LAND O’ LAKES — Academy at the Lakes’ John Castelamare decided he had enough of of the routine he has had since 1971.
Last Monday, Castelamare felt like the time was right for him to step away from the game and informed AATL athletic director Tom Haslem that he would be retiring from coaching football. Castelamre will continue to teach physical education at the school and be an active figure at sporting events.
“We brought him in to kind of clean some things up and bring some stability to our football program,” Haslem said. “We went through two coaches in two years. We actually heard about him from the late John Benedetto. He was definitely right about John and he brought stability right away and he did really great job for us. I wish he’d stay on board a little bit longer, but I know he’ll still be around us on campus and be a consultant towards the football team.”
Taking over the team that Castelamare has coached since being hired on back in March, 2010, is top assistant Shawn Brown, who has been on staff the past couple of seasons. The team will take the next step in making a return to playing traditional 11-man and move up to 8-man football this fall. Haslem doesn’t expect much to change with how the program is run under Brown’s watch, but possibly a different style of play.
“He’s just going to pass the program over to Shawn, who was John’s top assistant last season,” Haslem said. “Shawn will also be a physical education teacher at the school. Only thing that will change with the team is which style of play they will go with. Coach Castelamare was and will still be a fixture at every school sporting event. His impact on sports didn’t just end at football. It’s with every sport at the school.”
Castelamare’s tenure as a football coach in Pasco County fell seven years short of half a century as he was head coach at Ridgewood and Wesley Chapel, picking up 108 wins in the process.
The peak of Castelamare’s success as a head coach was his building of the Wesley Chapel football program (1999-2009), in which he compiled a record of 63-50 and led the Wildcats to two 10-0 regular seasons, three district titles, two Sunshine Athletic Conference championships and clinched four playoff berths. At AATL, the success never wavered and Castelamare led the team to two appearances in the state semifinals in 6-man and 7-man football.
“It’s been a long time for me,” Castelamare said. “I got my degree in 1971 and 43 years is just a long time. I wanted to coach public school ball a little longer, but I got the job over at Academy at the Lakes and it worked out well for me. When I got here at AATL, we only had eight guys. We were just struggling to stay on the field with teams, but we made it work every year. Wherever I was year to year, I felt like we had good moments.”
Great moments during Castelamare’s time as a coach in the county range from starting up Wesley Chapel’s program in 1999, winning a district championship in 2004, coaching current Oakland Raiders wide receiver Greg Jenkins from 2005-2008 and having 500 people attend AATL’s homecoming game last season.
“I went into public schools and did that for so long and to go over to Academy at the Lakes was a good change of scenery for me,” Castelamare said. “I had a good situation over at AATL, but I’ll still be teaching P.E. at the school. I remember a few times during this past season, it’d be a Tuesday and I’d feel tired and I thought it must’ve been that age caught up with me or something. What’s nice about all these years, I have lawyers, car dealers, plumbers that I know that played for me and I know I can call and they’ll help me out. I think lasting this long and enjoying it, I’ve been very fortunate.”
Correspondent Andy Villamarzo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @avillamarzo.