The award-winning flag football game Ete Bowl – celebrating its 35th year at the University of Hawai‘i William S. Richardson School of Law – will take the field at 1 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 24, with a roster that includes 60 potential players from among women law students and 30 from alumnae.
“This game really brings the Law School community together,” said Kimi Ide-Foster ‘14, the Ete’s 3L captain who plays on the defensive line. “It’s a nice chance for the women students to get to know each other and meet women lawyers in the community. It’s empowering women.”
In April the iconic game was honored with the prestigious President’s Award by Hawai‘i Women Lawyers in recognition of its unique role over three decades in connecting up-and-coming attorneys with generally older, more seasoned women lawyers already working in the community.
Sharon Nishi ’86, counsel at McCorriston Miller Mukai MacKinnon LLP, is one of those women. Nishi played as an Ete in her first year of Law School in 1984 and is still involved 29 years later. “To be a part of that is tremendous,” says Nishi. “It fosters a special sense of group identity that has followed us through all these years. For the Law School this is like the big event of the year – like homecoming. It brings together alumnae from the very start who come out to cheer friends and relatives.”
Even the year Nishi turned 40, and tore her MCL while running a kick-off return, didn’t make her quit. “That’s the most exciting thing I’ve ever done in my life,” says Nishi who was never an athlete in school. “You’re running the ball against nine other women who come charging at you. I ended up on crutches for eight weeks but it was absolutely worth it. It’s that much fun. The rush is something I’ve never felt in my life.”
The camaraderie and networking play an important role in careers as new graduates move into the community, and reconnect with friends they played against. “You’re meeting the colleagues you’ll have for the rest of your life,” said Keani Rawlins ‘15, who also plays on the defensive line for the Ete.
“It creates life-long friendships,” notes Ide-Foster.
The tradition began back in 1978 when classmates Riki Amano and Diane Ho searched for a way to pass the dreary days of November and also begin building a strong Law School community. That first game was such a hit that the tradition has continued, although the game has morphed from a contest between classes at the Law School to become a contest between current students – Etes – and graduates – Bruzers. Over the years the Bruzers have been the big winners, taking home 23 wins to the Etes’ 9. Two games were tied.
UH Civil Rights Specialist Jill Nunokawa ‘88, president of the Law School Alumni Association, has been involved as a player and coach with Ete Bowl for 25 years. “It has included a lot of women who never had the opportunity to play sports or never had Title IX,” said Nunokawa. “Through this you see women trying new things and shattering all kinds of stereotypes and really pushing themselves to take risks they never even imagined.
“I don’t think when you apply and get accepted to Law School you say ‘Oh goodie, now I can play football.’ But it affords the opportunity for a diverse group of people to realize the benefits and camaraderie of team sports. Now, if I call an office, and they ask what it’s about, I say ‘Just tell them it’s a Bruzer,’ and they patch you right through. Where else do you have that?”
Practice begins in the summer before classes start, said 2L Ete captain Miyoko Pettit ‘15, and continues through the fall, with as many as 20 male law students serving as coaches. Matthew Kaaihue ‘15, formerly a Kamehameha High School football player, is head coach this year for the Etes.
“It’s incredible how hard the coaches work,” said Ide-Foster. “Because [at the start] we don’t know anything about football!”
Law Dean Avi Soifer, a longstanding supporter of the Ete Bowl, applauds the additional spirit and bonding it creates at the Law School. “Year after year,” Soifer said, “the Ete Bowl underscores how strong Richardson women law students and lawyers are and how important sisterhood can be.” He added, “The competition is intense, and so is the mutual support and employment assistance that is palpable after the game.”
Nishi, who is helping coach the Bruzers this year, notes that everyone who plays is encouraged to excel personally whether they’ve been an athlete or not. “Because it ranges from young people in Law School all the way up to old guys like me, the game engenders confidence for the young ones that you know how to be around other attorneys, seasoned and non-seasoned. We see judges, senior partners, executives, and recognize them more in their play clothes than in their work clothes.”
For many students, like Pettit, the game is an opportunity to stay active during twice-a-week practices and workouts, as well as to connect with other students who may not be in the same classes – plus faculty members who often volunteer as referees during practice. “In college I played competitive volleyball and I’ve always been on a team, so I was looking for a way to stay active,” said Pettit. “That’s important for me.”
The game on Nov. 24 is free and open to the public and will be played on the women’s soccer field in the quarry.