Fritch Hands off to Fritch
TORRINGTON – Michael J. Fritch spent a sun-drenched Labor Day morning laboring. On the home front as in doing some cleaning around the house. Meanwhile Michael C. Fritch was not far away also putting some hours in, his time spent with the Torrington High boy’s soccer team at the Robert H. Frost Complex.
Major signs of change in both the Fritch family and Torrington High soccer family.
Not that Michael J. doesn’t usually lend a hand around the living quarters. But for 31 years and 297 wins when Torrington was booting the ball, he was there. The cleaning could wait. Not that Michael C. hasn’t spent sometime with Red Raider soccer having spent the last seven seasons assisting while coaching the JV team.
But, this was different. A seamless handoff has taken place from father to son. An era has ended. An era has started. Oh, Mike Fritch is still coaching the but this version is bigger, the hair a bit darker and yes, quite a bit younger.
This is the time of Michael C. Michael J. will be around, supervising crowd control on occasion, watching, dispensing advice if asked and maybe lovingly asking an official or two why their cataract surgery didn’t go so well. But, it is C’s game now.
The timing seems perfect. Mike J., Mike the elder, or just plain old dad, is coming off one of Torrington’s finest seasons that ended with a Class L semifinal appearance. The cupboard has hardly been left bare.
It has been a quality run but the course was completed.
“I love the competition, the games and the athletes but practice was getting hard,” said Mike J. who also patrols the sidelines with great success as the Torrington High varsity girl’s basketball coach. “When you don’t want to come to practice, it is time to turn it in.”
So while dad, with occasional pangs that pulling away from a long-time love produces, luxuriates in not having to rush to the high school from his job at Torrington Middle School every day in the fall and running a program, Mike C. is reveling in his time to step up.
He put his time; as a player earning All-State honors twice and an All-New England salute while at THS (1991-95) before taking his game to Eastern Connecticut State University. There has been the better part of the last decade with the Red Raiders program and dad, maturing from player to teacher.
He is ready, the timing is good.
Mike C. appreciates dad, his accomplishments and all the guidance. But, Mike C. isn’t dad and doesn’t plan to be. He will forge his own identity on the varsity level.
“It’s an honor to take over for somebody who has given that much time to the kids and the town. Forget that he is my father, I am proud to be able to take over for somebody like that,” said Mike C. “After making the state semis last year it is like he set the standard again. We are good enough to make that level. In that aspect I hope to live up to him.”
That’s the appreciation part. Now, all of that being said, the name and the bloodlines may forever be connected, but this isn’t a clone situation.
“Our styles meshed but we are different,” said Mike C. “I think the kids will see us as different.”
The differences will be noted in temperament and tactics. Dad has always been the bubbling volcano, an eruption always not far from the surface. Mike C. has the explosion but with longer periods of dormancy.
“Dad’s been one mistake and you’re out,” said Mike C. “I haven’t had the luxury of that. You can’t crush (the kid’s) confidence. I can be fiery. If I have to bring it, I can. But, he taught me that this isn’t life or death. You have to have fun. Most of these kids play other sports in the winter and spring.”
“I bring my passion and being fiery, although not in a negative respect,” said Mike J. “ (Mike C.) is more laid back but I’ve seen him in situations where he can show he’s in charge. There was halftime of a game where he wanted to speak and went up one side of the players and down the other.”
Dad was also more self-taught when he took over from Maurilio Gregori in 1979. He went to clinics, read books, did what he needed to do to make himself a good soccer coach.
Mike C. is the player and the assistant who has soaked up the game. He enters with a solid working knowledge of the game.
“The style of the game has changed over the years,” said senior Matt Rosengrant. “(Mike C.) brings in more of a European style which is good.”
Replacing dad is not seen as a `trying to live up to his legacy’ type situation. The pressure is living up to the success of the program that dad produced.
Mike C. received a card from dad last week that said in short, “Congratulations, you’ve been waiting a while for this. You deserve it.”
Dad went to the first scrimmage but has let the new coach do his thing. His only advice has been that which only experience can teach.
“I told him not to compromise his ethics and morals and he won’t. He’s a great role model,” said Mike J. “And I told him to be comfortable in what he does. There will be situations where he has to coddle a player and other times when he will have to let him know what is going on. He’ll do fine.”
So the torch has been passed. The bloodline is undeniable and the name is almost the same. But this is Mike C.’s time now. The handoff has been made. Dad did his thing and mighty well. Now it is the son’s turn.
And era has ended. An era has begun. A promising future infused with an unbreakable connection to an admirable past.