ARMADA Dave Fredette could only smile and shake his head.
For the past 50 years he has been on a path that he never expected. But it has brought him joy and satisfaction.
Fredette has been the common thread in the Armada High School tennis program since its inception. He helped start the program and has been the boys tennis coach the past 50 years.
“I never thought I would coach this long,” Fredette said. “Anyone that coaches 50 years would say it is insane. The kids have been great. I turned 74-years-old last Friday. Do I feel old? No. Am I old? Yeah. But there is a difference in being old and feeling old.”
Fredette has coached hundreds of players and recorded numerous accomplishments in that span. His teams have won 23 league championships and 10 regional championships. His teams have also been named team of the year in Macomb County 14 seasons and this week they will make their 34th appearance at the state meet.
“It’s sort of like a reward for your season,” Fredette said of the state meet. “Even though we will go in as huge underdogs in every match. It gives you a chance to compete against the best and get ready for the following year.”
Despite having so many accomplishments and enjoying such a lengthy career, Fredette does not see the end in sight of his coaching career.
“I do this on a year-to-year basis,” he said. “I plan for sure to coach next year. It all depends on if my body can physically do it and if my mind can do it. I really don’t know how much longer I will do it but I think I can do it for several more years.”
That is music to his players’ ears. They couldn’t image playing without Fredette’s calming influence.
“He’s just always there for you,” Armada No. 1 singles player Brett Reuter said. “Every day you can ask him to help you in any way you need. It’s definitely nice to have a coach that’s always there.
“He knows a lot. He knows the game like the back of his hand. Every year it’s our goal to get to states.”
The Tigers are not alone in that mindset. They will be joined at the Division 3 event in Holland along with St. Clair and Yale. Meanwhile, Port Huron Northern will head to the Division 1 event at the Greater Midland Tennis Center.
The Huskies are coming off a regional championship and hope to compete for a top 10 finish.
“States at the Midland Tennis Center can be very overwhelming for a first-timer,” Northern coach Char Sweeney said. “It’s a pretty big stage with all of the best players. The majority of our team has been there before, so they’ll be able to stay calm and focused, and hopefully that will influence the first timers so they can play their best.
“The players have worked hard. We are looking for a top ten finish and to still be standing on the second day. The keys will be to stay focused on one point at a time and not get ahead of ourselves. To not get overwhelmed and distracted by the significance of states and to just go out there to have some fun and leave it all on the court.”
Port Huron High will make its first appearance at the state finals since 2007 when it competes in the Division 2 competition held at Holly, Fenton and Grand Blanc High Schools.
“Our goals are to get a point at a flight, but more importantly see some great tennis and build on this experience to move our program forward so our state run won’t be so unexpected in the future,” Port Huron coach Paul Harris said.
“Our key is the draw. I have some very talented players who if given the right draw could win a round and give our team points.”
Danny Hale of Sandusky will head to the Division 4 event at Kalamazoo College. Hale advanced by finishing as the runner-up at regionals in No. 1 singles.
Contact Joseph Hayes at (810) 989-6268 or at [email protected] Follow him on twitter @jhayes1136.
State Tennis Finals
Port Huron Northern at Greater Midland Tennis Center
Port Huron High at Holly, Fenton, Grand Blanc
St. Clair, Armada, Yale at Holland
Sandusky at Kalamazoo College