Smart Moves

Student-athletes reap benefits of wide-ranging pursuits

Department: Athletics

By Melissa A. Torres-Laing

During the past two years, Lea ’13 has played the prima donna Carlotta in “Phantom of the Opera,” the desperate Baker’s Wife in “Into the Woods” and the misunderstood Girl in “Hot l Baltimore.” In addition to participating in theatre productions, she is also an accomplished canoe paddler, going from the junior varsity I team as a sophomore to a member of the varsity I team as a junior. Like many of her peers with a variety of interests, Lea defines what it means to be a 21st-century student-athlete.

It has been reported that students who participate in a variety of activities not only perform better academically than students who do not, but also acquire the interpersonal skills, vigilance and integrity needed to be successful beyond high school. They acquire confidence, teamwork and responsibility; strengthen their commitment to their studies; and become well-rounded leaders, with a sense of civic and social responsibility.

Students have many opportunities to excel individually while learning how to be part of a group. Varsity I paddler Kylie Courtney ’12, who has played the violin for the past 12 years and is a member of the Punahou Symphony, has learned that teamwork is everything. “There’s definitely a community aspect,” says Courtney, who looks forward to the possibility of playing another team sport, rugby, at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland in the fall. “You need to be playing your part in the Symphony so that each section sounds like one instrument.” The analogy translates to paddling, where “everyone must pull their weight in the canoe,” she says. “We live by the saying: You see six; we see one.”

While collaborating toward a common goal brings students together, it also develops facets of their personalities.

On the field as defensive back or as a cellist among fellow musicians in the Punahou Symphony, Kyle ’13 has learned the meaning of hard work. “Playing the cello has given me precision. Each position of the finger must be just right; if you’re a fourth of an inch off, you’re out of tune. It’s really taught me not to rush because that’s when you make mistakes. Just like in sports and academics, if you make the same mistake over and over again without correcting it, it becomes a habit. And you don’t want to form bad habits,” says the varsity football and track athlete, who also volunteers for the Center for Tomorrow’s Leaders, a locally based organization that offers leadership training to students.

As the winner of the Boys ILH Championship Golf Tournament in April, perseverance is something Kai Hayashida ’12 knows something about. Those qualities that have given him “tremendous composure and mental tenacity” came with playing the viola for the past 12 years. “In order to play the viola, you have to work on good technique. This has helped me in golf because I have to be meticulous in practice. The combination of the two has also helped me in school. The work ethic I’ve developed helps me be the best student I can be,” says Hayashida, who will be headed to USC’s Viterbi School of Engineering.

Semisi ’15 is also constantly improving his work ethic, and is a bit surprised by what he has accomplished in his three years at Punahou. With back-to-back lead roles in “Oklahoma!” and “Anything Goes,” Semisi says that musical theatre and football have helped him prioritize schoolwork. “I think being involved in arts and acting and music forces me to be better in school. I just get more things done when I keep myself busy during football season.” But he’s also learned how to deal with defeat. “My favorite game was playing against Campbell High School. In the end we didn’t make it, and I got injured. But when I reviewed the film, I was surprised by how much I had improved. It was my best game so far. I was bummed that we lost, but I felt like I accomplished something.”

The opportunities students are offered at Punahou “open up so many doors,” says Semisi. “I don’t think I would’ve tried musical theatre if I didn’t come here. With musical theatre and athletics, I’ve been able to express myself in different ways. It’s just been a blessing for me.”

For Lea, being an actress brings the excitement of preparing for roles, but it also brings personal growth and development. Acting requires the maturity and professionalism to deal with constructive criticism. “It’s not always easy to recognize the things you need to work on, but the arts have showed me that it’s okay to recognize your weaknesses and work on them,” she says. “I’ve also learned so much about myself.”

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