Brave New Coach

Coach Brings New Bravery to Young Native Americans

Story & Photos by Jonathen E. Davis


SAN JANCITO, Calif. – In North American Indian culture, the word brave means “a young man who shows courage and a fighting spirit.”  At Noli Indian School, new defensive coordinator coach, as well as a special education teacher, brings that spirit to the school’s football team called the Braves.

Robert Stover brings his winning mentality to the young Indians he works with at the school.  As a descendent of the Quechen Indians, Stover inspires his players and students of what being a Brave means in spirit.

“Be a courageous warrior not in the sense of actual battle, but in life,” said Stover.  “It’s a saying that we definitely use around campus.”

Recently, the Braves football team won their first league game after many years of defeat on the field.  The taste of victory was made even more great as it was homecoming night for the Noli students.  Stover knows the impact that winning can have.

“Winning will definitely change your outlook,” said Stover.  “It gives you more confidence on every aspect of life, it gives you something to be a winner at.”

The wins keep on coming for the Braves football team, tasting success at three more games this season.  The triumphs carrier over to other aspects of life, he explains.

“It’s addicting, winning is addicting. Once you win, you look ahead toward next week and think you have to win again,” said Stover.

This changes students’ perspectives, Stover remarks, “Now, I have to win in the classroom. Now, I have to win in life.”

The winning attitude of the football team has also brought up the spirits of the school.  Stover never realized how much an affect winning can do for the community.

“I never believed it but a few years ago I was told if the school’s football team gets off on a good start – the school’s atmosphere will be much more positive,” explained Stover.  “The other kids are proud of their football team and want to be more involved in the school.”

According to Stover, most Indian students have low aspirations in education.  Those who are successful in school are normally teased and bully.

“Culturally it is not popular to be successful in school,” said Stover.

However, Stover’s beliefs have changed some of the attitudes of his players’ education.  The school’s administration was surprised when three football players were selected for student of the month.

“Their teacher’s make the nomination for the awards, and the administration was shocked that they were doing so well,” said Stover. “ It’s because they are winning they feel much better being at school, so that in itself has improved their performance in the classroom,” said Stover.

The Noli Indian School is found in the Soboba Indian Reservation.  The reservation lies in the lower reaches of San Jacinto Mountains where about 1200 Indian tribal members live within.  For the few months Stover has been coaching and teaching at the school, he has noticed that the community has accepted him.

“I get a lot more waves and hellos from the community ever since the football team has been winning,” said Stover. “They recognize me as a coach and as someone who is working really hard to improve the program.”

More of the community attend Friday night games to cheer on their Noli Braves.

“You see much more families show up and they also bring the little ones,” said Stover.  “I’ve come across young kids in the community that talk about playing for the team and asking me questions about football.  That curiosity and those questions wasn’t there until the last few wins.”

Friday, Oct. 26, the Noli Braves will compete against the Knights of Nuview Bridge High School for the last league match of the season.  Winning this game will allow the Noli Braves to move on to the playoffs.

Stover is pleased of the new accomplishments that his players have earned during this season, but he hopes they will continue to excel as individuals.

“I’m proud of them for the improvements and personal growths they have made, I would still tell them that they have a long way to go – both on the field, and more importantly, off the field,” said Stover.  “It’s going to take hard work, but I know they can become good young men in their community.”