Brandon High soccer coach and math teacher Allen Ware is a bald Eagle. He fulfilled a promise to his team by getting the ultimate haircut after his team won the Class 2A state championship.
Over lunch at Bennigan's we talked about coaching, teaching, his 5- and 7-year-old daughters and proposing marriage.
Pull up a chair and join us.
ERNEST: So did the kids cut your hair?
ALLEN: They used the clippers and brought it down as low as they could get it. One of the wrestlers, Rashard Goff, happened to be there. He's bald all the time and he shaves his own head. I told them, "I trust him with a razor, but I don't trust you guys." So he took me in the bathroom and (cut) it.
What was your wife's reaction?
Doreen knew it was going to happen. Actually my assistant (Gary Roch), and I did it together. He made the deal with them as well. We got home and walked around the corner to show her and she had the video camera set up. My older daughter, Christina, thought it was funny. My younger daughter, Rachael, when I put her to bed, she said, "Are you going to grow your hair back?" She was almost in tears.
Did your wife feel like she had a new husband?
She didn't want to touch it. She touched it and it was kind of rough. She said, "That's enough." It's grown out a little bit, a little peach fuzz. But it was worth it.
What's the deal you'll make next year?
We'll talk to the principal and maybe he'll shave his head. I can't do this again. The first time was definitely worth it, but I think I'm learning from the wrestling team. I don't see Coach Cozart shaving his head.
How much of your team's success was talent and how much was it intangibles like teamwork and chemistry?
We've got good talent. We've got kids who can play. The assistant coaches help out a lot. My top assistant (Roch) brings some intangibles to the table. He was our motivational guy. We called him the man down by the river from the Saturday Night Live skit. And the kids, they got the camaraderie this year. They all went blond after we won regionals. It was neat. You could see them coming together as a team.
What was that about, the kids dyeing their hair?
They made a deal, kind of like the deal I made. The kids said after regionals, "we're going to go blond." They did it four years ago when we won Western Conference and districts for the first time in 15 or 16 years.
You grew up in this area and went to Armwood. But before Armwood, Bloomingdale, Durant and Riverview, it was just Brandon High. Is Brandon High still special?
There's tradition. There's numerous faculty that's been there 30 years. When you get teachers who have been there for years and years and years, you know there's something special.
Do you put pressure on yourself?
I lost some weight going into the regionals. I wasn't eating as much. I enjoyed the run, but nerves build up. You see it getting closer and that's what you're thinking about. I lost about 10 pounds and that was from a lack of eating.
Do you have to hide that from the team?
Yeah, you can't let them know that you're nervous. You want to get them pumped up. You want them ready to play. I think it starts from the top. You can be excited, but if they feel the coach is nervous, then they start getting more nervous also. When we got to the final four, where it was a different atmosphere, we just told them it was just another game. We told them we're playing with the same size ball, the goal is the same. It was kind of like Hoosiers. We didn't get our tape measure out there, but we told them it was the same size.
Do you remember your first kiss?
I was scared to death and nervous.
Were you at Armwood?
No, I was at Williams. That was sixth grade. You talk about pressure. That was pressure.
What's more pressure, guiding a team to a state championship or asking someone to marry you?
Asking somebody to marry you. You're hoping she will say yes. Fear of rejection is bad. There's a lot of people helping out with a state title. Asking someone to marry you, it's just you.
Did you do something special?
I cooked her dinner. I had a couple of bottles of wine. That relieved some stress. (laughs). I tied the ring to a rose and she put it down and didn't see the ring. She just laid it on the table. "Thanks." I had to pick the rose up and show her.
Does your wife ever get tired of your commitment to soccer?
She wants to be at the games as much as I do. It kind of works out because she's been playing soccer all her life, too. She's excited as I am.
Does she help you diagram plays?
Well, we talk. If I'm frustrated, I talk to her. She's very supportive. I'm lucky to have a woman who plays soccer. A lot of athletes marry people outside of their sport, but she came to all of our district games, regional games, state games. She brought the girls with her. They enjoyed it.
You teach, you coach, you have two young daughters. It doesn't sound like there's a lot of free time for Allen.
That's okay. You have to be with your family when they're young. They're going to be gone some day. I see my parents and they have their free time now. They were always there for us. My dad was my brother's coach for awhile and we were on the go. All weekend, it was soccer, soccer, soccer. I think that's what you do as a parent. You give up the time.
Do you think you'll ever get tired of coaching?
No. I don't see myself ever getting tired of it. The hardest thing about going for my master's degree was knowing that when I get it, and when or if I get the opportunity to go into administration, I'll have to give up coaching. That was the toughest thing about it, but you have to put family first. The financial side of it, the family has to come first.
A postscript from Ernest
We shouldn't be surprised that Allen, 32, has a passion for soccer and math. The soccer probably can be traced to the fact he was born in Germany when his father was serving in the Air Force. His father became an accountant after he got out of the Air Force.
Allen started playing soccer as a 5-year-old in the Brandon Area Youth Soccer League, and he was a starter at Armwood.
His mother is a longtime teacher who will retire after this year. Allen and I both confess to watching Barney with our kids, and Allen has the distinction of being the first lunch subject to order dessert. Oops, I promised not to put that in since his wife gave up sweets for Lent.
_ Ernest Hooper also writes a column for the Tampa & State section of the St. Petersburg Times. Lunch With Ernest is edited for brevity and clarity. To suggest lunch partners, call Ernest
at 226-3406 or e-mail hoopersptimes.com.