Skyridge athletes spurred to achievement by volunteer mentor
The power of positivity is real.
If you’re not sure about that, you might want to spend some time with Carl Sokia, a human resource professional whose unique perspectives have helped lift the aspirations and accomplishments of many Skyridge student-athletes.
Or better yet, ask the players and coaches.
“I think for me, Carl was huge in our run at State and how we played because when he talked to us before games, it gave each one of us confidence in ourselves as players and as people inside and out of basketball,” said Donya Perkins, a senior post player on the girls basketball team.
“I think that really helped us play to a new level and I think it brought us together as team,” she continued. “That’s why he means so much to our team because we all know and feel the unconditional love he has for us.
“He makes all of us believe in ourselves because we know that he does too and that at the end of the day he’s always going to be there cheering us on,” Perkins said.
Senior teammate Abby Hymas, a guard, agreed. “Carl really brought us together and gave us so much energy. He puts a smile on everyone’s face, and you can really feel his love for you,” she said.
“After the final buzzer went off and we lost, he came over to me and told me that my worth has nothing to do with the score. He gave me a lot of confidence and love during that time,” Hymas added.
Sokia’s influence at the school included the football team as well. “We did a team dinner every Thursday night before our games with a guest speaker,” said Falcon athletic director Jon Lehman, the former football coach. “This year we made a philosophical shift on who we invited.
“Instead of those with a football background or achievements, we decided to bring in people who were just successful in a variety of areas and who could teach life lessons we wanted theteam to hear,” he explained. “We were looking for those who exemplified the traits that lead to success.
“Carl is a childhood friend of Reno Mahe (an assistant coach in the program) and through him we brought Carl over to talk early in the season,” Lehman said. “He had a great message, and we gave him a sideline pass to our games and told him he was welcome anytime.”
Often after these dinners, the speaker’s interaction with the team ends with the delivery of the message, but not so with Sokia.
“He kept coming around, and he inspired everybody,” the former coach said. “He’s very authentic, and he not only believed the principles he talked about, but he has lived them.
“That’s something that is not very common in any area but especially not very common in sports,” Lehman said. “In sports, you see people looking for doubt or reasons to give up andcomplain, or placing blame on someone else when things aren’t going well.
“It’s almost like the negative points in a season or a game don’t even register for him,” Lehman said. “His positive outlook isinfectious and a great trait around kids and parents. We’re continuing to look at ways we can bring that positive energy to our school.”
Mahe was also the one who suggested Sokia as a speaker for the basketball team’s Commitment Night. “Carl has had an incredibly successful career in human resources and is the most loving and energetic human you will ever meet,” said girls basketball Coach Shaylee Nielsen.
“We have a Commitment Night each year at the first of our season where the girls do challenges and bonding activities,” she explained. “Carl spoke to us about being the best version of yourself, loving yourself and others, and being the queen you were born to be.
“This set the tone for our year and the girls would refer back to the words he spoke throughout the season,” she added. “Carl and our team immediately formed a bond and became family. He came to multiple games and was our number one fan.”
So who exactly is Carl Sokia? A Skyridge parent or booster perhaps, who just happens to have something extra to offer at his school of interest?
Nope. Sokia lives in Sandy with his wife and six daughters ages4 to 15 who go to school there. He coaches some of them and attends their events as well.
His involvement at Skyridge is completely voluntary and is on top of an already-busy life. And his family has even been drawn into his unofficial roles with the Falcons, sometimes accompanying him to games and other events at the school.
Sokia is a self-made man. A native of La’ie, Hawai’i, where he was a childhood associate of BYU football Coach Kalani Sitake,Sokia has arisen from humble beginnings. He’s still pursuing a college degree, which he anticipates completing next year.
A self-described “experience evangelist focused on the human experience,” Sokia started his career in the hospitality industry as an airport shuttle driver for a small hotel.
He worked his way up from there until he was overseeing human resources for luxury resort properties across the United States, including roles with the St. Regis, Waldorf Astoria andGrand America Hotel & Resort brands. Sokia recently joined the Café Zupas chain as the vice president for people support.
Before that, he worked on a variety of consulting projects through his own company with teams and organizations including BYU Football, BYU Athletics, dōTERRA, GovInvest, ADP, Beauty Industry Group, Spilled Milk and many more.
Sokia received a Utah Business Magazine’s distinguished Forty Under 40 award in 2019 and was named the Utah Human Resources Business Professional of the Year in 2020.
He is also the host of “Carl & Friends: A Human Experience Podcast,” which he said is dedicated to “the understanding of how personal experiences impact the way we see the world.”
Lehman said Sokia’s frank sharing of his own history is part of the reason his messages resonate so powerfully with young people.
“He told them he was not doing well in school and not reaching his potential,” Lehman said. “He talked about resilience and keeping going, and not letting your past mistakes bring you down.
“He talked about the power of belief in each other and leaning into the people you’re working with, reaching in with positivity,” he added. “This is a unique message because of the impact he had on our team. People talked about him all the time,noting the vibe that he brought to our sideline and events.
“People noticed when he wasn’t around,” Lehman said. “Our players wanted to take pictures of Carl with the trophy because they looked at him as part of the team.”
This was true for the girls basketball players too. At a mid-season team dinner, Nielsen said, “He talked to our girls for over an hour about love and relationships. He reminded them of what is really important in life and how we can love everyone no matter how different we are.
“Carl has an amazing ability to fill a room with love and really capture an audience and make them feel so much hope and excitement for life,” she continued. “After he spoke to our team this season, you could see a real change in the demeanor and attitude of the girls.
“Basketball season is long, and the girls can have times where it feels like a grind and they feel worn down,” Nielsen said. “After Carl spoke to us it helped give them a second wind and a way to find a renewed energy for the season.
“If you were at the championship game, you couldn’t miss Carl in his bright orange sweatshirt and he was cheering louder than anyone in the arena,” she said.
“Even when he wasn’t at our games, we felt that love and support from him. The best thing about him is his ability to love and inspire others to love and have such a positive outlook on life,” Nielsen concluded.
The essence of Sokia’s message is that where you have been doesn’t necessarily determine where you’re going. “I want people to understand, especially the young ones, that no matter what has happened to them in the past, they can have a successful future,” he said.
That message has apparently made believers out of more than a few Falcons and is surely one they will carry with them when their lives move beyond the confines of high school.