When Thom Kaumeyer was not retained by Norm Chow on the University of Hawaii football staff following the 2013 season, he thought he’d never coach in the islands again.
Nearly a decade later, the former Hawaii defensive coordinator is back in Hawaii as the head coach of Waianae.
All the latest sports news from Hawaii’s sports station
“I talked to Norm a few years later and I think it was a good situation. I understood where he was coming from,” Kaumeyer says. “At the time, I was a little disappointed but talking to him and seeing what he was looking for and it just didn’t mesh. But he’s a heck of a guy. He’s called a couple times, we’ve talked a few about organizing different ways of how to do things so he’s awesome. Obviously, it’s never a good situation when you let people go or you’re hoping to do some things and all of a sudden, you’re let go.
“We talked a lot and I have great respect for him and he did the same for me so I had no idea I’d be back coaching. This is the first time I’m in the high school setting. Recruited high schools a lot but never ran a program. It’s exciting. You get down to the grassroots and the kids are excited to be here, and you just gotta understand that you’re teaching a little bit different.”
Kaumeyer, who was UH’s defensive coordinator from 2012 to 2013, had two separate stints in Japan, sandwiched by one season as Pasadena City College’s coach in 2015. In Japan, he was the defensive backs coach for the Fujitsu Frontiers of the X-League. He also helped coach the Japan national team in 2020, as well as a brief stint as a coach in The Spring League.
Kaumeyer and his wife, who have a place in Makaha Valley Plantation, split their time between Japan and Oahu’s West side for approximately six years. About four months would be spent in Hawaii, while five or six months were spent in Japan during the X-League season.
“It was really exciting. It was really fun to be in a different country yet do things you love like coach football and just be a part of a different culture,” Kaumeyer says of the experience. “My wife and I were excited but it’s hard to leave a lot of friends we’ve created there.”
When the Waianae job opened, Kaumeyer believed it was a good fit and dropped his resume off at the school. The Kaumeyers now plan to stay in Hawaii year-round, with Thom teaching high school nutrition and art at Waianae.
Kaumeyer, who has coached for the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons and Jacksonville Jaguars, as well as the Power Five level at Kentucky, is appreciative of the opportunity but believes the Seariders, who have gone 5-21 in their last three full seasons, are a work in progress. In 2021, Waianae showed improvement in going 3-5 under Matt Murakawa, but project to face an uphill climb in 2022 with a young roster.
“It’s been fun. I can’t say enough about the student-athletes. The players have been awesome. They’ve accepted what we’re trying to do,” Kaumeyer said. “I think our common goal, my whole mission was to make sure we put our student-athletes in the best position, both on and off the field.
“Our coaches have done a great job in being able to do so. There hasn’t been a lot of time for these kids to be able to absorb who I am, and also what our offensive and defensive schemes are, along with trying to get ready in a month.”
Waianae begins its 2022 campaign on Saturday at Castle. The ultimate objective for the Seariders, led by offensive lineman and Hawaii commit Josiah Timoteo, is to win at a consistent level like in years past when the program became a local power. Kaumeyer hopes to lead the revival but understands the journey will be gradual.
“I think our main goal is to generate excitement in Waianae. It’s had a strong tradition, try to grab that again and see what we can do. I think it’s perfect timing,” Kaumeyer said. “I think the community is ready to go, we’re coming out of this pandemic, hopefully we can pack the stadiums and like I was telling our boys, we could be a limelight for our community.
“If we work hard and do what we’re supposed to do, be extremely competitive in every game, I told them if they have faith, they just don’t know when it’s gonna turn. It could turn against Castle, it could turn against Kahuku, it could turn the last game against Moanalua. We just gotta trust the process and if we do so, I think it’ll be something that changes the foundation and not just a quick fix for one year.”