soccer in Hawaii in 5 years in terms of growth and visibility?
At least 6 -8 more fields. A island wide Male and female state Cup Championship Tournament. Continued support for the Waipio Complex (including the stadium) to be a pristine and top playing complex. Do not play on it too much, you must let it rest. And insist that the city financially support the venue year round.
Bonus Questions: Who's your favorite current soccer player?
What's your favorite league/team to watch and why?
US Women’s National Team – they came from humble roots and have managed to become a world leader in a fairly short period of time.
Where can people find out more about yourself, the state association and local leagues in Hawaii?
What would you like to say to the people reading this article about why they should get behind the lower levels of American soccer in general, and Hawaiian soccer in particular?
Adult soccer really strives to be a game for life. I do believe that Hawaii practices that belief. Whether you are a novice that did not grow up playing the sport, an individual who played in younger years and wants to rekindle that passion, or a hot young gun who desires to seriously lay it all out on the pitch each weekend, adult soccer has a place for you.
Thanks for taking some time to answer these questions, I really appreciate it. Thanks again for taking some time out of your day to read this article, I hope it's helped shed some light on the challenges facing soccer not just outside of the mainland USA, but in states where soccer just isn't quite seen as big deal. As always, give us a 'Follow' on Twitter and or a 'Like' on Facebook. Be twice as nice, display the Christmas spirit, and do both.