Castelamare back with the Wildcats, of Academy at the Lakes, that is

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Wed. March 24, 2010 | Izzy Gould | Email

Turns out John Castelamare will coach Wildcats football in 2010.

Castelamare, 60, has been hired by Academy at the Lakes, whose mascot is also the Wildcats, to turn its six-man football team into an 11-man program.

“It’s true,” athletic director Tom Haslam said. “We needed a football coach and we got in touch with him. He’s going to be our guy next year and we’re very fortunate.”

Castelamare is in his final teaching year at Wesley Chapel. He started Wesley Chapel’s football program when the school opened in 1999.

Castelamare, along with many other teachers, had enrolled in the Deferred Retirement Option Program, which provided a financial incentive for teachers to retire early. When there was a shortage of teachers, school districts routinely extended DROP up to three years. Budget cuts ultimately changed that, forcing Castelamare out.

Several football jobs opened on the North Suncoast this spring, but Castelamare could not teach at a public school.

Academy at the Lakes had been looking for a permanent football coach since last summer. Haslam said they reached out to former Land O’Lakes coach John Benedetto, who recommended Castelamare.

“I’ve been in public schools since 1972,” Castelamare said. “It was tough for me to realize I wasn’t going to teach or coach anymore. I knew I still wanted to coach.”

Castelamare realizes this will be a different task than the one he had 11 years ago. For one, Academy has just 15 players.

Castelamare hopes that those considering private schools aren’t dissuaded by the cost of tuition. The school offers financial aid and academic scholarships, Haslam said.

Castelamare said he would need roughly 25 players to begin 11-man football, which he is intent on doing as soon as possible. Academy made a run at an 11-man team in 2007, finishing 1-9. It won a six-man state title in 2006.

“If we reach that number between now and August we just might compete,” Castelamare said. “If we can go we’ll go.”

Castelamare said he knew little about AATL before he began communicating with the school a month ago. He was offered the job Tuesday in addition to a part-time job as a physical education teacher. Castelamare wants a full-time job and Haslam said if one becomes available he will be a candidate.
Haslam said Castelamare will be allowed to hire his own coaching staff. Castelamare said he will begin implementing offseason conditioning and summer programs as soon as possible.

“Our kids are hungry,” Haslam said. “We’re trying to build a good football program. We really got lucky with this and we could see that from the first time we talked to him.

“There was no doubt he could coach and put us on the map. But it was more of how could we get him here and not just make it an afternoon coaching job.”

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