“I had to read it twice because I thought it was spam,” said Secaucus High School track coach Stan Fryczynski about the e-mail informing him he was a finalist for the 2014 Brooks Inspiring Coaches Award. “I was so not expecting this. I didn’t think it was real at first.”
It’s real, all right, and while the nomination may have come as a shock to Fryczynski, it’s no surprise to the many, many students he has coached in his 40-plus year career.
Fryczynski is one of 25 coaches across the U.S. to be selected as finalists for the award. His nomination was the result of letters and videos sent in by athletes he has coached over the years.
As a finalist, he received $5,000 in running shoes, apparel, and accessories for his team from Brooks Running, a supplier of running gear and sponsor of the award. He also received $500 cash for team expenses.
In addition, Brooks is flying him to Seattle to participate in the awards ceremony on August 5. The winner of the Inspiring Coach Award for 2014 will receive an additional $5,000 in Brooks products and $2,000 in cash for team expenses.
Anyone interested in helping Fryczynski win the award can visit Brooks Running’s Facebook page and cast a vote for him. Votes can be cast once a day until July 21.
Forty years of coaching
Four years ago Brooks Running launched the Inspiring Coaches Award to honor track and cross-country coaches who support their teams, make a lasting difference in the lives of their athletes, and “inspire not only their own athletes, but others in their communities,” according to the letter from Brooks Runnings.
That describes Fryczynski perfectly. A coach for more than forty years, he has also served as supervisor of athletics at Secaucus High School and Middle School, president of the Hudson County Track Coaches Association, executive board member of the New Jersey Track and Field Officials Association, executive director of the North Jersey Interscholastic Conference, and much more.
“You hope to teach them life skills and give them a competitive edge.” –Stan Fryczynski
Fryczynski began his coaching career early. “My junior year in college, I was already a high school coach,” he said.
While still attending St. Peter’s College in 1974, he became head coach at the Holy Family Academy in Bayonne, where he started their track and field program.
The following year, when he graduated with a BA in elementary education, “I was fortunate enough to be taken in by St. Peter’s Prep,” he recalls. “I was their head cross-country and indoor/outdoor track coach. I was there for four years and then had an opportunity to go to the Secaucus school district.”
He jumped at the chance, coming on board as a fifth grade teacher and high school cross-country and indoor/outdoor track coach.
“In October of 1989 I was appointed as the high school athletic director,” he said, “and my superintendent encouraged me to continue coaching the three sports and see if I was comfortable holding on to them.”
Needless to say, he was. “For 38 out of 41 years I was coaching three seasons,” he said. “I let two of them go three years ago when I retired as athletic director at Secaucus High School. I stayed on as the cross-country coach because I really wasn’t ready to walk away from student athletes. I love being with them. I wanted to stay in the game.”
And he has continued his winning ways. “This past September I had my 400th victory in cross country,” he admitted, almost reluctantly. “In cross country, teams only run between nine and 11 meets a year, so to hit the 400 it just means I’ve been around a long time.”
Making a difference
“Over the years I’ve stayed in touch with so many of my former athletes through e-mails, phone calls, weddings, birth announcements,” said Fryczynski. “That’s what’s made the coaching career so much more special. Once you have a little history behind it, many of those athletes become dear and close family friends.”
It’s particularly gratifying to Fryczynski that he was nominated for the award by the athletes who trained under him. “They sent Brooks some essays and videos to nominate me,” he said. “According to Brooks there were a few thousand nominations and they picked the top 25 candidates.”
“I’m absolutely humbled by this whole ordeal,” he continued. “It’s an emotional rollercoaster. A couple of weeks ago, those who were able to make it, they had a little lunch gathering for me – the athletes who wrote different essays and the video, along with one of my assistant coaches, and they had a book made. There are pictures of them and me together and the essays they submitted to Brooks. They even got a picture of me on the starting line in high school. That’s the cover. I’m not ashamed to say that I cried when I read it.”
Summing up his coaching philosophy, Fryczynski said, “I just go and do what I’m supposed to do every day – just coach young athletes. You hope to teach them life skills and give them a competitive edge, teach them about success and failure. You know you’re molding them, making a tremendous psychological, physical difference, touching people’s lives in so many different ways. That’s an unbelievable responsibility and one I’ve never taken lightly.”
To vote for Fryczynski as Inspiring Coach of the year, visit http://brks.co/ICvote.
Art Schwartz may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.