Waiakea High School’s football team looks to improve its players’ mindsets and usher in a new era

CONNOR WHITT/ Tribune-Herald First-year Waiakea HS football Head Coach Junior Toa instructs players during a kickoff drill.

When Junior Toa held his first meeting this spring after accepting the job as Waiakea High School’s new head football coach, less than ten players showed up.

The Warriors’ roster now boasts more than 40 players, and Toa said that he estimates roughly 80 different prospective players touched the field throughout the summer.


It’s well known that the Warriors have had a rough time in recent years. The program hasnt had a win since 2018, and was shut out four times last season.

This year, Toa and his coaching staff have taken it upon themselves to foster a new culture, create excitement among the team and inspire their players.

“Here, they’re still learning how to commit and sacrifice for football,” Toa said. “It hasn’t been a winning tradition as of late, but we’re planning to change that this year. In order to do that, we have to change the kids’ mindsets in order to do that, it’s about each individual and where they’re at in their minds.”

Conditioning has been a major factor in Toa’s plan to make the Warriors competitive this season, and has narrowed the roster down to only the most dedicated.

“A lot of them got a taste of what hard work is and turned around to look for something else,” he said. “The ones you see here are warriors. These are who we’re going to war with this year. I’m happy for them.”

Toa has been coaching youth football for roughly 15 years, but this is his first job as a high school head coach.

“It’s been a building process,” he said, “but, I’ve been so grateful just to have this position, have these kids out here and for my coaches to come out here and teach whatever we can — fill them with whatever knowledge we have available.”

The players have welcomed the new changes, and are excited to test their capabilites in the gridiron in less than three weeks.

“New coaching staff this year, so I’m pretty excited for that.” senior offensive lineman Noah Tyrin said. “It brings new opportunities. Especially for the team, we’ve been really wanting some wins. We haven’t the last couple seasons, so I think it’ll be really important to us to get some W’s this season.”

Three-year varsity veteran wide receiver Justin Ah Sing has also been compelled by the new team culture.

“The biggest development is our mindsets,” he said. “We’re just ready. We’re motivating ourselves, keeping each other up, keeping the push.”

Toa said that he believes Tyrin and his fellow linemen can help lead the Warriors to victory this year, and move the ball much better than in years past.

“I have all the confidence in our o-line,” Toa said. “I think our o-line is probably gonna be one of the strengths on our team and on our offense. I’m really excited for them. Overall, we’re gonna surprise a lot of people this year.”

Waiakea’s new coaching regime has attracted many new players, including athletes from other sports who haven’t played football before.

The Warriors’ returners have stepped up to bring their new teammates up to speed, and have quickly started to embrace the coaching staff’s leadership values.

“They’re studs,” Toa said. “We ask a lot from them, but we’re also teaching them how to be leaders. That’s what we’re trying to teach here on top of teaching them football and life skills. In order to be a good leader, you also have to be a good follower. We’re trying to have them be good examples.”

Toa said that progressing his players’ skills and improving their mindsets is his No. 1 goal this season, regardless of the team’s record.

“An excellent season would mean that I would have developed my players from the beginning to the end,” he said. “To me, that’s a successful season. Having the kids progress, having them grow and develop in football.

“I’ll tell you like I tell my kids, wins and losses don’t mean nothing to me. If we take care of business, we dedicate ourselves to the program and make sacrifices for the program — everything else will take care of itself.”

Following some scrimmages this week and another week of practices next week, the Warriors will get ready for their first game — a home game against defending DI state champion Konawaena HS at 11 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 19.

The following Thursday, Waiakea will play its second outing on the road at Kea‘au HS.

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