It was a dismal day when Academy students and staff learned about Coach Hagenau’s departure. A few days before he left the school to follow his lifelong dream of becoming a Pararescueman in the United States Air Force, he set up a fundraiser for Academy students and staff to donate to the charity “Wigs For Kids.” In exchange, the donors had the chance to be able to cut his beloved long hair, and become one of the famous people that trimmed Hag’s “shaggy” hair. In this exclusive interview, Coach Hag explains all about his upcoming training, the reasons behind his haircut, and more.
Steven Hagenau, known simply as Coach Hag around Academy, had the dream of joining the military ever since he was young. “I can really tie [the dream] back to September 11th, 2001 when the terrorists hijacked the planes and flew them into the twin towers and the Pentagon which ultimately crashed in Pennsylvania. I remember exactly where I was: I was in high school, we left my biology honors class early because we heard what was going on and went to the cafeteria where the only TV was on campus… I have vague memories of turning on the television right as the second plane was hitting the tower. I looked at that and, being fourteen years old, was kind of traumatized from that. I’d lived my life thinking everybody kinda got along, you may not like somebody but you survived with them. I never really realized that there was hate in the world like that, and since then I have had a small desire to join the military and as I kept getting older the desire got stronger and stronger. I always made excuses; well if I can go to college and play soccer I won’t join the military… well I got the opportunity to go play college soccer so I’ll do that. I kept making these excuses and just being complacent with my life and not really going for my dream and desire that I’d had for fourteen years.” The problem boiled down to fear, “I was afraid. I kept making excuses because I was really afraid to take that step. The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, and that’s one-hundred percent true.” He explains that he always pushed the military off to a later time, but finally realized that you can’t keep doing that. “At some point you’re going to be too old and your body might not be able to do it, so which is why I want to tell you kids to go for your dream. If you really want to do something you’ve got to devote everything you are into this, and don’t be afraid. You’re not the first person to go off and do it, there are other people in life who have gone off and done this before you. If this is truly your dream go do it.”
Coach Hag stated though that he finally made the decision to join the military after being inspired our community at Academy. “Working at Academy and working with all the students and getting to talk with them and help them think about planning the next few years of their lives and help them find out what their dreams are so they can accomplish them gave me the inspiration to finally go back and go forward with the dream I’ve had ever since I was fourteen years old to finally serve… seeing that you all have all these hopes and dreams made me sit back and look at my life and want to finally do it. But working with the kids gave me the courage to finally say, ‘Yes, I’m going to step up and do this.’”
Coach Hag stated that he thinks he is as mentally ready as possible for the training to come, but there is still uncertainty about it. When asked if he was nervous about his upcoming training, he replied, “Every bit. What I’m going to go do is pretty intense, there’s a very very high failure rate sometimes up to about 90% maybe more on few occasions. 90% of the guys will fail out and they will not finish the training. And there are some bad accidents that might happen during training as well so yes there’s a lot of nervousness that’s going to go into my training.” About the possibility of having to go into combat, he stated that he was very nervous. “Combat is not something you ever really want to talk about very much. Some of the things that will happen, and I’ll see over there, it’s not good, we’ll put it that way, it’s not sunshine and rainbows so it’s gonna be interesting. I am nervous for it, but I’m ready.”
Academy students will not soon forget the time a few lucky students were able to cut Hag’s beloved long hair. Although he chose to donate his hair to the Wigs for Kids charity and start a fundraiser, the military forces their recruits to trim their hair regardless. “The government has their very very strict rules, they don’t let people have any freedom. So, you can’t have long hair for a man so there goes the hair idea.” Hag made sure that there was a positive outcome to this. He allowed students and staff to donate and purchase raffle tickets with the profits going to Wigs for Kids. “I was glad that I was able to grow it for a long enough period of time that it was able to get long enough that I could cut it and be able to donate it to Wigs for Kids.” Although thankful, he had strong opinions about his new hairstyle. “I hate it. I don’t like my new hair, I miss my long hair very much. I’m sure the style will wear on me and I’ll get used to it but two days post-hair cutting I still miss my long hair. I miss being able to shake it and whip it back and forth like whatever song artist did that… But I’m very glad for the cause and very glad for the people who were able to donate and buy raffle tickets and give some money for a good cause. I was very happy with the amount of donations and raffle tickets… maybe not raffle tickets.. but the donations for the cause. So yeah, it stinks [his cut hair], I’m not excited about it, but all in all it was a good thing to do.”
Coach Hag will definitely leave an impact on students at Academy. When asked his feelings about his legacy at the school, he replied, “I had no idea I was ever going to leave a legacy at the school. If I do, I’m very flattered and very honored that every single one of you kids may think about me one day. That was why it was really hard for me to make my announcement the first time and why I did get really choked up trying to fight through that part. It is hard to step away; you kids and faculty have made a pretty big impact on my life in this last couple years. I didn’t think I would fit in as I did. So it’s been hard to step away. I just hope that in these couple years that I’ve been able to spend with everybody I’ve been able to do one thing, show somebody one thing, give one piece of advice that the kids will be able to take away until I can come see them again, because Shaggy’s coming back. I won’t be physically here but the legend of Shag will live on.”
What are your thoughts about Coach Hag’s departure? Are you sad about him leaving or excited for him to start the next step of his life? Let us know in the comments below.