LAHAINA - "You must take care of the roots, and then the plant will thrive." This was the advice that legendary Lahaina tennis mentor Shigeto "Shigesh" Wakida gave to a young Macario Pascual some 30 years ago.
Today, Pascual is on the other side of the net as the coach of the Lahainaluna High School tennis teams as well as the mentor and leader of Lahaina Tennis Club.
In essence, Coach Mac has stepped into the very large sneakers of the physically diminutive, yet spiritually immense, Mr. Wakida, who led the youth tennis programs to unprecedented success from the 1950s to the turn of the century.
The Lunas varsity girls tennis team includes (from left): front row — Miyana Wagner, Katya Brody, Charvie Duque, Chantelle Baclay, Nicole Aceret and Paige Pasion; back row — Ezra Baccar, Lakiesha Arcangel Ching, Team Captain Melissa Taketa, Kailani Amine, Jasmine Garde and Aja Toscano. Maile Amine, Valerie Duque and Makenna Stockham (team manager) are also on the squad. Photos by Glen Pascual.
But Shigesh Wakida was much more than a tennis coach. He was a mentor who drove the youths in his charge from the village of Lahaina to higher awareness and integrity through old country discipline, a strict work ethic, deep respect for family, elders and authority, and a high regard for education.
Through these mission standards, Lahaina Tennis Club and the Lahainaluna teams of the era - as well as many of the individual standouts on those rosters - reached championship heights that brought glory to Lahaina, college scholarships to the players and paved the way to successful adult lives in and out of the game of tennis.
Though Mr. Wakida and Coach Pascual are contrasting coaching personalities, the message and emphasis of their leadership is clearly the same.
Where Wakida was a stern barker of a mentor, Pascual - who was an outstanding junior and high school player and won a college scholarship through tennis under Mr. Wakida - is the soft-spoken, always calm coach. Their guidance, however, always flows toward team concepts, hard work and dedication to the cause.
Thus, Coach Mac's deep devotion to West Side tennis programs - whether up the hill at Lahainaluna or down on Front Street in the heart of Old Lahaina Town, where the Shigeto "Shigesh" Wakida Tennis Courts stand in the merciless sun - continue as a monument to encourage youngsters this noble road to life success.
Macario Pascual is an artist by trade. His wife, Karen, is a third grade teacher at King Kamehameha III Elementary School across the street from those courts, and Coach Mac has taken to heart the lessons he learned from Mr. Wakida in his coaching endeavors.
"I've seen the success the girls basketball team and the wrestling team have had, and I talked to the coaches and found that the youth programs were key to their championship runs. Mr. Wakida always said that if the roots of your program are strong, then you'll be successful; but if you only take care of the top of the plant, then it will eventually die. So, there are several youth tennis programs here on the West Side, and now we're starting to see that strength in numbers start to rise, especially with the girls," he said.
In a season that Coach Mac has characterized as the most fun he's ever had as a coach, the Lady Lunas won their first Maui Interscholastic League championship since 2007, and the boys team was barely edged out of a similar title and took second place this year.
Last week, the MIL Individual Championships and Qualifying Tournament was held at Wailea to determine seedings for the state playoffs on May 3-5 on Oahu.
The championship Lady Luna team was led by junior team captain Melissa Taketa, along with sophomore Paige Pasion; freshmen Chantel Baclay, Nicole Aceret and Miyana Wagner; and junior Ezra Baccar.
Rounding out the girls roster are seniors Kailani Amine and Jasmine Garde; juniors Lakiesha Arcangel Ching, Aja Toscano and McKenna Stockham; sophomore Maile Amine; and freshmen Valerrie Duque and Katya Brody.
The boys team was captained by senior McNeil Magdaong and spearheaded by one of the top junior players in the state in senior Alec Wagner. This duo was joined by juniors Jordan Baclay, Hayden Bogar, Kamalino Jun-Schreiber and Gaylord Garcia, and freshman Mac Linder on the Lahainaluna roster.
"This team has really come together and accepted and embraced the Lahainaluna tradition, and I really respect them for this. They have learned to set priorities and sacrifices for the team. They have stayed on track as a team with a clear vision of what they needed to do - unbelievable to see this. They all have made coaching fun," Coach Mac said.
"I give a lot of credit to Athletic Director Scott Soldwisch for his guidance, and sincere thanks to the volunteer Assistant Coaches Edwin Pascual, Alton DeGama and Maryna Brody for their help," he concluded.