Walking away from his dream job as teacher and boys soccer coach at DeLand High School was not easy for Chris Dowdell, even after the decision to do so was already made.
“It was hard for me to pull the trigger and hand in that [resignation] paperwork,” Dowdell said. “But I’ve always wanted to live up near the mountains.”
Dowdell, a former DeLand soccer player and 1991 graduate, accepted a teaching and soccer coaching position at Chapman High in Inman, S.C., located approximately 15 miles northwest of Spartanburg. The move allows Dowdell, an avid snow skier, to be closer to his mom.
He spent the past 14 years as boys soccer coach with the Bulldogs after beginning his teaching and coaching career at Deltona High in 2000.
“It’s such a huge change for me,” Dowdell said. “It’s a little rural school of about 950 students. My daughter is going into her freshman year and it just seems like a really good situation for us.”
Dowdell leaves DeLand as the winningest and longest-tenured coach in program history. He led the Bulldogs to a 139-84-35 record, a district championship in 2018 — their first since 1983 — and four district runner-up finishes.
“That was the most special moment I had in coaching,” Dowdell said of the district title.
While he leaves Florida with a 175-133-51 overall record in 19 seasons, his biggest impact may have been made while in the classroom.
“I’ve achieved everything I wanted to achieve at DeLand,” said Dowdell, who also spent time coaching girls flag football and girls golf. “You never win as many games as you want, but I never got into education to be a coach. I got into it to be a teacher. That is where my passion is. I’m a teacher who coaches.”
A U.S. history and economics instructor, Dowdell was named Volusia County Schools teacher of the year in 2016. The recognition came after he created and patented a financial literacy project that earned statewide recognition.
“The Budget Project” teaches high school seniors to navigate real-life experiences based on a 12-year simulation that consists of making theoretical financial decisions regarding housing, transportation, groceries and other expenses.
“I’m pretty proud of what we’ve accomplished over the past 14 years,” Dowdell said. “I’ve wanted to leave Florida for a long time, but getting the job at DeLand was a dream for me. I’ve always said that if I was going to be here, it’s going to be while teaching and coaching at my alma mater.”
Around the area
Ryan Nash sensed it was the right time for change when he stepped down as Wekiva girls soccer coach in February after spending three seasons as an assistant and the past four years as the program’s head coach.
“It’s not easy leaving a program and a school I’ve loved and cherished,” Nash said via text message.
Lake Howell named Nash its new girls soccer coach on May 28. The Silverhawks, who finished 6-10-0 in 2020-21 under Brittany Ziobro, ended Wekiva’s season each of the past two years in the district tournament.
Nash went 24-48-2 during his time with the Mustangs, which included a 12-11-1 season and district runner-up finish in 2019-20.
“I’m going to Lake Howell because of the high expectations and the blue-collar mentality,” Nash said. “The ability is there to build something special. The program needs direction, and I want to help them get there.”
Two new Orange County Public Schools entered the summer with boys and girls soccer coaches in place ahead of their inaugural seasons.
Scott Carnevale (boys) and Brian Charboneau (girls) have been hired as soccer coaches at Lake Buena Vista. Brad Duerksen (boys) and Thomas Brown (girls) are in those same roles at Horizon High.
Both schools will open without a senior class and compete in their debut seasons with just freshmen, sophomores and juniors.