Fred Priest retires from coaching

Priest will continue his role at Windermere High as assistant athletic director and PE teacher for the next one-and-one-half years.

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  • | 4:51 p.m. November 12, 2019
Photo by Chris Mayer
Photo by Chris Mayer
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When Windermere football’s final game of the season ended Friday, Nov. 8, so did the tenure of its head coach.

After 44 years of being involved with the game, coach Fred Priest decided that now was the time to step down and concentrate on his physical wellbeing, and hand the program over to new blood — whomever that may be.

The moment was bittersweet, but he knew it was eventually going to happen, as all good things eventually come to an end.

“I tried to prepare myself all week for that, but at the same time I didn’t want to make that about me,” Priest said. “I told the team on Thursday — I didn’t want to tell them on game day — so I was trying to get myself ready for that … but it was still difficult.”

Last February, Priest had his right hip replaced — which he timed out perfectly in order to be ready for spring practice — but what he didn’t expect was the quick deterioration in his left hip. The plan is to get the left hip replaced sometime next year.

“We thought it had a couple of years, but it started deteriorating even worse,” Priest said. “And when I was at Apopka I had both of my knees replaced — one one year, and one the next — so long story short I have used all of my days that I had saved up.”

Despite no longer being the head coach of the program, Priest still has another year-and-a-half before he retires, so he’ll be around campus serving in his other two roles as assistant athletic director and physical education teacher.



Priest’s path to Windermere High is a long, winding one that has spanned five different states and 18 separate moves.

The Michigan native didn’t start out like most football coaches. He didn’t play college football, and his first-ever job was actually coaching track at a local school while he worked.

After a few years of that, he decided that coaching was what he wanted to do and enrolled at Grand Valley State University to pursue a physical education degree. During his time there, Priest learned the ins and outs of the game with the  football team, and even coached the freshman team at a local high school.

Following graduation, Priest moved to Colorado and took on multiple roles before finally snagging his first head coaching job at Yuma High School in the fall of 1980. Since then, Priest has travelled all over the place coaching — including stints at The First Academy and Lake Nona — before serving as the athletic director at Apopka for seven years.

When Windermere High School opened in 2017, Priest jumped on board, serving Year One as the school’s AD. It was a good position to be in, but there was the urge to get back into coaching, he said.

“Mr. (Doug) Guthrie agreed that we needed to at least get someone to start the foundation,” Priest said. “I’m hoping that we have done that — I think we have — but I don’t feel like we finished that, but I think we made great strides.”

Building a program comes with its difficulties, as the Wolverines only won three games the past two years, but the game of football is more than just winning and losing — it’s about making a difference, Priest said.

“It gives you the satisfaction of knowing that you made some kind of impact, which for me is why I did it anyway,” Priest said. “You want to win games — that’s how you keep your job a lot of times — but if you’re not making an impact and you’re not teaching kids to be better people in their community, better husbands and better fathers, then in my mind you are wasting your time.”


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