Pacific Profiles is a new section aimed at exploring what Pacific People are up to in the World of Sport. We kicked things off with Pat Lam and continue our coach theme as we look at Kalani Sitake. Sign up today and join us in increasing the coverage of Pacific Island sport!
Kelaokalani Fifita 'Kalani' Sitake may not be the first name that comes to mind when someone talks about Pacific Sport, but he certainly waves the Tongan flag with pride. At the end of last year, Sitake became the first Tongan Collegiate Football Coach. No small achievement, we thought it would be worthwhile digging deeper into the background of Sitake...
Born in Nuku'alofa, Sitake moved across to the US as a young child. His family originally settled in Hawaii before he attended high school in Missouri. He later enrolled at Brigham Young University (BYU), obtaining a Bachelors degree in English. His university playing career was a glittered one, that included the following achievements;
- Starting fullback 1998-2000
- BYU Football Scholar Athlete of the Year 1998
- Mountain West Conference Championship 1999
- BYU Impact Player of the Year 1999
- Team Captain 2000
After his College career, Sitake signed a free agent contract with the Cincinnati Bengals in 2001. Later that same year he was forced to retire due to injuries.
While devastating to have a playing career cut short, it was this, that most likely enabled him to become head coach of BYU at just 40 years old.
His coaching career leading up to this could be described as a diverse apprenticeship. He coached at a range of institutions including, Eastern Arizona, Southern Utah, Utah and Oregon State. He is only the 4th BYU coach in the last 44 years, so it's fair to say Sitake has now landed a coveted role.
Sitake has been described as bringing an energy to the BYU programme that hasn't been seen for years. A well-spoken, intellectual man, he has a manner that makes people want to follow him. An abundance of optimism surrounds both him and the team's prospects for the coming season. With a passionate fan base, no doubt Sitake will be under significant pressure to deliver.
Kalani Sitake, in my opinion, captures the new network of Pacific people abroad, one where Pacific culture, norms and mannerisms are carried and continued into new environments outside of the Islands themselves. For all purposes, Sitake could be classified American, having spent close to his whole life there. But Sitake, holds a distinct pride in his heritage and culture.
This is highlighted in his passion for both religion and family. He often expresses his gratituted for the sacrifices his parents made to give him a life in the US. With his parents working long hours, Sitake often stepped in as the eldest child to help look after his youngest siblings. Sitake is also a devout Mormon making the Utah based BYU connection all the more natural. He served his two year mission in Oakland in 1994.
There's a lot to like about Sitake. Just watching a few videos of him and you feel a sense of warmth and mana that few people have. We're eager to see BYU go well and look forward to continuing to talk about Kalani Sitake in all his future success!