Saturday, March 24, 2012
Coach Kennedy Polamalu Visits Flintridge Prep
Coach Kennedy Polamalu visited campus in March. The former USC football star was a major contributor to the Trojans’ defeat of the Ohio State Buckeyes at the 1985 Rose Bowl. Since graduating from college, Mr. Polamalu has had a long career, coaching at the college and professional level. The current offensive coordinator for the USC Trojan football team visited a group of 50 student-athletes, members of the schools ACL (Athletic Council on Leadership).
Mr. Polamalu spoke about the principles that have helped him succeed as an athlete and as a leader. A native of Samoa, he came to California in his teen years, attending Mater Dei High School, mastering English, and learning football while in the home of a guardian. Mr. Polamalu talked about the importance of fa’asamoa, or the traditional Samoan way of life. Fa’asamoa taught him the importance of respect, passion, discipline, and a strong work ethic. His culture and roots, along with the nurturing he received at Mater Dei, had a huge impact on his life. At points, he became emotional talking about his love for his parents, his wife and kids, and the rest of his extended family and friends. “Always remind your parents you love them,” he said.
Coach Polamalu advised the athletes, “You must love your culture. Don’t misplace where you came from.” When it comes to distractions, he said, “Youngsters live in the moment. You have a different focus. Tighten your circle in order to keep your focus. Surround yourself with good people.”
He mentioned that he helps keep the circle tight for his nephew, Troy Polamalu, a safety for the Pittsburgh Steelers. “I don’t want a buddy to just hang out with. I want friends who will push me to be better,” he said. On a team, “You have to play hard for yourself, but you also have to play hard for your buddy.”
Mr. Polamalu once received advice to “Coach my players like they’re going to marry my daughter. I didn’t know what that meant, but now I do. It means it’s my responsibility to help them be the best but also let them be their own men.” To that end, the coach gives his athletes a complete education, not just about the fundamentals of football, but other fundamentals, like how to treat others, proper table manners, and other basics that make a mature adult.
Coach Polamalu received a great round of applause, as well as numerous hugs and handshakes. When asked whether the talk resonated with him, a football player said, “Absolutely. He commands so much respect.”