Free to Soar: Football theme designed to keep team grounded and unified

by Henry Miller | Staff Writer

The 2017 theme for the Pirate football program is “Free to soar.” Head coach Rod Sandberg described this year’s theme as one of the hardest he’s had to create. Past themes were obvious connections of where the team needed to go, but this year was different.

The first year Sandberg was head coach the theme was “We Believe.” The pirates had a new coaching staff and didn’t have any of the connections the old staff had with the players.

Faith Kahulamu | Photographer

“We had to put belief and trust in each other,” Sandberg said. The goal of the theme “Free to Soar” is to separate the players’ mindset from any distractions that are pushed towards the them.

Sandberg said he was very impressed by the team’s talent and leadership, but the key was to be “free” of pressure put on the team. 

The theme isn’t revealed to the team until after training camp. Sandberg analyzes everything from winter workouts to new recruits to get a feel for what will best translate to the team. Coach and parent input is a huge factor in creating these themes, but Sandberg creates the theme knowing that it will be something that is articulated on a daily basis.

Freshman guard Neil Slotvig described a “next play mentality, and playing with a clear mind,” as his takeaways from Sandberg’s theme.

One of the goals of the theme is to affect the team’s mindset and to keep the team thinking about a common, important idea. With such a large team and so many factors such as family, school, health, etc. Coach Sandberg wanted the theme to convey to the team that once they were able to let go of these bothering issues they would be able to soar. 

“I work really hard on trying to have it be something they embrace,” he said.

The theme is constantly reminded to the team with anything from wristbands and t-shirts, to posters and pamphlets. The goal is for the theme to be a constant reminder and to be lived out through the whole season.

The theme focuses on something to believe in, a “next step,” Sandberg said. It is an abstract idea that the players may not think about, but is still vital to their success.

Domenica Cooke-Tassone “Free to Soar” sign hangs over the door in Graves gym as a constant reminder.

Sandberg described an exercise he put the seniors and his coaching staff through. He asked them to take a rock and write on it one thing they need to be free of this season. It proved easy for some and quite difficult for others. He then instructed them to throw the rock into the river to be “free” of that burden. “Free to Soar” became not only a theme for the team, but a theme for each player.

Freshman offensive lineman Jayden Tupuola described Sandberg’s theme as a way to “play freely and fearlessly.”

“If you mess up in a game, don’t think about it too much. Move on the next play,”he said.

Sandberg said he wants each player’s experience to be life-changing. He described this as a metamorphosis into more mature and capable men. The camaraderie and challenges that the team goes through together helps build and shape them into men. In a letter to the team explaining the theme Sandberg said “when we are free, we can soar and reach our full God-given potential.”