Frey steps down as N. Caroline’s soccer coach
Started program in 1984, compiled 261-178-34 record; hopes to remain at helm of wrestling team
Tim Frey remembers the difficulty of starting something new.
There was the paperwork and interest meetings. There was the matter of getting soccer balls, goals and uniforms. There was the task of not only finding players, but finding enough of them, and keeping them as the new kid on the block taking his early lickings from the well-established. There was the conditioning and practices. And there was instilling discipline, developing a philosophy, and striving for continuity when it came to standards and winning.
That’s how hard it was to start the boys’ soccer program at North Caroline High.
Thirty-three years later, Frey admitted none of that compared to how hard it was to make the decision to step down as the first, and only head soccer coach the Bulldogs have ever known.
“It’s been my baby. Melch and I started it,” said Frey, who along with his brother-in-law, Dave Melchior, founded North Caroline’s boys’ soccer program in 1984. “I might have the title as head coach, but we always did it as we were both head coaches. We both worked together the same. We started it together. I was in the school, so I was the official head coach. But it’s really both of ours.
“Really when Melch stepped out three years ago, it changed the entire dynamic of the coaching,” Frey continued. “It was quite different then. But then having to give it up … In a way I don’t want to. But I know it’s time to give it up. It just is. Certain things have fell into place and it’s just time to let it go.”
Frey, 57, who will retire from teaching at the end of this school year, said he reached his decision two weeks ago while on vacation with family, but didn’t make his announcement until this past Friday. He has recommended to North Caroline principal Dr. Michael Smith and athletic director Matt Spiker, that John Austin, a 10-year soccer assistant, be considered as his successor.
While stepping away from teaching and soccer, Frey said he would like to remain as North Caroline’s head wrestling coach, a desire he has expressed to Smith and Spiker.
As head soccer coach, Frey compiled a 261-178-34 record, which included winning six North Bayside division titles and one regional championship in 1990.
“Tim is a wonderful coach,” said Skip Ruark, who coached James M. Bennett for 24 years before stepping down two years ago. “I thought his philosophy of the game was wonderful. He has great knowledge of the game and of the players that he had. He used them very wisely. He was always a competitor and every game we ever had was a battle.”
Three of those battles came during a 18-day stretch in 2008. The Clippers closed the regular season with a 2-1 victory over the Bulldogs before earning a 3-0 shutout for the Bayside Conference title. Ten days after that title match, Kevin Yingling’s second-half goal gave Bennett a 1-0 victory over North Caroline in a Class 2A East Region semifinal that ended the Bulldogs’ season, gave Ruark his 200th career win and sent the Clippers on their way to a state championship.
“Jake Spiering still comes up to me and says, ‘Sorry Coach,’” Frey said of that
region semifinal heartbreaker.
“That was three games that were fought very hard; were very competitive,” Ruark said. “Very hard to beat someone three times and we were lucky enough to get through. I mean they had a really, really talented team.”
Though Frey never put a time limit on his coaching career, one thing he did want was the opportunity to coach his son, Matt, and nephews, Ryan and Andrew Melchior.
“That was kind of like the initial thing; I wanted to coach soccer. When they were born I wanted to coach them,” said Frey, who coached all three in soccer and wrestling.
During Matt Frey’s four years on the soccer team (2001-04), North Caroline went 48-14-8 and won four straight division titles — a streak that ranks third alltime in North Bayside history behind Easton’s six (198489) and St. Michaels’ five (1979-83), while matching St. Michaels’ string of four from 1974-77.
As strong as those Caroline teams were, they were always denied in the conference title game, including losses in 2001 and ‘02 to Stephen Decatur, which reached the state finals in ‘01, then won the state title a year later. But Caroline’s 2001 run to the division title may have never happened had it not been for a narrow victory over North Dorchester.
“I remember my junior year we beat North Dorchester 1-0 and he (Frey) wasn’t too happy with that performance,” said Brett Ireland, a sweeper on Caroline’s ‘01 and ‘02 teams and now head soccer coach at Colonel Richardson. “I remember the next day at practice. All he told us was ‘Bring your flats (tennis shoes). Don’t even put on your spikes because we’re going for a nice, long run.’ I’ll put it that way.”
The Bulldogs suddenly got hot and from that point on started every practice with a two-mile run.
“We were all superstitious,” Ireland said with a laugh.
Leading those runs was their head coach, who was perhaps as fit as any player on his team, and had an answer for anyone trying to challenge or pass him.
“His message was, ‘Follow me,’ so you followed him,” Ireland said. “Someone shot past him, then he would sort of veer off and go a different direction all of sudden. So you knew better to just sort of stay behind him and shut up and get your run on and that would be it.”
As well conditioned as his teams were, Frey’s teams were also well prepared.
“We worked hard every day, and he pushed you to work hard,” Ireland said. “We all became better players at the end of the year than we were at the beginning. And you didn’t have to worry about being outcoached. I remember my senior year, us and Easton were the favorites to win the North Bayside that year. We knew it was going to come down to the game we played them.
“Coach went and scouted Easton and told us before the game even started that if (Easton’s) Kyle Wise gets a PK, he’s going to this side so be ready for it,” Ireland continued. “Sure enough we get in a tight ballgame with them and they get a PK. We knew he was going to that side and certainly enough our keeper (Andrew Markey) made a great save. We won that game because of that, just him going out and preparing us to do the best we could.”
Frey said the plan was for he and Melchior to step away from the program after Matt Frey’s senior year — the Melchior brothers graduated before their cousin. But the lure of a young crop of players progressing through the ranks kept Caroline’s head coach in place for another 12 years after his son’s graduation.
“Every couple of years you would get a big group that comes in that you say, this looks like a group that could do something,” Coach Frey said. “And then you stay around for them and you keep going.”
North Caroline had such a group last year, as Frey gave six freshmen ample playing time, and on occasion played all six at the same time during a 4-7-2 season.
“With the group he has coming this year, yeah, actually (I am),” Easton head coach Matt Blue said when asked if he was surprised at Frey’s decision. “They’ve got two returning midfielders with Andy (Adelhart) and (Paul Sutton), and the group of ninth graders that they brought up last year. I think them and Kent Island are going to be the two teams that are going to be at the top of the league for sure.”
Frey admitted that returning cast made his choice to step down all the more difficult.
“That was another hard decision, knowing there’s a lot of potential there, and getting to know those freshmen pretty well,” he said. “At times all six were on the field, and other than my first two or three years, I’ve never had that many freshmen on varsity. It could have been the youngest team I’ve had in 30 years.”
Blue has also had the chance to see Frey from the player’s perspective, though unlike Ireland, he went against North Caroline as a two-year starting goalie at Easton.
“I just always know they were prepared,” Blue said.
The Warriors’ head coach saw still another side of Frey two years ago, when Easton rallied from a three-goal deficit to defeat the Bulldogs in double overtime.
“That’s one of the better games that I’ve been a part of playing and coaching,” Blue said. “Speaking to him after the game, there’s a lot of ways that somebody could have handled a loss like that. He was just a class act being able to handle that and congratulating us. And I’m sure he had a lot of meaningful words for his players afterwards as well.”
Blue also was impressed with the way North Caroline’s longtime head coach handled the selection process for postseason honors among North coaches.
“He was the one that would take charge of that whole meeting, and facilitate everything,” Blue said. “That just shows, I think, the respect that all of the coaches in the North have for him. He’s kind of like the Godfather, getting everybody organized, getting everybody’s feedback.”
But Frey’s main objective was always getting his boys ready to play, no matter who the opponent was, no matter what time of the season. Maybe that’s where he earned the most respect from his peers.
“You always know, even as a coach, you better have your players ready because North Caroline, they always play hard,” Ireland said. “That continued when I was there, and certainly it still continues today. So you knew you’re in for a fight; you better get your boys ready to go because if you don’t step up and play hard it’s going to be a long night for you.”
North Caroline High head soccer coach Tim Frey led the Bulldogs to six North Bayside titles and one regional championship.