From a young age Lloyd Ware’s Christian walk has been vital to his role in life.Six decades later he continues to let that light guide him day-to-day, which is reflected in more than just his …
From a young age Lloyd Ware’s Christian walk has been vital to his role in life.
Six decades later he continues to let that light guide him day-to-day, which is reflected in more than just his successful coaching career.
"My faith has always been very important to me. It was one of the things that helped ground me,” he explained while in town this week to once again help out with the LETS Camp, put on by his friends, the Scott siblings.
“I was a little more mature than the average high school student and athlete. I always thought it was student first and athlete second. It was important to me how you handled yourself in the classroom.
"The fellows I hung around with called me ‘Reverend,’ ‘Preacher,’ ‘Deacon’ or ‘Monk,’ because I was always serious and tried to keep them out of trouble," explained Ware, noting the latter nickname being the one most Bradley Countians recognize.
A standout athlete for Cleveland High School in the mid-1970s, “Monk” credits his mother, Alice, with a strong upbringing that helped steer him in the right direction.
"There was a time when we were getting ready to play Bradley (in basketball) and at the first of the week our grade progress reports came out. It showed I had a C in English class, which was always my weakest subject, even in college," he related.
"You had to take the progress report home and get it signed. When mother saw the C on the report, she said I was ineligible to play.
"I told her no, I'm eligible. Coach (Chuck) Condo and Coach (Greg) Davis came to my house and sat in the living room and try to convince her a C was okay. She said, 'Not in my house. My son will not play until his C becomes at least a B.'
"That was on Monday, so I had a week to get the grade up," Ware continued. "I went to my English teacher, explained the situation and asked if I could do anything for extra credit. She told me I had to read a book and write a book report on it to get the grade up. I only had three days to do it, but that's what I did."
"I scored 22 points in the game and we beat Bradley by eight," he concluded.
"He (Ware) was tough to go against," proclaims current Bradley head coach Chuck Clark, who was one of the top Bear players during the same time period. "He was quick and even though he wasn't tall, he'd bang and fight right with you."
Clark did find Ware's "achilles heel" though at a Boys Club outing.
"We had been playing ball, which included a few fights, all day, then we had a group camp out out behind the club that night on the edge of the (Fort Hill) cemetery," shared Clark.
"They got to telling ghost stories before we went to sleep. An hour or so later I felt something crawling in my sleeping bag. It was 'Monk.'"
"I was scared. I figured as big as he (Clark) was, nothing was going to get him, so I'd be safe," laughed Ware.
No one ever questioned "Monk's" toughness on the varied athletic fields.
"When he was in high school, I had communications with the football, basketball and other coaches at Cleveland," related Terry Scott, the eldest of the legendary Scott siblings.
"Lloyd (Ware) was pound-for-pound the toughest athlete to come through Cleveland at that time. He was a starting linebacker even though he wasn't much smaller than he is now."
According to Ware he was 5-foot-8, 175 pounds in high school. The fleet-footed standout also started at running back, was an exciting kick returner and played on the kick off team on wide coverage.
"The only time I came off the field was during halftime," commented Ware, who was also a starting guard on the Blue Raider basketball squad, as well as running the 100- and 200-yard dashes, plus relays for the track teams.
"I was on track team the year Paul Davis and Bobby Thompson won the state (team) title, but none of the rest of us qualified for the state meet," Ware related. "I played football for Coach (Bobby) Scott. My senior year, we advanced to the (TSSAA) state semifinals, but lost to Maryville (17-14), plus in basketball we lost to Riverside in substate."
Although he wasn't on the team, Ware also helped out the Raider wrestling team.
"I had a friend on the team who was really good, he was a champion, but he didn't have anybody he could practice against to get better," he explained. "He and I were about the same size, so after basketball practice, I'd go down there and wrestle him. I was strong and quicker than him, so it helped him get better."
While "Monk" drew his fair share of accolades for his athletic prowess, he is especially proud of one honor.
"The most important award I won in high school was the (Fellowship of) Christian Athletes award for the tri-state area in 1977.
"Then in college the David Henderson Christian Leadership Award at Oral Roberts University. David was an ORU athlete, who died in a car accident on his way back home to Cleveland, Tenn., so to win that award was a great honor."
One of the top athletes to ever put on a Cleveland uniform, Ware drew multiple scholarship offers to play football, basketball and track at the collegiate level.
“I was recruited by Coach Barry Switzer to play for him at Oklahoma, but when I went to visit, I just didn’t feel comfortable there,” Ware said of the program that had won NCAA National Football Championships in 1974 and '75.
However another opportunity in the Sooner State turned out to be the right choice.
"I knew Alice, his mom, and I knew her family. I didn't really know him (Ware), but I knew he was attending church and was involved in the ministry, as far as the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and stuff like that," explained Scott, who was a standout athlete at Bradley before making his way to play for Oral Roberts University himself and later joining the coaching staff.
"I felt like he was a perfect ORU-candidate. The type of guy who could come out there and do well.
"I talked to Coach (Ken) Trickey (ORU's legendary basketball coach) and told him he had always helped out Cleveland guys and I had another one for him. He wanted to see him. We had me, Greg (Davis) and Alvin (Scott), who had already played there.
"We wanted Lloyd, who was part of the family from Northeast (Recreation Center), to also come out and be a part of the program. This gave him an opportunity to come get an education at a great school and play for a great program that affected him for the rest of his life.
"I never envisioned him staying out there all this time, but then again, I never expected to stay out there 40-something years, either," said Scott.
"I remember sitting in my living room when Greg Davis and Terry Scott came over to my house to talk to my mom about which college I should go to," recalled Ware.
"She wanted me to go to the University of Tennesse, but they told her I would be too close to home. That I'd be back every weekend, getting in trouble with my buddies.
"They suggested to her that I go to Claremore (Okla.) Junior College and then ORU," he continued. "Next thing I know we're pulling up to the campus and they tell Coach Trickey he needs to give me a scholarship because I'd probably be his best player. He did, without ever seeing me play.
"In the summer of '77, I stayed at Coach Trickey's house and he got me a job in the city of Claremore as a lifeguard.
"I enrolled and had only intended to go to Claremore (Junior College) just one semester, but within a month of starting, I was elected student body president. I ended up staying two years before going on to ORU," stated Ware.
"Even though I had a scholarship, I still had to make the team. There were 24 (players) trying out and only 15 jerseys, so I had to prove I deserved it."
He did that and more as he stayed in the Tulsa area after graduation and for the past 38 years has been sharing his life and athletic philosophies as a coach.
"My first coaching job was with Terry Scott at Central High School in Tulsa," he stated. "I had just graduated ORU and didn't know what I was going to do. He told I needed to come coach with him and let him tutor me.
"We won two state championships in the next four years. Then I had a conversation with him about wanting to become a head coach," Ware explained. "I got the opportunity to take over the (basketball) program at the rival school (McLain), which is like winning two state championships at Bradley and then becoming the head coach at Cleveland. It's that intense of a rivalry.
"I hired him to be my freshman coach after he got his degree and certification," recalled Scott. "He helped us win my first two (of three) state championships.
"I knew he had more to offer and he went to a charter school, McLain (High School of Science and Technology), where he not only did a great job with the basketball program, but had great success coaching other sports as well.
"I had always looked at him from a distance and thought this guy is going to be something one day," Scott continued. "He had the patience to not only start a golf program, plus coached volleyball and swimming, which he wasn't previously proficient in, to go with his basketball, football and track experience.
"He is just overall tough mentally. I knew he came from an area (Cleveland), like myself, with a big pool of people pulling for him. His pool is a lot bigger than mine. There are a lot of Wares around here," Scott commented.
"I started the golf program (at McLain) because my daughter wanted to play golf," Ware explained.
"I knew nothing about the sport. I got a bucket of range balls and went into a field and taught myself how to hit a ball."
He then started watching Jack Nicklaus and Freddy Couples and analyzing their swings to learn how to do it properly. After picking up the game, he then taught not only both of his daughters but several others as well.
His youngest daughter, Ericka, was an all-state performer before going to play for Alabama State University.
"We won three state championships. Some people at first thought we were cheating, because they couldn't figure out how these inner-city black and hispanic kids were making the state tournament," related Ware. "When they saw us on the course they understood, these girls could really play.
"Our girls were very polite and would help you find your ball, all the while kicking your butt. We won 64 tournaments while I was there. We won the conference 13 times and went to state tournament 12 times.
"My younger daughter (Ericka) was by far the best player on the team and became the best in the state," he assessed. "She got that way with her own determination and drive.
"After her older sister (Alicia) beat her when they were sophomores and freshmen, she started hitting 250 balls a day to get better," Ware related of his daughters who just are 15 months apart in age.
"The next year, the youngest daughter beat her sister and the older one gave up golf and joined the band. They were the best two golfers in the Tulsa area.
"They went to rival schools and while they were sisters and got along great, on the golf course they were going to get each other. They pushed each other."
Ericka currently teaches at the Tulsa University, while Alicia is teaching at the same charter school her dad went to after retiring from public schools two years ago. She is helping him get a golf program started there this coming year.
While still at McLain, Ware was called on to also help with a couple other sports programs he wasn't previously familiar with.
"The athletic director asked me to take over the volleyball program, which was already an established team, but was struggling. We won two state titles with it. I also coached swimming and had some swimmers qualify for the state meet.
"Before I retired (in 2016 after 26 years at the school), the principal asked me if I wanted to coach football, but I declined," he shared. "They felt like no matter what I coached, we were going to win.
"I attribute that to what I learned here (in Cleveland) and at ORU with Coach Trickey, Coach Davis and Coach Scott."
His coaching philosophies are simple:
"Win with class, lose with dignity. Act like you've been there. Don't show up your opponent. Play the game the right way. The right way is properly prepare. Do your homework. No one out works you. If you work hard, have good attitude and play the right way, you have something to be proud of, win or lose," he related.
Now working at Tulsa Agriculture & Arts Academy, along with teaching two art classes a day, he has been coaching yet another sport he had no experience in — soccer.
"I learned how to coach soccer on YouTube. Watching videos about drills, strategy and rules."
Always wanting to pour into young people, what has been shared with him, Ware is always willing to help out.
"Coach Trickey, Coach Scott and Coach Davis saw something in me I did not see myself. They knew if they put me in the right spot, the right place, I'd flourish and that's exactly what happened," he explained.
"Having someone believe in you is very important. That's why I like to come back for this camp," he said of the LETS Camp he's participated in since its inception.
"I want give back, or give forward, and let these kids know somebody believes in them. There are people who poured into me and gave me a chance. I want to do the same for these kids."
His willingness and contribution to the success of the camp, which is free to participants, is greatly appreciated by the sponsoring family.
"I'm very proud of him," proclaims Terry Scott. "When we first starting talking about this camp, he said he wanted to be a part of it. He pays his own way here and comes to be a part of reaching out to these kids.
"What we did at Oral Roberts, we talked to boys and girls about how to go out into the world and keep their goals intact. That's the one thing he has done.
"I've never heard him use profanity. He has great patience and works with the kids to help them not only as athletes but to be good people," assessed Scott.
Without a doubt, Ware epitomizes the desire and goals of the Life Education Through Sports (LETS) camps, shining a light that other may see.
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