A New Wahine Volleyball Era

The University of Hawaii Rainbow Wahine volleyball begins their second weekend of games this season with new head coach Robyn Ah Mow-Santos.

Ah Mow-Santos took over from Dave Shoji, who retired earlier this year after 42 years.

A McKinley High School graduate, Ah Mow-Santos played for Shoji at UH from 1993 to 1996. She played on the U.S. Olympic team during the 2000 Sydney Olympics, 2004 Athens Olympics, and 2008 Beijing Olympics, in which she was team captain and helped to win them a silver medal. She served as Shoji’s assistant coach from 2011 to 2015, before moving to Las Vegas because of her husband’s reassignment in the military. Ah Mow-Santos was coaching club volleyball and raising a family of three kids when the opportunity came to apply for Shoji’s position.

Ah Mow-Santos proudly displays the 2017 Rainbow Wahine Volleyball roster.

Well-Being Hawaii recently caught up with Ah Mow-Santos to talk about continuing Shoji’s legacy while shaping the UH Wahine volleyball program into something of her own.

What’s it like taking over as head coach from Dave Shoji? 

It’s overwhelming. Dave has been here for 42 years. He built this program. And it’s pressure to keep it high and take it even higher.

Was this a job you expected to have?
Not really. When I left here, I didn’t think I was coming back. If my husband had to move, that’s where I’ll go. And Dave wasn’t expecting to retire. This was his baby.

But you had no hesitation when you got the job?
Who wouldn’t want this job? I love coaching – it’s my passion.

How’s your style of coaching different from Dave’s?
I don’t think it’s different. We just need to incorporate a lot more hitters and get good passing and ball control. We don’t have a big tall banger right now. And this is a good thing for the other girls to step up. I want to teach the girls to learn every position – serve, pass, defense. Before you leave me, you’re going to do all of that and not just play one position. We can’t just all depend on one big hitter.

How do you juggle being a mom of three and coaching?
I keep asking Dave how he still had time with his kids. You’re on the road a lot. And I just had my baby. And he has special needs having Down syndrome. I need to take him to a lot of doctor’s appointments. I bring my daughter here at work sometimes. She comes with me to the gym, chasing balls during practice. She likes exercising. I have good support from family and friends. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have accepted the job.

Ah Mow-Santos is a working mom. She takes a break with her 7-year-old daughter Jream at her UH office.

How did you prepare for games during those early years at UH?
When I first came to UH (as a player), I was a puny little freshman.  Then I started lifting weights. I trained with Kee Williams, the roughest, toughest senior. She would have me put more weights on. (Laughs).  She was hardcore. She’s the best though. Now we’re good friends.

Did you like lifting weights?
I loved it. I love having that muscle tone and strength to play. And it only got harder doing Olympic lifts. Then my workouts got even more intense while I was on the Olympic team.

How do you stay fit these days?
I’m getting older now, so I got to watch out for my knees. I run with my assistant Angelica (Ljungquist) on the UH track about three miles. I run with the girls. I tell them to push themselves. But if I’m telling them to be in shape, I need to be in shape myself. This is my gym (points to the track outside her office).

Ah Mow-Santos takes a lunch break during a busy day at the office.

How do you eat healthy?
I prep my meals. One time I had 15 meals – chicken with pasta or rice with vegetables. I know it’s hard, but I have to keep doing that. I like salads and I don’t eat a lot of meat.

Are you looking forward to the season?
I’m looking forward to it. I can’t believe it’s happening.



Cheer on the UH Rainbow Wahines at their games. Go to Hawaii Athletics for this season’s schedule.

Photos: UH Sports Media Relations