By Tiff Wells.
Fans of a school see the athletes perform on game night, and that’s about it. They read up about them in articles, watch videos on social media or peruse the player bios on the schools’ websites. But how do we really get to know about these players? By having them answer our questions first-hand, of course! With college sports underway, just how are UH athletes getting ready? What are they thinking? What do they like? In this Q&A, we go from the hardwood to the Taraflex with Rainbow Wahine volleyball senior libero/defensive specialist Kyra Hanawahine.
Q: You played two seasons at the University of Oregon and were teammates with both Jolie Rasmussen and Brooke Van Sickle. How did competing in the very tough Pac-12 help you transition to the Big West Conference?
Playing in the Pac-12 was a great experience, and it really taught me that you need to bring your “A” game each and every day – both in practice and games. The Big West may not be as tough a conference, but it is still important that we as a team are playing at our very best no matter who is across the net. Playing for UH comes with having a big target on our back and everyone wants to beat us, so we always get everyone’s best game and effort, so it is important that we are fully prepared for each match.
Q: You’re one of just two players (the other being Braelyn Akana, who was also a teammate of yours at Kamehameha) on this roster that lists Hawai‘i as your home state. How much pride do you have in finishing your collegiate career by wearing the University of Hawai‘i jersey? What does it mean to play for UH?
Honestly, I couldn’t see myself ending my volleyball career anywhere else. I have played volleyball since elementary school and I’ve always known that I wanted to play in college. So to be able to do so in front of my friends and family is very fulfilling. I literally owe my parents the world. To be able to play in front of them and make them proud is one of the best feelings. They’ve sacrificed so much for me to be where I am today so giving my all on and off the court is the least that I can do to show my gratitude. To be able to represent Hawai‘i through the sport that I love is super humbling and honorable.
Q: 2020 has been a different kind of year. When facilities were shut down last March during the volleyball spring season, how did you stay in volleyball shape and how did you stay mentally focused when the fall season was postponed?
I am not going to lie, staying motivated during the shutdown was difficult. Although we are in such a tough time, I am lucky enough to have a mini gym at my house. We have so much workout equipment that I was able to take full advantage of that during quarantine. My brother is huge on fitness so he is always buying workout equipment and showing me workouts to stay in shape. My friends and I also made workout plans and aimed to work out every weekday. We went on runs during the afternoon and watched the sunset which was really nice. We also love to go on hikes so that was a fun way to stay active.
Our coaches continued to remind us to keep our volleyball goals in mind and that all of the work that we’re doing on our own will make a big difference when we step back on the court.
Q: The NCAA gave a January 22nd start date for college volleyball and while we still don’t know what the UH schedule will look like, just how excited are you for season to begin?
Overall our team is beyond excited to be given a start date! We were just praying for a season. To be able to look forward to a real start day is very motivating especially during practice. We know that game days might be a little different than how they were in the past, but we are really excited to have the opportunity to compete together and play volleyball again.
Q: Per the UH bio, you’re a psychology major. What do you eventually want to do with that major? How does being a psych major help in the sport of volleyball?
I chose to be a psychology major in hopes of pursuing a PhD like my dad. He has his doctorate in psychology and he works at Tripler Hospital and owns his own private practice. Although this was my plan, I don’t think doing six more years of school interests me right after graduation so I am actually planning on pursuing real estate! I am currently in an online real estate course and I am hoping to take the real estate license test sometime next year. This career really excites me and I feel that it could lead to super great things!
Q: To be the second member of your family to play a sport here at UH (brother Kalei played baseball from 2013-2014), what does it mean to you?
To follow in my brother’s footsteps is really awesome. He always teases me about when I’m going to get the scholar athlete award because he earned that during his time at UH. But it is super nice to have a sibling that can give me advice based on his experiences as a collegiate athlete. We are both super competitive individuals along with my dad so having them as role models is really great.
Q: In your family, who is the best cook? What are a couple of the dishes you request the parentals (Linelle and George) to make if you’re craving a home-cooked meal?
Without a doubt, my mom is the BEST cook. She usually home cooks all of our meals every day which is crazy. I never knew how lucky I was until I went off to Oregon and my food didn’t taste nearly as good as hers. My favorite dishes that she makes is probably curry, salmon or Mexican food. I’ve been helping her a lot more in the kitchen so I’m trying to learn her ways for when I move out.
My dad is like a grill master so he’s usually in charge of stuff like steak and pork chops or grilled veggies. Both of my parents are really good in the kitchen so we are always eating well in our household
Q: Last year the team went 26-4, won the Big West Conference regular season title for the first time since 2016 and made a Regional for the first time since 2015. Just how much fun did you and the team have during last season?
Last year’s season one of the most memorable seasons ever. We all worked really hard for all that success. To see all our work pay off was really rewarding. We were also very close as teammates overall so to have made all of those amazing memories together was very special. We really couldn’t do it without everyone involved, including all the fans who showed us the utmost love and support.
Q: All UH teams log a ton of airline miles every season. What are the must have items in your carry-on bag when you board the plane? When on the road, do you have a go-to spot for a meal?
I am really big on self-care, so whenever I travel, I definitely need my toiletry bag filled with my hair and skin care items. I also definitely need my AirPods to listen to music at all times along with my phone, my laptop and chargers. – When it comes to being on the mainland, I would always want to eat at Chipotle and Chic–Fil-A at least once, especially since we unfortunately don’t have those places here in Hawai’i.
Q: There is a long line of local volleyball players that have worn a UH jersey over the years. What is your message to the local kids out there that dream of one day playing for UH?
My message to all of the local kids here in Hawai‘i is that if you work hard and truly put your mind to it, playing college volleyball or volleyball here at UH is definitely possible. I’m only 5’2 so with this height disadvantage I definitely had to work super hard to get where I am at today. But I hope girls who are undersized like me continue never doubt that their dreams as an athlete can come true. I would also say to always, always do everything with heart. I feel that no matter what, if you put your heart into what you’re doing it’ll all be worth it.
Q: Not many players wear a headband, you do. Is there a reason as to why you do and how many headbands do you own?
It’s funny that everyone always brings up the fact that I wear a headband because I’ve been wearing one for games for so long that I sometimes forget it’s even on my head. I actually started wearing a headband during my games in high school because I have a lot of ear piercings so I wanted to cover them. After playing a whole season with it, it became my thing and definitely part of my game day uniform ever since. I guess I have a lot of headbands, mostly Nike and Lulu Lemon.
Q: We thank you for your time today Kyra. Finally, take us through a typical game day – both here at home and on the road.
For home games we usually have to go to class before games so I would go to class in the morning, get a little snack then rush to film. Before serve and pass we would always watch film and scout the other team which we would be doing for the entire week before game day. After film, we would go to “serve and pass” which is pretty much like a mini 30-45 minute practice where we work on every skill. After that, we usually have pregame meal and then I would shower before getting ready for the game. During this time we usually have a lot of time before the game to relax, listen to music, review our scouting report, and get dressed and ready for the game. Once the clock hits about 45 minutes before the game starts, the coaches come into the locker room and talk us up before heading into warm ups. After this we head to the weight room for a quick warm up lift and then we head onto the court to start our on-court warm up! The energy at this point is hella high and everyone is excited to win and compete. On the road, we try to keep the process very similar to our home games.
Thank you for having me. Go ’Bows!
Here is a feature we did with Kyra back in the summer of 2019: