For more than three decades, Bob Dare has coached high school football in the St. Petersburg, Florida, area, molding the lives of countless athletes and winning plenty of games in the process. His son, David, had a front-row seat to most of it, first spending his childhood years as a ball boy before suiting up for his father as a player at Northside Christian High School. Years later, David joined him on the sidelines as an assistant coach.
Though Bob won a lot of games in his 20 seasons at Northside — 119, to be exact — and later racked up 76 wins in 11 seasons as head coach at Cambridge Christian High School in Tampa, David said some of the most impactful moments of his dad’s career have happened after the clock hit zero.
“Ever since I was a little kid and I was a water boy and ball boy for my dad’s team, after the game was over, if the other team was willing, he’d get together with them and pray,” David recently told Sports Spectrum. “If it was a team that was a Christian school, there was always a brief little message about us being brothers in Christ and about using football as a discipleship tool, that we could be better men of God, better husbands one day, better fathers one day.
“If it was a team that was not an outwardly Christian school, the majority of the time he would take a moment to share the Gospel or share a brief Gospel presentation.”
David has a lot of fond memories on the football field with his father, but perhaps none like the one that came on Sept. 1. Instead of looking down the sideline to find his father, this time he had to look across the field. Instead of colleagues, this time they were opponents.
For several years, David has taught Bible classes at Keswick Christian Middle School in St. Petersburg, and briefly coached the middle school football team. This year he was promoted to head coach for the high school’s varsity team, whose schedule included an early-season matchup again Bishop McLaughlin High School in nearby Spring Hill, now coached by his father. After a few years away from coaching, Bob took over the rebuilding Bishop McLaughlin program in 2022. Meanwhile, David is forgoing a law career to teach the Bible and coach football.
David said he tried to approach the big game like any other, but it just wasn’t that easy.
“I tried not to think about it too much in the days and weeks leading up to it, but I was certainly excited for it,” David said. “I thought it would be a unique, fun opportunity, but I definitely had emotions that I wouldn’t normally have in a game.”
It was truly a family affair, as one of the family’s three brothers is on David’s staff and another is on Bob’s. Bob also helped David coach the middle school team, so he knew a lot of the boys on the opposing team — one of which is David’s nephew, his father’s grandson. And an assistant of Bob’s has been with him for years, and is someone David said “is like an uncle” to him.
All things considered, it was tough at first for Bob to get the competitive edge like he normally does. There was just too much familiarity. The family shared a couple of meals together that week, as usual, and the tension of her son facing her husband was almost too stressful for Bob’s wife, Beth.
“I think her loyalty was a little bit more with our son during the game than to her husband, but that’s perfectly fine with me,” he said.
Watching film to prepare was a strange feeling, and Bob said he had to fight the urge not to look over at his son’s staff to peek at their hand signals, which he would’ve been able to decipher if he truly wanted to.
“But once they jumped out to a 12-0 lead, it’s time to go,” he joked.
David said he wondered at one point if he’d need to slow things down if his team scored again. “And then, of course, the second half happened and everything got turned,” David said.
Bishop McLaughlin only gave up six more points the rest of the way and won 36-18. The win on the field certainly mattered, and for the time being, Bob owns the bragging rights.
But for the Dare family, it’s always been less about winning games and more about winning souls for Jesus. Their school allegiances may be different now, but the mission for both Bob and David is still the same: use the game of football to show Christ to others.
This year’s theme for Bishop McLaughlin centers on 1 Corinthians 16:13-14, which implores believers to be on guard and be strong and courageous in their faith. Through his years of coaching, Bob has developed a program that not only helps players game plan X’s and O’s, but also how to grow in their faith. Each Friday, select players share about the type of man they hope to become.
“We really feel like it’s our job to be intentional about these things,” he said.
Like he’d done so many times before, David joined his father at midfield for a postgame prayer. It was special being a part of it in a different way with his father and siblings, David said.
“All three of us [brothers] are participating and trying to encourage the next generation of young men to grow in their faith and to become better men of God and using football as a tool,” he said. “It was great.”
The significance of the moment wasn’t lost on Bob, who said the camaraderie between both teams and seeing how his son led his squad brought him joy. He’s not sure how many years he has left in coaching. In a way, that game signaled somewhat of a passing of the torch to David.
“I got kind of choked up and teary-eyed about how proud I am of David and the man that he has become through his strong faith,” Bob said. “Football has really been an important part of our family.”
David reflected on all the players whose lives have been positively impacted by his father and said he hopes to carry on that legacy.
“I think it modeled for me the importance of the eternal perspective,” he said. “There are so many different things in life that are valuable and good that you can do that don’t involve full-time ministry. When you’re spending your days talking to kids about the Bible, trying to help them grow, trying to prepare them to serve God and serve others as they grow older, it’s something that has such eternal significance that it’s always going to be worth it even if it doesn’t seem like it [at the] time.”
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