Full circle. There’s no better way to describe the journey thus far for ISLAND PACIFIC ACADEMY alumnus Shelden Balatico ‘11. As a senior at IPA, Balatico helped with founding the school’s first varsity volleyball team in 2010-2011 and this year he returned to campus as Head Coach for the varsity boys’ and intermediate girls’ volleyball teams.
“The pandemic brought me home to Hawaiʻi, and I was asked to coach the team I helped found,” shared Balatico. “I wanted to create a full-circle moment for the program, and with more than 20 years of volleyball experience, I thought I had a lot I could contribute to the IPA volleyball ʻohana.”
And that he did, coaching this year’s boys’ varsity team to finish as the regular season champions of the ILH Division III and being named the ILH Division III Coach of the Year. The boys’ team had six student-athletes named to the ILH All-Stars teams, and one, Laʻanui Nihipali ‘22, was named Most Valuable Player. Not too bad for his inaugural coaching season at IPA.
As a pioneer in the IPA boys’ varsity volleyball program, Balatico was IPA’s very first boys’ varsity player in 2008-2009, playing for the IPA-Lanakila Baptist co-op team. He was instrumental in developing the first IPA boys’ varsity team in the 2010-2011 school year, working with Coaches Jason Popejo, Stan Vincent, and Doc Wilson. Balatico was also twice awarded ILH Division II Varsity All-Star Honorable Mention, in his sophomore and senior years.
Balatico graduated from IPA in 2011 as part of the school’s second graduating class, and he continued with volleyball in college, playing for University of the Pacific. Since college, he has also held the position of Head Coach for the varsity and junior varsity teams at USC Hybrid High School in Los Angeles, and he is still actively involved in volleyball outside of his coaching.
“The best part about coaching this year was returning to help teach and guide the current student-athletes on the team I helped found,” said Balatico. “Working with these student-athletes was a great part of the season.”
After receiving his B.A. in Theatre/Theater, Film from University of the Pacific, Balatico went on to earn a certificate of completion in acting from Moscow Art Theater (MAXT)/ ART at Harvard University. He has spent the last seven years in L.A. in Hollywood film production, working on films like Frozen 2, Bird of Prey, Jumanji, and A Wonderful Day in the Neighborhood with Mr. Rogers. He has also taught at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy College of the Performing Arts in L.A., and is currently working on a Master’s of Professional Studies in Applied Intelligence from Georgetown University.
Coming full circle has been a fulfilling experience for Balatico. “It feels like home, being back on campus. The memories that fill my soul leave me breathless when I walk through the hallways.”
“As a young school at the time, IPA was still figuring things out, so I felt the need to take responsibility for my own success. But that taught me to be independent, to think for myself, and to solve problems on my own. Those skills served me well because in the ‘real world’ no one will give you a handout so you have to create things for yourself sometimes,” shares Balatico. “IPA molded me into the person I am today by pushing me to think outside the box and think critically about the reality of situations in the world. The most important thing I learned from IPA was to prepare myself for anything.”
“IPA is definitely special. We are one of the youngest, independent, non-religious schools on the island. If we work together, we can make it something extremely special.”