Driving up the road to Windward Community College, there are huge grass fields on the right and left, a basketball court, football field, volleyball courts and a gymnasium. Families come to watch and enjoy games on Saturdays or to play in the park with their kids.
The Kāne‘ohe District Park is home to many memories for families in the surrounding community. There is also a pool behind the outside basketball courts that is open to the public.
However, some people don’t know that when the pool is closed to the public, a swim team practices there at 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. It’s called the KSA (Kāne‘ohe Swim Association) swim team, and it’s been around since 1975.
The KSA team is open to kids ages 7 to 18 and consists of three groups: an advanced, intermediate and beginning group. The main coach is Chriss Ryan. Ryan coaches the advanced group and leads the team at swim meets.
Ryan has been there for 32 years and loves coaching and seeing her swimmers move on to high school and sometimes college swim teams.
“It brings joy to my heart seeing my old swimmers come back to visit me and knowing they continued on after here,” she said.
Ryan, who was born and raised in Los Altos, CA, started swimming at the age of 8 and won her first meet then. She has subsequently amassed more than 200 medals and awards for swimming. She also worked as a lifeguard during her undergraduate years at Chico University, which helped pay her tuition.
In 1964, she had an offer to train for the U.S. Olympic team trials but decided not to because she felt she had achieved enough recogniation and had sacrificed enough–like missed proms and homecomings–for the sport. She just wanted to live her life.
She moved to Hawai‘i soon after graduation and eventually got married and had two daughters.
She initially went to Kāne‘ohe District Park just to swim recreationally but eventually became a lifeguard there and has never left.
“I enjoy working with the kids and getting to know them on a personal level … the kids teach me something every day,” Ryan says.
Another coach, Mikey Hung, says, “It’s always good coming back coaching something you love and have a passion for.”
Hung swam for 12 years on the KSA swim team and for the Pac-5 swim team in high school. He has been coaching the intermediate group since April.
Being a former swimmer for KSA, Hung hopes to help the kids improve their swimming technique and to become stronger as people by helping them build character and to learn team work and to never give up. He says he wants them to keep pushing themselves to do better.
“It helps having a swimming background because I can relate to the kids,” he says. “If they’re having trouble with a swim stroke or if they have an injury … ”
In August 2016, the pool closed for a month for renovations. It got new pumps and its pipes were fixed. But the closure resulted in the swim team losing many swimmers.
Hoping to get some swimmers back as well as attract new team members, the KSA team has been focusing on preparing for its upcoming meet in late November.
Andrew Liu, who coaches the beginning group and was a former KSA swimmer, says, “My job is to help them develop better swimming skills but at the same time make it fun, or they won’t want to swim anymore.”
His group does not compete in meets because they’re too young. So he focuses on making sure the kids are having a good time learning.
Seeing Hung and Liu come back to coach the team they used to swim for brings warmth to Ryan’s heart.
“My favorite memory is still happening … ” Ryan says. “Seeing my former swimmers teach new swimmers or just coming to visit a place that helped them grow is special.”
by Kristen Kumakura, Special to Ka ‘Ohana