After four years at the helm of the Allen softball program, Philip Spaniel is turning the page on his career.
The abbreviated 2020 season will go down as Spaniel’s last with the Lady Eagles, stepping down from his post as head coach and taking a different position with Allen ISD. The decision, Spaniel said, was motivated by a desire to spend more time with his family.
“My daughters are at an age — 10 and 7 — where they’re starting to take more of an interest in hobbies and activities. The last two years, I’ve had to miss some things that I just don’t want to miss anymore,” Spaniel said. “I want to be as involved as I can in the things that they do. It’s a decision we made as a family and one I feel is best, just getting to watch them grow and enjoy competing in the things they love.”
Although it means stepping away from coaching, Spaniel will remain in AISD — helping with a mentorship and character-building program that’s being launched at Curtis Middle School.
“It’s going to give the kids an adult in the building that isn’t tied to an academic class,” Spaniel said. “We’re going to create a relationship with those students and help them through their time as a middle schooler, help them get stronger academically by giving them organizational and study strategies. It’s a lot of really good things that kids need at that age to help them mature and better prepare them for the future.”
It’ll be a change of scenery from the softball diamond that has been central to Spaniel’s coaching career for several years. Coaching at Allen for two separate stints, with a three-year run at Rowlett mixed in between, Spaniel returned as the Lady Eagles’ head coach in 2017 and helped continue the program’s steady rise toward playoff contention.
That pursuit culminated in 2018 with Allen’s first postseason berth since 2005 — a benchmark moment that came on the final night of the regular season after the Lady Eagles mounted a come-from-behind, walk-off victory over Wylie, 7-6.
“It means a lot, not just to the girls on this team but the girls who have been part of the program who didn’t get to feel this,” Spaniel said following that April 2018 win. “They’re part of this. We appreciate their support and these girls right here worked their tail off. This didn’t just happen – it happened because they worked, bottom line.”
That mentality helped Allen post a 61-48-2 record over Spaniel’s four seasons at the helm, finishing above .500 the past three years. That included a 2020 campaign that showed signs of promise behind a 13-7-1 record and a 2-0 start to District 9-6A play.
“Especially looking back at it now, and being just two games in district and having wrapped up tournament play, we were feeling really, really confident in the direction we were heading,” Spaniel said.
Instead, the Lady Eagles will reboot in 2021 with a roster that graduates only two seniors — Ashley Easley and Lauren Lopez — but will be under new leadership as the team transitions to a new-look 5-6A district that includes rivals Prosper, McKinney Boyd and McKinney, along with Denton Braswell, Denton Guyer and Little Elm.
“It wasn’t an easy decision. There’s a lot that I’m going to miss. All I’ve ever done is coach and teach,” Spaniel said. “I’m looking forward to our future and I’ll definitely miss those relationships I’ve created with the student-athletes and the game itself.
“I’ll miss it a lot, but I really enjoy the time that we’re about to gain as a family. That’s what I’m excited about the most.”