Geared Up To Go

Department: Athletics

By Jeff Meister, Associate Athletic Director

What beast has more than 1,400 arms and 1,400 legs? Answer: the weekly laundry load of the Punahou Athletic and Physical Education departments!

During any week, the Punahou locker-room staff is responsible for sorting, laundering, drying, folding and distributing more than 700 practice and game uniforms to Punahou’s athletic teams. The staff also supports Punahou’s P.E. classes with towels and clean equipment. Their work is constant. Many times their days start before 7 a.m. and continue until the last teams finish their practices or games. On a good day, that’s around 6:30 p.m., but many days extend until almost midnight.

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Berna Morales, girls’ locker-room custodian, pitches in to help laundry attendant Lalaine Colliado, on right.

“We look at this as something similar to a restaurant. There are peak times and rushes where things need to be cleaned and turned around in less than a day,” says Alan Masuda who is responsible for much of the laundering.

Here’s a seasonal breakdown. In the fall, football is king of the clean. Usually there are two loads of 100 or more practice uniforms and one load of 75 to 100 game uniforms. Cross country produces more than 300 uniforms. Throw in about 60 girls’ volleyball uniforms, some kayaking jerseys and the practice gear that the coaches wear and you get a feel for the task. Along with the uniforms, tack on about 700 towels a day, a few hundred pairs of socks and assorted specialty equipment.

In the winter, soccer takes the lead with more than 150 athletes on nine teams needing laundering services. Rain often adds mud to the cleaning mix. Next comes basketball – 12 teams of between that produce about 150 dirty uniforms a day. Punahou’s wrestlers have practice gear and competition singlets that require cleaning, plus other sports with smaller needs. Again, tack on 700 towels a day, socks and assorted coach and specialty equipment.

In the spring, the runaway leader is track and field. More than 400 athletes are involved and thankfully, most of their needs only occur on weekends because of Friday/Saturday competitions. Baseball and softball each have more than 70 athletes needing support and boys’ volleyball adds more than 60 additional uniforms. By weight, the biggest challenge is the judo gi, the thick belt that wraps around the waist. Approximately 40 gis need to be washed. The heavy, canvas-like material takes three days to dry so laundering begins on Monday in order to ready them for wear by the weekend.

A staff of six works in a room not much larger than a two-car garage to handle the massive task of laundering. An athlete turns in his or her respective uniform to the locker room attendants: Brenda Elizares or Cathy Uehara on the girls’ side and Chuck Block or James Nakamura on the boys’ side. They sort the laundry and roll it in large baskets to the back of the laundry room where Masuda and Lalaine Colliado prepare it for the machines. Four industrial washers, each handling about 70 pounds of laundry per load, take on the heavy work. Soap for the machines is delivered in 15-gallon containers (in contrast, the average container of consumer laundry soap ranges from 64 to 100 fluid ounces). Cleaned laundry then gets placed in one of six industrial dyers.

The laundry staff resorts, folds and returns the fresh uniforms to the locker-room attendants for redistribution. In addition, Colliado mends and sews torn garments.

More coaches are helping their athletes appreciate the work that goes into supporting the teams. Michael Georgi recently has brought his Intermediate Girls track and field team down to the laundry room to meet the people and learn about the process. “I find it valuable for the athletes to fully appreciate the behind-the-scenes support staff such as the laundry crew who never get the recognition that others, such as the coaches, receive,” said Georgi. “The girls come away with a real sense of how much work it takes to get their gear ready for each meet.”

It’s an amazing process that goes unnoticed and/or underappreciated by almost everyone. But it is one that is absolutely vital to Punahou Athletics and P.E.

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