Roger Raymond has been part of the Marco Island community for 35 years.
He and his wife Karen have taught at Marco Island Charter Middle School since its inception 18 years ago. Roger has been the middle school’s athletic director all those years, also serving as Marco Island Academy’s AD the first four years of that school’s existence. He’s coached boys basketball and cross country/track at the middle school all those years and has been the boys basketball coach at MIA for six years.
But an urgent family matter has the Raymonds on the move, and they’ll be relocating to the Orlando area in a month.
“Marco has been our home,” Raymond said. “You get to where you know pretty much everyone. You know the barber, you know the dentist, you know who’s waving at you when you’re running down the road.”
Raymond, 65, will continue his education/coaching career at Osceola High School, a Class 8A school in Kissimmee. Raymond will serve as the assistant varsity girls basketball coach and also head up the cross country and track programs.
He’ll leave behind a legacy of success, as he was instrumental in advocating middle school sports in Collier County.
“I come from Indiana and we always had strong junior high (7th and 8th grade) programs, both in basketball and football,” Raymond said. “When I came to Florida, I was surprised there wasn’t any of that here. I’m proud to be a part of getting that started in Collier County.”
Raymond also started the boys basketball program at Marco Island Academy six years ago, leading the Manta Rays to back-to-back district championships in 2014 and 2015. The Manta Rays slumped to 8-18 last year after being moved up a classification into a very tough Class 3A-District 10, which includes local powers Community School and First Baptist Academy.
“When we started the program, we had kids who had never even played a pick-up basketball game, let alone an organized game,” Raymond said. “We literally had to tell them to ‘stand there, turn this way, don’t go here, don’t go there.’ We had to teach them the game. We went from that to winning back-to-back district championships and having (Florida Athletic Coaches Association Class 2A) Southwest Florida’s Player of the Year in Cole Stretton (in 2015).
“This year, we got caught in an outstanding district. We simply didn’t have the size to match up. We had to shoot the lights out to compete, and on some nights, we did (like in a 10-point loss to FBA). Next time we faced them, we couldn’t hit anything and we got blown out. But our kids always played hard.”
Kelly Monnot took over for Raymond as Marco Island Academy’s athletic director last year after serving a year as Raymond’s assistant. Raymond had strongly recommended the school to hire Monnot two years before as the Manta Rays’ volleyball coach. Monnot said Raymond leaves ‘big shoes to fill,’ both as the middle school’s athletic director and the high school’s basketball coach.
“When I think of Roger, I’ll always remember how kid-focused he is, both as an administrator and as a coach,” she said. “Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in the administrative stuff and lose sight of what’s important. Roger always has our kids’ best interests in mind.”
Raymond isn’t your stereotypical jock. Although he’s spent a lifetime in athletics and has run 10 marathons, he’s also highly musical. He and his wife Karen, the choral music director at Marco Island Charter Middle School, formed the Morningstar Show Band in 1977 while attending Ball State in Indiana. They toured on the road with the band from 1982 to 1994, playing in 33 states plus venues in Mexico and the Caribbean.
As the middle school’s choral music director, Karen helped stage elaborate musical productions like “Annie” and “High School Musical.” Roger helped with the sound equipment. The Raymonds want to make sure the school’s music program is left in good hands, just like the athletic program.
“With all these years in the music business, we’ve got a lot of knowledge on sound equipment and how things work, equipment that isn’t necessarily easy to use,” he said. “Karen wants to make sure they know how to do everything.”
The Raymonds will remain at Marco Island Charter Middle through the end of the month. Raymond is excited about his next opportunity but will never forget his time on Marco Island.
“More than anything, I’m going to miss all the quality people I’ve gotten a chance to meet,” he said. “When you’re part of a community this long, there’s a camaraderie that can’t be replaced. We’ll be going from knowing everybody to starting from scratch. But my family comes first, and I’m needed elsewhere now.”
He’ll certainly be missed by his peers.
“Roger has been more than a colleague, he’s been my friend,” Monnot said. “It’s certainly been a joy to work with him and it’s bittersweet to have him leave. … He got our athletic program started, which took a lot of work. Somebody that has such long-standing relationships throughout the community, he’s made such an impact and he’s going to be missed.”