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East County Sunday, Mar. 27, 2022 4 months ago

New ODA football coach emphasizes long-term growth of the Lakewood Ranch program

Football Coach Rob Hollway said his arrival at The Out-of-Door Academy is his "forever move."
by: Ryan Kohn Sports Editor

For the third consecutive year, The Out-of-Door Academy is hitting the reset button on its football program. 

Now with Rob Hollway in charge, the school hopes it won't have to do it again any time soon. 

Hollway, 36, has been hired as the program's head coach. His on-field accomplishments, like leading All Saints Academy to its first-ever state championship win in 2016 and being named the 2016 Independent Football Coach of the Year by the Florida Athletic Coaches Association, speak for themselves.

He is confident he can replicate that success at ODA.

But Hollway, who is in the process of moving to the area from Minneapolis, where he spent the last three years as a school administrator, said potential is not what most attracted him to the school. 

"The school has a great academic environment," said Hollway, who was a defensive lineman at the University of Wyoming. "I like coaching intelligent kids. I do complex things with my offense and my defense. Plus, as a parent of young twin boys (Bo and Lou Hollway), I want to coach them someday. I was looking for my 'forever move.' In that respect, ODA is a goldmine. There are so many great people on staff and there are plenty of resources. This is a total family move and ODA is the whole package." 

Rob Hollway, the new football coach at The Out-of-Door Academy, and his wife, Liz Hollway, are the parents of twin boys Bo and Lou Hollway. Courtesy photo.

Hollway's words should be reassuring for Thunder fans who are concerned with the program's instability. After Ken Sommers stepped down in 2018 after three seasons, Chris Kempton took the reins for two years. He stepped down in 2020 to pursue opportunities at the collegiate level. Former offensive coordinator K.B. Belton was hired in his place, but Belton lasted one season before taking an assistant position at Lennard High.

Then the school hired Riverview High alumnus Jon Haskins, whose experience was mostly at the college level other than one season at Reno High in Nevada. Haskins lasted one season, going 0-5 last year, before stepping down to take an assistant coaching position at Cardinal Mooney High. 

The coaching chaos is one reason why incoming ODA Athletic Director Andres Parra viewed Hollway as the ideal candidate to take over the program. At ODA, Hollway will not only be the football coach but an assistant athletic director, ensuring that he's a permanent fixture on campus. Parra, who starts full-time at the school on July 1, said Hollway's experience as an administrator gave him confidence that Hollway knows the importance of building a program over time. 

"To me, Rob (Hollway) presents stability," Parra said. "He's moving here with his family. He expressed to me that he wants to work with the community — parents, students and supporters — to establish something long-term. His philosophy lined up with mine in that regard. Ideally, people will start connecting the idea of ODA football with him. 

"Our kids deserve the best four-year experience they can get. I believe Rob is committed to giving them that experience."

Hollway, too, is aware of the disarray the ODA football program has battled in recent seasons. It's why his message to current ODA players, shared over Zoom at Hollway's request, was simple: "Help is on the way."

"I plan to be there, in the hallways and in the locker room," Hollway said. "I let the players know that this is a long-term move for me and that I plan on my kids going there someday. The kids responded to that. We have been communicating. I'm already getting texts and updates about how kids are doing in the weight room, which is great."

Hollway said the continued support of ODA's middle school football program is just as important. That's how you organically get players at this level of high school football, Hollway said. 

From his past success at small schools, Hollway said he knows how important roster size can be. Hollway said he plans to actively recruit the hallways at ODA in order to get as many kids as possible. That's how you create depth, he said.

But Hollway also said he likes not having to worry about a massive roster. When a team has 70 or more players, he said, it is harder for the head coach to get to know them all as individuals, which is one of the keys to building trust and chemistry. Finding that balance will be a key for the Thunder as it attempts to build a program for the future. 

Hollway will be in the area April 3-10 to meet with the players in person as well as conduct interviews with potential assistant coaches. The school will hold a welcome barbecue for Hollway so he and his family can interact with the community. In May, Hollway will return for three weeks to coach the team's spring football practices. It is then that Hollway will be begin implementing his scheme. First, though, Hollway has to figure out what he has in terms of talent. 

"I adapt to the personnel I have," Hollway said. "I'm not an old-fashioned coach who runs the same thing every year. I have played and coached in a bunch of different schemes. At All Saints we ran a run-heavy triple option, but at Windermere Prep (where Hollway was a coordinator from 2017 to 2019) we ran a lot of five-wide vertical passing plays. I expect our community will see a mix of both of those things. I like to go fast and be exciting. On defense, the key is always creating turnovers and making big plays, and you do that by applying pressure at different spots."

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I’m the sports editor for Sarasota and East County and a Missouri School of Journalism graduate. I was born and raised in Olney, Maryland. My biggest inspirations are Wright Thompson and Alex Ovechkin. My strongest belief is that mint chip ice cream is unbeatable.

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