Talk Story with Phillip Rapozo

  • Jason Blasco / The Garden Island

    Kapaa High School football coach Phillip Rapozo (left) instructs starting running back Baba Na-o (right) during Thursday afternoon’s practice at Kapaa High School. Rapozo and his staff were getting their team ready for the Hawaii High School Athletic Association state playoffs semifinal game against Kaimuki.

Kapaa High School football coach Philip Rapozo is one of the main reasons behind the Warriors’ recent postseason success.

Rapozo took over as the head Kapaa varsity football coach in 2014, and during his six-year tenure as Warriors’ head coach, Kapaa qualified for the playoffs five out of his six seasons, only missing during the 2017 season.

Rapozo attributes the majority of Kapaa’s achievements to the work of his assistant coaches.

Garden Island sports reporter Jason Blasco discusses with Rapozo his 20-year journey to becoming one of Division II’s top coaches.

How did you get into coaching football?

When my kids started playing Pop Warner. I would go and help out when my kids were 5 and 8 years old. I was involved with Pop Warner for four years, and I was just a parent that enjoyed watching the kids play. When my kids entered Kapaa High School, the then Kapaa High School coach Kelii Morgado needed an equipment manager, and that is how I got involved with Kapaa High School.

Did you always have aspirations of coaching football?

I never planned to coach at the high school level, but I asked to help out, and I met Morgado, and he couldn’t find anyone to help. That is when he asked me if I would be interested, and that is how I ended up at the high school level.

How did you transition into becoming a football coach?

When I came into coaching, I wasn’t qualified, but I tried to help the Kapaa High School program, which is my alma mater. I started as the equipment manager guy, and then I eventually became the head JV coach. In high school, the varsity pretty much runs everything, and it is the job of the JV coach to get the kids ready to win championships when they transition at the varsity level. I don’t know why I did, but I said, ‘OK. I’ll do it.’

Transitioning into a head football coach at the junior varsity level was a rough one for me. After my first year of coaching JV football, I told my coaches, ‘this is too much for me, I am done.’ I just wanted to worry about the equipment, and I don’t want to be that guy. Coach Morgado knew I wasn’t enjoying my original position as equipment manager. Two years passed, and then the JV football coach left. That is when he told me, ‘I need you to do that job.’ I responded to him, ‘Oh man, are you serious bro?’ He told me he needed someone he could work with, and be on the same page for the good of the team. I ended up coaching the JV for two or three seasons when coach Morgado set me up to take over the program.

What do you feel like helped transition from junior varsity to varsity level coach?

I started doing a lot of the administrative aspects of head coaching, and I started doing all of the behind-the-scenes fundraisers. After Morgado retired, the athletic director Greg Gonzalez wanted me to build the program. I realize it takes a lot of work to build a program, and we are still getting it to that point. I have surrounded myself with good coaches who are good people and have good football minds.

I took a different approach than anyone else when I came in. I surrounded myself with good football minds and I gave my assistant coaches those game schemes and game plans. When you are the head coach, you look like the guy when you are doing good, and when things are going bad, you are the guy that everyone blames.

What do you attribute to Kapaa’s success over the last six years?

Kapaa would not be successful without the help of their assistant coaches. I hired people that knew how to manage the Xs and Os part of the game. I am not into micro-managing, and that is part of why we’ve had the success we’ve had. Everyone I’ve hired is better at Xs and Os than I am. I do all of the administrative stuff, and I let them do their job.

Do you feel like delegating your tasks makes you a more effective coach?

When Morgado was the head coach he was trying to be the offensive coordinator, defensive coordinator and special teams coach. I always was amazed, but I don’t know how he did that. It was a lot of stress. I tried to learn from that, and I always felt putting more on the other coaches would allow us to win more at Kapaa.

I shouldn’t be worried about running the offense and defense. I felt like I was smarter to learn on the job and let people do their jobs. I don’t have to worry about all of those things and I trust that my boys and coaches will be successful.

Your team was close to winning a title last season. What do you and your coaching staff have to do to get to the next step?

We’ve been so close. I think you have to keep going and working. It’s not like we’ve been going to the championship, and just getting beat up. As a coaching staff, we’ve had to make some adjustments, and that is what we’ve done this year. We’ve shared an offensive run coordinator to help the offensive coordinator. They are splitting duties between running the offense and working well together. That is something that we’ve added this year. On defense, we’ve pretty much committed to one guy calling the game at practice, and that has been something different for us. We will get over the hump. We are blessed to have this opportunity and blessed to be in the playoff in the big game against an excellent team.

Who do you attribute to the success of your coaching career?

I want to thank all of the people that helped me and believed in me and I am very grateful for the opportunity to be the head coach. The success of this program is about our staff, it’s not me, it’s we, and we are running an excellent program at Kapaa High School football. That is something that we can all be proud of. There were two amazing people, Morgado and athletic director Greg Gonzalez. I am thankful for these two guys for allowing me to make a push and setting me up to get the job.

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