KAPALAMA — Coming off a fourth-place finish in last week's 2017 Fédération Internationale de Volleyball (FIVB) World League tournament final in Brazil, a pair of Hawaii-born United States men's national volleyball team members turned a short vacation home into an opportunity to reach out to the youth of the 808 state.
Kamehameha '11 graduate Micah Christenson (USC '15) and Iolani '06 grad Kawika Shoji (Stanford '10) hosted 200 young athletes for two two-hour sessions Friday evening at Kamehameha Schools Kapalama's Kekuhaupio Gym. Although both are setters, the clinic consisted of technical drills in volleyball aspects of bumping, setting, defense, hitting and serving, as well as a Q&A with the student-athletes and parents.
"We want them to have a higher understanding of the technical skills in volleyball," Shoji said. "We really want them to know how to play the game correctly and how the game is played at the highest level. Also being a good person and a good teammate opens a lot of doors."
"Hard work does get you there, and it may sound cliché, but it's so apparent in our field of work that as hard as you work, you can get things done," Christenson added. "This youth of Hawaii is more than capable of going to the Olympics and playing professionally because 25 percent of the United States Olympic team was from Hawaii."
Shoji's younger brother Erik (Punahou '08, Stanford '12) was the third piece to the Hawaii-born trio who helped take home the bronze medal at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Summer Olympics.
Having attended similar clinics while growing up, Shoji looked up to the likes of Clayton Stanley (Kaiser '97, Hawaii 1997–2000) and Robyn Ah Mow-Santos (McKinley '93, Hawaii 1993–96) as inspiration to drive him towards playing at the top levels in volleyball.
"I can see myself in their shoes 10–15 years ago, seeing role models from Hawaii and knowing that they can get to the highest level of whatever sport that they're doing," Shoji said. "If you don't really see it, I'm not sure how much you can truly believe it. That's what we're here for and we want to be here in the flesh so people can see us."
The clinic was open to student-athletes entering grades 7–12 and a $20 participation fee was charged with proceeds benefitting Special Olympics Hawaii. Although announced only a week ago on July 6, Christenson tweeted Tuesday night that they were maxed out and would no longer be accepting registration emails.
"We've talked about doing it since last summer, but all the logistics is so hard to finally get things going," Christenson said. "We finally committed to it, and we started maybe two and a half weeks ago and we were scrambling but have had so much help with all the behind the scenes people."
The Kamehameha boys volleyball program assisted in hosting the event, and Christenson's return to his alma mater had him taking a trip down memory lane.
"Enjoy the moments you have during the moment because I come back here and I just think about all the basketball and volleyball games with a full gym," he said. "It's reminiscing but realizing how happy you were with friends and the relationships you had in those moments. Enjoy the moments. Be grateful no matter how much you have."
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