Sighs of relief as DODEA-Pacific sports resume after shutdown
By DAVE ORNAUER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: January 23, 2018
CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa – Games on.
That was the word from Department of Defense Education Activity-Pacific following news Monday evening that the government shutdown had ended, at least temporarily.
Regular-season school sports and next week’s Far East tournaments in basketball and wrestling are back on as scheduled, officials said.
“We’re a go,” DODEA-Pacific athletics coordinator Tom McKinney told Stars and Stripes Tuesday afternoon.
Basketball games in all divisions are scheduled for Jan. 29 to Feb. 1, including boys Divisions I and II at Kubasaki High School and girls at Matthew C. Perry High School.
It’s the first time both divisions will play at the same school since 1989 for girls and 1982 for boys.
Wrestling for both divisions is slated for Feb. 1 to 3 at Nile C. Kinnick High School.
With the news came sighs of relief from event organizers, coaches and athletes throughout the Pacific.
“We were devastated,” junior Dyson Robinson of defending Far East Division II boys champion. E.J. King High School said of the prospect of missing games due to the shutdown.
“Coming from a championship season, we were worried about not having the chance to go back to back,” he said. “Now, we’re all excited. We were asking coach what time practice was. We couldn’t wait to get back out there.”
Cobras coach Laird Small said his players, including 2017 tournament veterans Elijah Dannel and Sidney Parks, were a little nervous, thinking they might pull the plug.
“They’re excited to go,” he said.
Small also has a vested interest in the girls team; his daughter, Anna, is a Cobras senior.
“The girls are all seniors. They’ve been playing together for a long time,” the elder Small said. “She didn’t want it to end that way. They’re excited to have that last hoorah.”
Kinnick wrestling coach Gary Wilson said he “kind of figured it would take care of itself.”
If the shutdown had gone until the end of the week “it would have gotten a little hairy, but it looks like it’s a go,” he said. “A little stressful, but we kind of thought everything was going to work itself out.”
Though the shutdown meant, in theory, that all extracurricular activities would be called off, organizers of the Far East tournaments said they continued with event set-up with a “business as usual” mindset.”
The shutdown combined with the heavy snowfall in the Tokyo area did impact games and practices on Tuesday. Practices for all DODEA schools had already been canceled due to the shutdown.
Three basketball games involving Tokyo-Kanto Plain-area schools were postponed due to the snow; at least one has been rescheduled. Boys and girls basketball games pitting Daegu American High School at Taejon Christian International School in Korea scheduled for Tuesday were rescheduled for Feb. 6.
Also on the schedule after the Far East tournaments is the Korea Blue Division district finals in basketball, Feb. 8 to 9 at Osan American Middle-High School.
No Far East tournaments in any sport have been canceled since budget cuts in the first year of the Reagan administration forced DODEA-Pacific officials to trim all tournaments except for volleyball in November 1980.
Basketball and wrestling were also on the chopping block in February 1986, following enactment of the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings budget balancing act. That caused a $10 million across-the-board cut to DODEA, with sports tournaments being the first activities to suffer the ax.
Northwest Airlines stepped in and offered to pay for every student-athlete and coach to attend the Far East Division I basketball tournament in late February at Yokota. The tournament went on as scheduled.
Activities in DODEA-Europe, meanwhile, are set to resume Tuesday. The shutdown cost European teams just one day of practice; no games or meets were affected.
“All is good and nothing has to be rescheduled because of the shutdown,” DODEA-Europe athletic director Kathlene Clemmons said via email Tuesday morning.
The three-week budget measure, however, means the threat of a shutdown may rise again in the midst of the European winter championships. The DODEA-Europe wrestling championship meet is scheduled for Feb. 16 and 17; the European basketball tournament is set for Feb. 21-24.