Rich Miano – Doing What He Always Dreamed Of Doing
The ex-NFL star is coaching his alma mater Kaiser High, and loving every minute.
When young kids strap on their shoulder pads, pulling that helmet down over their ears for the first time, they dream about one day playing in the NFL. Meanwhile, during Rich Miano’s time on the big stage, 11 years of adoring fans, big-time hits and pro paychecks, he was dreaming of getting back to those small-kid days.
“My thoughts when I was in the NFL was that I hoped I would be in a position one day to coach for free, to give back to the game,” says Miano, the new head football coach at his alma mater, Kaiser High School. “I didn’t feel like that at the University of Hawaii, although there was a lot of give-back there as well. But this is about helping my community and young people while staying involved with football. This is giving me a lot of inner peace because this is really grassroots.”
His opportunity came right as it looked as if a door was closing on him. The hiring of Norm Chow at UH brought more than a decade of dedication to his university to a close for Miano. He knew a Mainland college was not a choice for him, and he had always eschewed the thoughts of coaching in the pro ranks.
“I never wanted to coach in the pros because you cannot influence them in anything except football,” says Miano.
He had a desire to shape young men’s lives, to let them learn from him that hard work on your body and your brain is how you succeed in life, both on and off the gridiron. So it was a bit of kismet when the Kaiser job came open this spring, welcoming home the former star who helped bring the Cougars the 1979 Prep Bowl title.
But even with this opportunity that he had dreamed of, there was some trepidation – for years he had been hearing about the inherent laziness of today’s youths – but on that front he has been pleasantly surprised.
“I love the hard work it takes to succeed in this game, and these kids work hard. They are willing to pay the price to be as good as they can be, and that to me is the most rewarding,” says Miano.
The other surprise for Miano has been of the not-so-pleasant variety: the general disrepair of high school facilities around the state. He would like to see just one of the candidates stop talking about trains and sewers for once and speak to the con ditions, both on and off the field, of our high schools.
“You don’t hear any candidates talking about educational facilities. When you look at the public high schools around the state … I cannot imagine facilities being worse than they are in this state,” says Miano, who visited hundreds of high schools on the Mainland while serving as a recruiter for UH.
“To me, there is no more important investment than giving kids great facilities to play and to get educated. I tell my staff if we are not improving our facilities every day, we are doing a disservice to our players because they deserve better.”
The word facilities generally brings to mind weight rooms and showers, but the most important part of the facilities, in Miano’s thinking, is the field on which the game is actually played.
“There are so many safety issues now with concussions, and a lot of them come from the surface, players hitting their heads on the hard ground,” says Miano, who would like to see FieldTurf installed at all high school stadiums to help alleviate the problem.
The issues of concussions is one that Miano is intimately involved with. He was one of the first players to participate in the lawsuit against the NFL claiming it had not adequately protected its players against injuries. While they are suing for billions of dollars, Miano says that the motivation is not financial.
“This isn’t about a money grab,” says Miano. “It’s an education grab. Colt McCoy gets concussed last year in a game and goes right back in. Two high school players here in Hawaii got put back in a game after concussions.
“There needs to be a huge outreach across all levels of football to educate people about the dangers of head trauma and football. It is good to have the coaches be much more aware. It should have been done in the ’80s and ’90s, but they are being proactive now.”
The Hawaii High School Athletic Association now requires all coaches to complete an online concussion education course, and rules have been changed so that if a player intentionally uses helmet-to-helmet contact, that player is not only ejected from that game, but suspended for the next game as well.
It was just such a hit that almost took the life of Damien quarterback Alan Mohika last year, and it is these type of injuries that are causing the sport to see players leaving in droves. “Flag football is the fastest growing youth sport, and organized football is the fastest declining sport,” says Miano, “and the reason is because of head injuries and concussions, Moms feel safer with them in flag.”
Though there may be fewer players, the fervor for football has not slackened in the Islands and Miano seems to have made a quick turnaround for the Cougars. He took a team that only won two games last year (one by forfeit) and has turned in a 3-1 record going into last weekend’s showdown with Nanakuli.
Now back where he began, he hopes to instill a new generation with the values with which he was raised and seeing them come to life in young people is all the reward he needs.
“I would rather lose with good people than win with kids who don’t understand the importance of their education,” says Miano. “I consider myself a coach – when young people come up to me and call me Coach, I feel honored. To me, that is something you should wear with pride.”
How you can help your favorite high school teams
Feel like you are helpless to improve your school’s athletic program? Put that feeling behind you, because again it’s your chance to help out as Kraft Foods and Times Supermarkets bring their 12th annual Shop and Score program to a Times grocer near you.
Last year they combined to bring $250,000 worth of athletic equipment and uniforms to Oahu and Kauai high schoolers, bringing their combined contributions up to $1.3 million since the program’s inception in 2001.
The process is simple and does not cost residents a penny. Just go to your local Times, declare your favorite school, purchase groceries and other basic goods as you would every week, and any products that are marked with the Shop and Score display earn the school of your choice points toward the quarter-million dollars’ worth of goods up for grabs this year.
The program began Aug. 29, but there is still plenty of time to help your school, as the contest runs through Oct. 9. Last year was the first time they opened the contest up to a Neighbor Island, with surprising results.
“We took the program to Kauai and we were blown away by the response,” says Gerald Shintaku, the head of Kraft Foods in Hawaii. “In fact, two Kauai high schools – Waimea High School and Kauai High School – were among the top 10 points-earning schools statewide. Combined, they earned more than $20,000 worth of
Adidas uniforms and equipment.
“Kraft Foods remains committed to providing support to our schools and improving the lives of our students. It’s something we recognized many years ago – by fulfilling these needs, we’re helping our kids to grow and to strive to be the best that they can be.”
Last year’s big winners came from the Windward side as Castle took in almost $24,000 in equipment, followed by Kalani, Waipahu, Aiea and Kaimuki high schools. Who is taking home the goods this year? That is entirely up to you.