Strips of hair fell to the floor as Kim Le, owner of Hair Perfectionist, shaved the heads of an entire football team Saturday afternoon.
Each player took a turn in the chair, laughing with each other about their new look, eagerly awaiting the surprise on their coach’s face when he walked in the door.
Bill Turner, coach of the Wichita Warriors eight-man football team, which is made up of about 20 Christian homeschooled boys, was diagnosed with late-stage throat cancer last month.
The 49-year-old – who doesn’t smoke or chew tobacco – finished his first round of chemotherapy on Friday. He first noticed his throat hurting in March.
Turner’s son Bryson, 16, who plays tight-end for the team, thought of the idea to shave their heads in support, and team captain Jacob Reese organized the event.
“That is one ugly group,” Turner joked as he walked into the salon and saw the bald-headed team. “The helmets are going to fit a little looser.”
Then it was Turner’s turn in the chair since he hadn’t yet lost his hair from the cancer treatment.
“My dad used to shave my head like this when I was a boy,” Turner said during the minute or so it took to shave his head.
“Remember, I can make you guys run. ... You’d better win that first game.”
“I haven’t seen your naked head before in 22 years,” said Turner’s wife, Amber.
After Turner had his head shaved, the team gathered in a circle for a prayer.
“This is our second year together as a team, and family has always been our philosophy,” Turner said. “Just to see these guys do this really means a lot. As a football coach, you’re not supposed to cry. But these guys have been pretty special from the start.”
The Warriors were a brand-new football team for homeschooled students that was started last year, said Kenny Collins, athletic director, who oversees several teams for homeschoolers in the area.
“We’re glad to have him, and he couldn’t have a better group of players and coaches around him,” Collins said. “He’s in a good place to go through this.”
Turner is also an assistant basketball coach for homeschoolers. He’s been coaching teams in Ark City and Texas for the past 29 years. When he’s not coaching, he works as safety specialist for NuStar Energy, a pipeline company.
“The doctor told me to keep on working when I can and to keep on coaching, just kind of keep my mind off of it,” Turner said.
Bryson Turner said he was glad his teammates supported the idea to shave their heads.
“None of them really wanted to shave their heads, but it’s awesome seeing them do it for my dad,” he said. “They care about him. It’s pretty cool.
“We’ve got to trust God that everything happens for a reason. We might not like those reasons sometimes, but we know it will all turn out OK. It’s still rough, but it’s getting better.”
Bill Turner is always encouraging his team to do better and work together, Reese said.
“He’s always encouraging us to put forth our best effort in our spiritual life as well as on the football field,” he said.
“I just hope it encourages him and helps him to keep fighting and that we’re here praying for him and want him to get through this as soon as possible and come back stronger and better for it.”
The Warriors will play their first game of the season on Friday against Cair Paraval Latin School in Topeka.
“This might give us more of a fire behind us,” Bryson Turner said.