SEQUIM — Sequim’s Sambreezie Salanoa sees his former middle school football players grow up, graduate and struggle to shine away from the football field.
He wants to reverse that trend and has formed the Sequim Sharks, a semipro football team that he hopes will be a springboard to football scholarships for area players still interested in pursuing gridiron glory.
“I’m the head coach at the middle school in Sequim and there is a lot of talent here on the Peninsula,” Salanoa said. “And I just hate to see it, after they graduate they are just walking around and there’s not much for them.
“They want to continue their education, but there’s not much help. It took awhile for me to make the decision [to run and coach the team] with the wife and the family, but that’s my whole thing, that’s the goal I’ve set to find a school for them, a place for them to play.”
Team meeting Sunday
The Sharks will hold their first-ever team meeting at noon in Sequim on Sunday at KSQM Community Radio, 609 W. Washington St., Suite 17.
“We will hopefully start practices in February,” Salanoa said. “We want to practice two times a week at least, but we will see what’s best for the players. I’ve been trying to explain to the coaches that preparation is bigger than the games, so holding practice once a week isn’t enough for me.”
Ages 18 and older are eligible to play for the Sharks, which will compete in the seven-team Washington State Football League beginning in May.
Games will be held weekly on Saturdays from May 9 through June 27. The playoffs will follow and continue into July.
“There are tons of kids here who love to play the game,” Salanoa said. “But trying to explain it to them that education is the key to continuing to play, so if that’s something you want to pursue, we will try our best to help.
“Washington State Football League has partnered with Eddie McMillan. He’s a former Seahawk and he has a lot of experience in semipro football. He has lots of ideas about getting film of the kids and connections in trying to find them scholarships or spots at colleges, junior colleges.”
Those kind of connections helped bring Salanoa to the states.
“I’m from the Island, man. American Samoa born and raised,” Salanoa said. “It’s funny, I was a basketball player and they came out from Hawaii and Los Angeles to get me to play football.
“I moved here in 2012 and in 2013 I started coaching. I’m going on my fourth season as middle school head coach. We are teaching life, not only the game.”
And Salanoa will keep a piece of American Samoa in what he does with the Sharks, which are named after his alma mater high school, the Samoana Sharks.
This is a pay-to-play league, but Salanoa is hoping to keep costs low.
“They will get a jersey with their player name on it,” Salanoa said. “They pay the money, I want them to go home with something to remember from the season.”
Salanoa said recent Sequim Wolves Keeshawn Whitney and Austin Lees are two area products who have reached out to Salanoa about playing for the team.
The team is open to players from all over, not just the Sequim area.
“We will have some guys from the Bremerton and Gig Harbor areas,” Salanoa said.
And former Olympic Peninsula Eagles head coach Mike McMahan is on the coaching staff, along with Scott Doyle, Tama Tuitama, Malosi Smith, Gary Ristick, Larry Henning, John Cox and Chuck Ellison.
Salanoa said he also would love to hear from interested sponsors from the business community.
For more information on the Sequm Sharks, visit the team’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/CoachSalanoa or call or text Salanoa at 360-775-4338.