Tony Sonsini announced as new head football coach
Takes over program that was 2-18 over the past two seasons
March 8, 2019
Past football players, new football players, and future football players walk down RHS hallways to go to the conference room after morning announcements.
A meeting with current and upcoming football players was held during the first period, March 7, 2019, to officially introduce RHS health and physical education teacher Tony Sonsini as the new RHS football head coach.
“I’m ecstatic, I’m super excited,” Sonsini said. ”I’ve known since about a week ago and trying to keep everything a secret, it’s hard around here, but we did a very nice job, but I wanted the players to know first. They needed to know who their next head coach is, it’s somebody that’s gonna be here. I’ve been here for 15 years, I’m not going anywhere, this is where I went to school, this is where I played, I put on that uniform, I put in time in the weight room just like they have, and I got it done in the classroom. It’s important that they know that I care about them outside of football and that family piece is very important and that relationship is huge. We’re trying to just head in the right direction, there’s a lot of things to do in a short amount of time, football season will be here before you know it.”
Although nothing was set in stone at the meeting, high hopes grew during the first period’s meeting.
“I haven’t had an opportunity to coach these kids yet, I just had my first meeting with them today, but the future’s looking bright,” Sonsini said. “We had about 50 kids show up this morning, I’d love to have 50, 60 kids play football, that means we’re headed in the right direction. We just have to keep the process and I’m gonna hire the best coaching staff I possibly can, people that care about Richmond, care about Richmond athletes, care about Richmond students, and care about the community.”
Just like any other job, feelings of joy were paired with extreme motivation to get things going.
“I celebrated with my family, but right away I started working,” Sonsini said. “The minute you know you got the job, it’s the grind, so to speak, you start planning the summer schedule, you start planning weights, you start contacting assistant coaches. A head football coach’s job, especially at Richmond High School, doesn’t just stop at the end of the day, it’s all day long. We’ll never stop planning, we’ll continue to work, it’s a process and we want to get the program to continue going in the right direction.”
Sonsini may be the new coach, but coach Lewis’s impact on the football team will always be there.
“Well, we just lost a great coach,” Sonsini said. “He and his staff have put a nice foundation in the works with the kids we have returning so the goal is for my staff and our program is to keep building off of the momentum they had last year.”
A new coach means a new coaching style and changes ahead for the football team.
“You have to bring in your own terminology, you’re gonna bring in your own coaching staff,” Sonsini said. “And you’re gonna try to flip the script from the past, but you can’t change the past, you can just build up off of it, you have to look for the future, and the future’s bright at Richmond.”
Although it’s still early into his new position, Sonsini has already come up with new ideas for the team.
“I have a lot of specific stuff [plans in mind], but right now we’re just gonna focus on academics, we have to get it done in the classroom,” he said. “We’re gonna do weights two days a week until mid-April, then we’re going to start going 3 days a week, and then we’re gonna add an open field or open gym. Then we’re gonna start doing some drills and then the summer is the time to get after it. We’re gonna compete against other teams this summer and make things happen.”
While the new football season hasn’t started yet, the strengths of the team begin to stand out.
“We have a good core group of guys that came back with playing experience, that’s important,” Sonsini said. “We have a good senior class going into next year, some of them have been 4-year starters, some of them have been 3-year starters, so we have kids coming back with experience and that’s what you want to build on.”
In addition to returning players, Sonsini feels it’s important to keep up this season’s work.
“From the coaching staff all the way down to the players, it’s all about buy-in, attitude, and effort,” he said. “The two things you can control at the end of the day is your attitude and your effort. We’re gonna work on that, we’re gonna focus on that.”
However, no team is perfect and the RHS football team is no exception.
“One of the weaknesses in our program is numbers,” Sonsini said. “We gotta get more kids playing football, we gotta get more kids excited about football, on all levels from the Richmond Youth League, middle school, and high school, we have to increase our numbers all the way up. We’ll do that, we’ll bring in some good coaches and we’ll bring in some kids that want to play football and wanna win.”
Sonsini hopes his team will walk across the field with pride, no matter the scoreboard.
“When you have a high school named after the community, the community cares a lot more,”‘ he said. “‘We are Richmond’ is very important, every time we break a huddle it’s ‘We are Richmond’ because we are playing for the Richmond community, we are playing for the Richmond student body, we are playing for anybody that’s ever put on those jerseys, we are playing for anybody that ever will put on those jerseys. It’s important that these kids understand that there are so many people that care about them outside of the school and want them to be successful.”
Negative comments tend to drag people down, but Sonsini hopes it can help shape the football team for the better.
“A lot of people have put down Richmond football for a few years now,” he said. “They’ve kind of written them off, but they can use that to their advantage, you make that motivate you and as coaches we have to find out what makes players tick and find how we can motivate them to be successful not only in the classroom, but also on the football field, and then in life. The ultimate goal is to make players better sons, better boyfriends, better fathers, better husbands, and just give back to the community, so we have a lot of things going for us, we just have to keep going in the right direction and it’s all in the process.”
Football is a physical sport, but without a good mentality, you’re only halfway there.
“Ultimately at the end of the day, it comes down to attitude and effort,” Sonsini said. “And that’s two things that we’re really gonna preach because if they have a positive attitude and they give 100% effort, we’re gonna be successful.”
However, Sonsini feels there is a bigger topic they need to keep in mind and focus on throughout the season, education.
“The most important thing is getting an education because that’s something you’re gonna have for the rest of your life,” he said. “If we have the opportunity to win football games along the way, that’s great, but they have to get it done in the classroom. We need to make sure that the family piece is important and we’re helping them build relationships. Football is going to teach them about a lot of things and that’s important. They can take those intangibles that they’re gonna learn from football and apply them to their lives.”
His position may be new, but Sonsini’s no stranger to coaching and has had a passion for it throughout his life.
“This is my dream job, to me, there’s no better job in the state of Indiana, I was born and raised in Richmond, Indiana,” he said. “I wanted to come back here to teach and coach, I’ve always wanted to be the head coach at Richmond High School and to have this opportunity. I’m just blessed, I’m very thankful with the administration, for them choosing me, very thankful of my family supporting me. Without the administration and the support of my family, this would have never happened. I’ve been head coaches at places, I’ve coached at the college level, so it’s time to make Richmond great again and I’m excited about that – to bring back the tradition.”
For Sonsini, building a close relationship with his team is a priority.
“Football’s temporary, education’s permanent, and you want to get to know these kids on a level outside of football,” he said. “You want to get to know their families, you want to know them and build relationships with them that are everlasting. The ultimate goal, obviously the program, we want to win games, we want kids that graduate high school, but I want to get to know them, get to know their families, I want them to come back 10, 20 years from now and see a good product on the field and remember all the good memories they had.”
With many new changes in the upcoming season, one thing is for certain to never change, team bonding.
“I want them to have this bond forever, some of my best friends are still my high school football players,” Sonsini said. “You’ll remember, especially your senior year the rest of your life. You’ll remember hanging in the locker room, you’ll remember scoring a touchdown, you’ll remember the wins, you’ll remember the loses, but that friendship that you bond with on the football field is something that you’ll remember for a lifetime. Every class reunion, I have people I played football with all over the country and every reunion we get together and we talk about a certain game or a certain practice.”
Not only will the football team get a new coach and the coach will get a new team, but more importantly, they all will get a new family.
“It’s a family environment, I just told the kids this morning, my daughters just inherited 50 brothers, so it’s a big family,” Sonsini said. “Family is important, I want to get to know these kids and I’m looking forward to the opportunity to coach them.”
Sonsini wants to not only be their coach but someone they can go to in general.
“At the end of the day, they need to know that I care about them, it’s not just ‘I’m their football coach’ I want to get to know them on a personal level, I want to get to know their family, same thing with my assistants,” he said. “It’s a family environment, we’re here for them, not just on the football field, but outside of class, outside, during the school day. If they need something, come talk. It’s important, the relationship piece is very important.”
Among the madness of it all, the RHS football team has opened a new chapter in their book with people eager to find out how the next season will go.
“Just know that I’m here for you outside of football, I’m here obviously to help you in any way possible, but we want to build a monster, we want to make Richmond a success not only in football but in all the other sports,” Sonsini said. “So we’re here, I’m here to do whatever’s needed to help all athletes get better, we’re gonna focus on 2019 season and improving every day with the mindset they’re going to improve every day from education to practice, we’re going to get better every day.”