Michael Fritch Sr. to be inducted into the CT Coaches Hall of Fame on Saturday at The Rent. Rick Wilson takes a look.
TORRINGTON - Mike Fritch has not escaped the power of passing time. His is retired from teaching and has had body parts moved and replaced. The kids are grown, the grandkids are growing. Maybe there is some warmer weather down the road during the colder months.
But Mike Fritch has never grown old. He still coaches and the passion presents itself with an often frenetic sideshow admirable in its energy, appreciated for its volume and noted for the knowledge being imparted.
Fritch the Older has never given way to Fritch the Younger. He was the same in 1976 when this coaching thing all started and 39 years later he is still cajoling, soothing, yelling, stomping, directing and mostly caring.
He has never tired of the gig so he rolls on so much like Young Man River. And he will roll into the Connecticut Coaches Hall of Fame Saturday during halftime of the UConn – Navy football game at Rentschler Field. He will join an august group that includes former legendary CIAC head and Litchfield resident Mike Savage. It is an honor that quells the passionate voice. It is an honor that evokes a mixture of emotions.
“At first (when I found out) I was embarrassed,” he admits. “You don’t get into the profession of coaching for rewards. And I am humbled. Mostly I’m honored.”
Coaching awards are always a measure of time and commitment and results. You can’t ignore results. It has a part. Is it the most important part? Virtually all coaches will give you an emphatic NO. But it is an element that can’t be denied.
Fritch has posted a career mark of 732-354-40 while coaching a vast array of sports. He has won nine titles, two as the Torrington High boys' varsity soccer coach in a career that added up to 297 wins, and seven as the THS girls coach where he surpassed the 400 win mark this past season while winning his second NVL title in the last three seasons.
He has been the CSCA Soccer Bowl All-Star coach and earned the John McVicar Service Award and the Lifetime Member Award. He has been both the Boys Soccer and Girls Basketball Coach of the year. Three times the NVL has named him Coach of the Year.
But the games never ended when Fritch left the courts and fields. He got involved to help them run right. He has been on the CSCA Executive Board since 1990 and was the Regional Representative from 1991-1998. For four years he was the CSCA President. Since 2013 he has been Executive Director.
Fritch has been a past basketball and softball official and is member of the Torrington Hal of Fame since 2010.
Games have only been a part of it all. The most fun because of the competitive nature and working with the players but Fritch has always known there was more to getting involved than just drawing up the plays.
Along the way there have been all the victories and titles, all the stomps along the sidelines, the hugs and tears, late nights and cold dinners and meetings and more meetings.
It is all part of the ride. But maybe the best part in this coaching odyssey has been the blood connection. Fritch has coached his daughter, Erika Pratt, and his son Mike Jr. He watched Erika score 1,000 points. He listened to her eloquent Torrington Hall of Fame induction speech several months ago and he was big part of the feeling and the words. Erika now sits next to him as the THS girls assistant coach.
When it was time to hang up the varsity soccer coaching duties several years ago, he wasn’t worried about the program like most would be who have spent so much time building a program into a place of prominence.
The departure was made infinitely easier because he handed over the reins to Mike Jr. The Raiders have not missed a Fritch beat. The coaching journey, a big part of life’s journey, has always had that special extra. Proud of his kids, proud of their performance, proud of the adults they have become.
Most of the time there are no bleachers set up on the bench side of Torrington’s Connie Donahue Gymnasium during games. Yet, there always seems to be a pretty vocal contingent. A lot of precious Fritch grandchildren if you want to know.
This is what the Coaches Hall of Fame is getting. They knew that when they inducted Fritch. A guy who knows the game but a guy who has always known the journey has included more than the final record and score.
And a guy that still knows. The coach who still yells, who still competes with a youthful vigor and dispenses with equal ardor his special brand of love and lecture and love. A family guy who gets to share it all together.
Mike Fritch rolls on with a timeless youthfulness. He rolls right into the Hall of Fame. This was an easy one. A colorful career of commitment and cool that the calendar can’t touch.