The realm of high school football is about more than what occurs between the white lines of the gridiron for four quarters of play on Friday nights.
The job of the coaching staff is to not only strive to win football games, but mold their players into solid citizens and teach them lessons that stick with their athletes for the rest of their lives. Rylen Akana, who was hired as the Totems’ new head football coach in early February, is committed to creating a culture of success at Sammamish High School. The 54-year-old Akana, who was previously the Interlake Saints quarterback coach in 2015, is fully entrenched in the Sammamish High School community. Three of his children graduated from the school and his youngest son is currently a sophomore at the school.
“We have made this (Bellevue) our home. I’m from Hawaii, I married a Northwest girl. We love it here. I plan to put in as much time as I can into this to really build it right. I love the X’s and O’s. That is why I love the game but I also love the personal side of it. Football has done a lot of great things for a lot of people. I want to help mold these young players and get them ready for life,” Akana said. “I plan to get our players inundated into this community. We are going to do service projects. When you start giving yourself up, you start to find yourself. We’ve got a great community and I want to tap into that.”
Over the years, the Totems football team has struggled to field a large roster. In 2015, the Totems were forced to forfeit four games due to a lack of players available.
“When you have a coaching change every three to four years, it is hard to really establish anything for the kids to get behind. My No. 1 job is we’re going to start building an identity and a culture,” Akana said. “I believe once we figure out our identity, we will get the community behind us. I just feel like the wins, those things will follow. We want to establish ourselves.”