Dwayne Mack starts his day before dawn at South Fort Myers High, where he works with kids facing disciplinary issues and teaches AP U.S. history in two morning blocks.
Then the married family man with three kids of his own jumps in his truck during lunch and drives to North Fort Myers High. There he keeps learning the names and lives of still more kids he’s committed himself to as the Red Knights new football coach.
“I just want to see these kids better their lives,” said Mack, who played high school football for esteemed former Florida High coach Mike Hickman in Tallahassee.
“My high school coach changed my life. He made it so I was able to go to college. That is my mission.”
The playbook for high school coaches hasn’t changed in that regard. It’s still not about money, at least in Lee County, where head coach stipends are all of $3,200 for year-round work.
In the era of high school free agency, though, building a culture of trust, diligence, accountability, and yes, winning, has become that much more difficult.
That has been the daunting task for coaches and programs increasingly subject to high school sports’ wheel of fortune during spring practice and for this week’s spring games.
“It’s very hard. You’ve got five kids living in the same neighborhood going to four different high schools,” said first-year East Lee County coach Johnny Brown, a 1993 Estero High graduate trying to build a program that historically has seen much of its talent depart for other area schools.