Riverview coach Cappa heeds the lessons of his father

Oakmont Raiders football coach Jason Cappa poses for a portrait at Riverside Park on Monday August 11, 2014
Oakmont Raiders football coach Jason Cappa poses for a portrait at Riverside Park on Monday August 11, 2014
Photo by DAN SPEICHER | For Trib Total Media
Bill West
| Monday, Aug. 11, 2014, 10:45 p.m.

Given that he spent most of his life observing the preferences and philosophies of football coaches, Jason Cappa knew he'd copy at least one of his mentors as he opened a training camp in charge of a program for the first time.

Cappa, in his first season as coach at Riverview, comes from a family of coaches and spent the past seven seasons as a Raiders assistant. The first day of official practice for fall sports in the WPIAL is a holiday of sorts for the Cappa family. As the man who determines how Riverview football operates at practice, Cappa just had to choose how to celebrate the occasion.

He opted to follow an approach used by his older brother, Jeff, a coach at Wissahickon in Eastern Pennsylvania. Unlike many WPIAL teams, Cappa passed on the chance to hold PIAA-mandated heat acclimation practices last week and held the first of three days of no-contact sessions Monday.

“It still was intense. We picked it up another level (from offseason conditioning),” Cappa, 37, said. “We found where we could push the kids.”

Intensity was a trademark of the coaching style embraced by Cappa's father, Jake, who led Riverview from 1986 to 2001. He had a career record of 129-59-6 and guided the Raiders to three WPIAL Class A finals. Even after he stepped down as coach, he remained a presence at practices.

Jake Cappa died May 26, about four months after Jason Cappa was appointed Riverview's coach.

“It's extremely difficult,” Jason Cappa said of coaching without his father. “He was always there for us to ask questions and offer suggestions. He always had an answer. He'd gone through everything. And it was amazing how quickly he had an answer, and it always made so much sense.”

His father's lessons live on through his brothers. In addition to Jeff, Jason can bounce ideas off of John, who joined Riverview's staff as an assistant after serving as an assistant at Kiski Area last year.

“We talk daily, and the experiences that we all have with our dad, if I don't have the answer right away, one of them will have it,” Jason Cappa said.

Jeff and Jason discussed when to open camp during the offseason. Last year, Jeff waited until the first day of training camp to do the heat acclimation practices. Jason, who worked under Todd Massack in 2013, watched Riverview go through heat acclimation the week before the start of camp. The brothers concluded a few extra days of summer wouldn't hurt the Raiders.

“It just seems like we could accomplish the same things during camp and give the kids (last) week off,” Jason Cappa said.

The Raiders will begin full-contact practices Thursday. But the process of restoring pride at Riverview already has begun, said Cappa, who believes toughness and superior conditioning led to success in the 1990s and plans to prioritize those characteristics.

“Conditioning and toughness won't be the reasons we lose a game,” Cappa said. “It's not going to be easy this year with Jeannette, Clairton, Greensburg Central Catholic and Serra (Catholic) joining the conference, but the conference was very difficult in the 90s ... and Riverview was the one winning it. So it can be done. We just have a steeper climb now.”

Bill West is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at wwest@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BWest_Trib.

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