Gentle Jayhawk wins national honor

Feb 6 2012 - 8:04pm


(Standard-Examiner file photo)
St. Joseph girl’s soccer coach Alex Salvo instructs his team against Rowland Hall St. Mark’s in Ogden in 2008.
(Standard-Examiner file photo)
St. Joseph girl’s soccer coach Alex Salvo instructs his team against Rowland Hall St. Mark’s in Ogden in 2008.

OGDEN -- Each year the National Federation of State High School Associations names a single coach as girls soccer National Coach of the Year.

For 2011, that coach was St. Joseph Catholic High School's own Alexis (Alex) Salvo.

"I really don't want to make this award about me," Salvo said. "I really feel this award belongs to the whole school."

Salvo started the girls soccer program when he came to teach at the school in 1994 and has led the Jayhawks to three state 2-A championships. The team also has a pair of runner-up finishes, including last October's heartbreaking 1-0 loss to Waterford in the championship at Rio Tinto Stadium.

Salvo quickly pointed to the support he's received from parents, faculty, students and athletes at St. Joseph as the real recipients of the national award.

"We are very blessed to have such an involved community here at the school," he said. "If I don't have their support, their energy and everything that they do for this school I would not be getting this award."

A native of Chile, Salvo came to the United States -- and Ogden specifically -- in 1987 to pursue a degree in communications at Weber State University. He coached soccer throughout his time in school and once finished, accepted a position as a Spanish teacher at St. Joseph.

The rest is history ... still in the making.

Last year's leading scorer Jane Porter described Salvo as a coach who really allows his players freedom to make decisions while giving them guidance and encouraging strong team chemistry.

"He really cares about his players," Porter said. "He not only wants us to be a team on the field, but also a team and family off the field."

In addition to his role as girls soccer coach, Salvo was named the athletic director six years ago, exponentially increasing his role in St. Joseph athletics.

Ogden High athletic director and girls basketball coaching legend Phil Russell says being an associate of Salvo's has always been a pleasure.

"We've worked together on a lot of things and I think he's very deserving of the award," Russell said. "He's done an outstanding job with that program up there and he's definitely earned it. I'm glad he got the recognition."

The NFHS, which has been recognizing coaches through an awards program since 1982, honors coaches in the top 10 girls and boys sports each year.

Fellow coaches at St. Joseph say Salvo is well-deserving of an award that recognizes some of the best in the country.

"To be a nationally recognized coach is something people work a lifetime for," former Weber State men's basketball coach turned St. Joseph girls basketball coach Joe Cravens said. "True to his personality, he downplayed it and didn't want to make a big deal out of it but he's truly a humble and dedicated person and really embodies what St. Joseph's is all about."

The beauty of coaching sports at the high school level is not having to put all the emphasis on winning and losing, Salvo says, but rather helping to build young people into successful adults. He explains probably the best thing about coaching soccer for St. Joseph is the chance to not only develop his players as athletes, but as individuals.

"I just think it's something special to watch the girls growing not only as players but as human beings," he said. "I get them as freshman and they go through to become seniors and then graduate and I see them a few years later and they tell about the good things in their lives. It's really special."

On the other side of the coin, Salvo says the toughest part about his job is watching his girls grow and the inevitably bittersweet moment they graduate and move on.

Salvo plans to continue coaching alongside his AD duties for the foreseeable future. Not to mention he and his wife added a big name to their roster during 2011, 8-month-old Ryker Salvo.

Plans are in the works to get him on the field.

"We're hoping so," Salvo said. "We've already got him a small soccer ball."

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