AKRON, Ohio — The Akron community is mourning the loss of beloved Akron coach and teacher Sonil Haslam, superintendent of Akron Public Schools Christine Fowler Mack confirmed Wednesday.
Mack described Haslam as “a wonderful man, coach, teacher, father and co-worker here at APS.”
Haslam was the head coach of Akron's North High School football team and did so as a way to teach leadership to young men. Athletic Director Carrie Stewart told News 5 that on Tuesday night, Haslam was at the school handing out awards to his players and taking photos.
"They left the building receiving awards from their coach, and they came into the building today to grief counselors," she said. Stewart praised Haslam's approach to coaching, saying he focused on a "whole person" approach to making the students athletes become better citizens outside of the classroom as well as on the field. One of those students, Christopher Simmons, told News 5 the news doesn't feel real yet. He was still half-asleep Wednesday morning when he got a text sharing the news. Then the phone rang.
"I got a call from the other coach and he told me, and it just don't feel real for me. It feels like a dream, or a nightmare," Simmons said.
Akron North Principal Kim Sabetta told News 5 a crisis team was on hand Wednesday for students and staff struggling with the tragic loss.
"He was just instrumental in the lives of so many," Sabetta said.
Stewart elaborated on that legacy; she started getting messages from people Haslam coached 20 years ago, "to let us know that he changed the course of their life," she said. "I don't know how we replace something like that."
Haslam was also a husband and father, leaving behind two daughters. He was 46 years old.
“In his other job at APS, Sonil Haslam was the first face most of our families saw when they entered our administration building. His calm, reassuring nature was so helpful for our families and so valued by our staff. We miss him and offer our prayers for Kelly, his wife---who is an APS teacher---and his children," a statement from Superintendent Mack read.
North Vikings Athletics said his legacy will "live on in the hundreds and thousands of youth who benefited from his positive impact."
"Our hearts are broken. Coach Sonil Haslam was not only a coach to our young men, but a friend, a mentor, an advocate, a father figure, and an unwavering supporter of his guys both on and off the field. He will be missed," read a message from North Vikings Athletics on Twitter.
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