Paying it forward
Not happy with what he is seeing from his players during a late evening practice, Langley Rams first year head coach Jeff Alamolhoda yells for the players to stop what they are doing and line up.
The players silently march to one side of the field and await their fate.
Running sprints is a common punishment tool for coaches when they feel the team needs to focus.
His tone is not angry, but rather stern or disciplinarian.
The message to the Rams football players, who are between the ages of 18 and 22, was simple: do things the correct way or there will be consequences.
Discipline and following instructions properly are big things for Alamolhoda.
As is being a positive role model.
Growing up, this was something lacking in his life.
But once he got on the football field, a coach instilled discipline in the wayward Langley teenager. And by getting into coaching, this is Alamolhoda’s way of helping others, much like he was.
“I grew up with some struggles,” admits Alamolhoda. “And I had a couple of people who supported me through it and put me in the position I am in today.
“So if I can return the favour for at least one youth, that would be beneficial.”
Alamolhoda, 31, grew up in Langley, with his two siblings and mom.
Times were tough as the family struggled to make ends meet.
There was no positive role model in his life.
But football changed that.
Alamolhoda joined the sport when he was nine.
A soccer coach had recommended he perhaps switch to football, figuring the young boy’s aggressiveness and physical make-up was better suited to the gridiron than the pitch.
“I had a body type more suited for football,” Alamolhoda says with a laugh. “I wasn’t the leanest athlete and they definitely saw I had potential somewhere else.
“(But) it was a sport I fell in love with.”
He progressed through the ranks of the Langley Minor Football Association.
He began as a fullback, moved to the defensive line and then finally settled at the linebacker position.
Following minor football, he graduated to the junior game, joining the now-defunct Tri-City Bulldogs of the B.C. Football Conference.
The linebacker earned a scholarship to the University of Manitoba and he wrapped up his university career by wining the Vanier Cup in 2007.
But even before his playing days were done, the transformation from player to coach had begun.
It began with him volunteering as linebackers coach for the Winnipeg Rifles junior football team while he was a university student.
This taste of coaching cemented the fact this is how he would continue his involvement.
While it may have been easy for some to walk away from their final game as a champion, like he could have done following the Vanier Cup victory, Alamolhoda was left wanting more.
“That just left a taste in my mouth, that wasn’t enough,” he said. “I needed to be a part of football somehow.
“Football has been my life, my whole life and I wasn’t ready to give it up abruptly.”
Alamolhoda’s on-field responsibilities already made him a coach on the field.
He was responsible for determining the opposition’s offensive formation and then calling the proper defense for his teammates.
After graduating from school with a degree in kinesiology — and as an academic all-Canadian — he moved back to Langley and accepted one of his former minor coach’s offers to help out with the Chiiliwack Huskers program.
Last year, he was the Huskers defensive co-ordinator, and he took the same job with the Rams as they moved from Surrey to Langley this past off-season.
He soon added head coach to his title after the abrupt resignation of Rams coach Tyson St. James.
“He demands the best from the kids both on and off the field,” Nick Kawaza, the Rams’ vice-president of football operations.
“He has the qualities you want: character, integrity, high morals. He will do a great job for us.”
Alamolhoda says there are no secrets to being a successful coach.
While athleticism and skill are important, so are discipline and structure.
“Anytime I had success in my football career, it was structured, it was disciplined,” he said.
“Being able to have the players following a direct, structured program, I believe in that.
“It doesn’t matter what kind of athletes you have on the field, they have to understand the concepts of football. It is a team game and you have to be able to have everyone working together collaboratively.”
While some coaches are the rah-rah type, Alamolhoda is more about preparation.
“I plan meticulously, I try to make sure every aspect is covered,” he said.
The players prepare physically for the game, but he gets them mentally ready.
Being a coach is just another way for him to give back.
Originally wanting to get into teaching, he instead accepted a job in Maple Ridge with PLEA Community Services. He works with at-risk young men between the ages of 13 and 18.
“They might not necessarily have a lot of the benefits that some other youth might have growing up,” Alamolhoda says.
“A lot of them don’t have maybe the positive role models that they can look to for support.
“I just try to be that positive role model for them, show them different resources they can utilize.
“Try and get them involved and honestly, get them to have a passion, something they can work towards.”
He was drawn to this job three years ago because of his own upbringing.
“It is very rewarding to give back and help young men in their lives,” Alamolhoda said.
“When I got involved with football, coaches took on that role model aspect; they helped me through my life.”
Some of the coaches who have played major roles in his life include his former high school rugby coach, Will Coetzee — who is still a family friend — and coaches at Manitoba, head coach Brian Dobie and defensive co-ordinator Stan Pierre.
“He is a very dedicated, responsible young man,” Kawaza said.
“Jeff has got a passion for the game and an appreciation for helping the community and young people.”
Away from the game, Alamolhoda is married to Lisa, and has a two-year-old son named Darius.