Three longtime coaches, each representing decades of service and commitment to Punahou and its athletics program, were awarded the Punahou Athletic Service Award at a reception at the President’s Pavilion in late May.
The award, given each year to Punahou coaches, staff and administrators who advance the athletics program, was presented to Peter Balding ’77, Reney Ching and Eric Kusunoki.
As a student, Balding was a standout volleyball and soccer player. He returned to Punahou in 1983 where he coached the girls and boys volleyball team, while teaching Junior School PE. During his tenure, Balding was named state coach of the year seven times and won eight state championships.
“His record is very impressive,” said fellow PE faculty and friend Matt Martinson ’79, “but there are many successful coaches with impressive records and resumes who don’t come close to Peter’s caliber. If you know Peter Balding, you really don’t regard him as a coach, but as a consummate teacher – a teacher of volleyball and life.”
Ching had a different path to coaching. Unlike others who worked in thde PE department, Ching was on the Dole Hall staff. An amazing cook with a “world-class palate,” Ching approached head coach Marion Lyman-Mersereau ’70 to inquire about joining the paddling team coaching staff, a position she would hold for 30 years.
“As anyone who cooks knows, ingredients are all important to the creation of a recipe,” Lyman-Mersereau told the reception crowd. “And how much of one thing and how little of another is what ultimately determines how delicious your final efforts will be. This is exactly how Reney coaches. She loves her athletes, and she knows how to sort out what ingredients she needs for a crew.”
Ching is also credited for her behind-the-scenes work to help the paddling program grow. Though they started with three rented canoes, Ching was able to help Punahou expand its fleet to 10 canoes owned by the School. She also helped requisition a hālau for the canoes atop Pu‘u o Mānoa, also known as Rocky Hill.
Kusunoki didn’t set out to work or coach at Punahou. He was originally focused on a career in business, but was also coaching at night. Taking a bold leap, he quit his job and took on substitute teaching jobs, all the while promising his father that if he didn’t find a permanent job within a year, he would return to business.
Serendipity brought Kusunoki to Punahou. He applied and was offered a recently vacated typing faculty position. His luck continued when he learned there was also an opening on the baseball team coaching staff.
“I was lucky. Right place, right time,” said Kusunoki, who couldn’t have imagined he would spend 42 years teaching and coaching at Punahou. “Athletic Director Ralph Martinson gave me a chance in the athletic department. Coach Pal Eldredge ’64 gave me a chance in the baseball program, and Al Rowan gave me a chance teaching After School PE.”
Balding, Ching and Kusunoki were recognized for their generosity of time, life lessons and inspiration to generations of Punahou student-athletes.