Olosaa Solovi, West High School’s motivational football coach

Story by HUNTER THORNBURG

Coaches are mainly expected to help student-athletes develop in their respective sport. Most also take part in keeping an eye on the athletes’ academic standing. However, the coaches who tend to have the largest impact display motivational characteristics, love for their community, and honesty and connection with their athletes. Many athletic programs dream of having a coach who goes above and beyond to make sure the student-athletes succeed. 

That dream came true for West High School upon hiring the varsity football coach, Olosaa Solovi.

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Coach Solovi on the field with his team. Photo courtesy of Olosaa Solovi.

Solovi has worked as a youth advocate for six years. He is heading into his second year of football coaching at West High, located at 241 N. 300 West, in Fall 2020. He said his coaching style is based around identifying the athletes’ needs, and getting involved.

“I try to meet with each player at least once a week. We make home visits and we get on the phone with them. We’ve broken up our staff into teams, looking over different kids and their needs. Then, as needs come up, we try to formulate a plan and go from there,” Solovi said in a phone interview. He said the staff tries to visit the athletes’ residences at least once a month to check in and make sure they are in a good position to continue to play football.

When the athletes are struggling academically, motivationally, or personally, Solovi said it is vital to incorporate the parents.

“I think the major approach is getting the parents involved. I think in my experience, especially with the demographic we deal with, unless the parents are involved, we’re going to have a harder time with each student,” Solovi said. He added that his staff’s ability to include the parents is the key factor to guaranteeing the success of every student-athlete.

Even though he’s mostly focusing on the little aspects, Solovi said the right way to coach is just to approach the position with love. In his opinion, if you love the student-athletes, your staff, the game itself, and the community you work in, you’ll find some level of success with coaching. 

Despite the fact that Solovi is a fairly new coach at West High, Assistant Coach Keith Lopati said he has had quite an effect on the football program thus far. “He communicates very well with his players. He has a very open and upfront relationship with our administration, faculty, his players, parents, and coaches. His rapport with everyone involved in the football program has to this point been very refreshing and much needed,” Lopati said in an email interview.

However, Lopati said Solovi’s impact is far-reaching. “His passion to bring back the ‘West High Pride’ even goes beyond the football program. He is actively involved and engaged with just about every program that we have in the school both athletically and academically. He encourages his coaching staff to do the same and always says, ‘We cannot expect our players to be involved if we are not willing to do the same thing,’” Lopati said.

Lopati said he enjoyed working alongside Solovi and learning his style this past season. “His coaching approach is a smash mouth, win the game in the trenches mentality on the field,” he said. That method reinforces his impact off the field by teaching the student-athletes that good character can be just as important as learning the physical skills on the football field. 

West High’s athletic director, Rachel Townsend, recognizes Solovi’s dedication to the program and the community. “He is 100% in all the time. I’m not sure there’s a time he doesn’t think about coaching. He loves his community and it’s a way he gives back,” Townsend said in an email interview. She said he is very honest with his players, is motivational, and sets high expectations for the team.

Townsend said one of the most prominent aspects of Solovi’s coaching is that he has been able to obtain the support of the community. “They trust him and believe in him. He keeps academics as the focus,” which she said will benefit the community in the future.

Townsend said Solovi finds ways to keep the athletes engaged academically and athletically. She said the players attend study hall as part of their weekly team hours, and this has resulted in positive grade checks. Athletically, Townsend said, “the students feel investment through visits to camps for 7v7, college coaches visiting practice, and the coaches that show them purpose daily.” 7v7 football is a no-contact style of play that promotes the learning of the mechanics of the game by inserting the players into any position that isn’t an offensive or defensive lineman.

She said the athletic and academic involvement of Solovi has resulted in the student-athletes showing dedication and taking ownership of the program. This has created a family atmosphere for the football team.

As the 2020 season approaches, Solovi said he is looking forward to making adjustments and improvements based on last season. He said West High is scheduled to play one of the top teams in the country, and he is excited for the challenge, believing it will make his team better.

However, above all else, he said he is eager to see how the athletes will develop individually and as a team. Solovi said, “I’m excited to see these kids come together, how each of them have gotten better, and see which new leaders we have. I’m really excited.”