A majority of Bill Fritsma’s coaching career was spent with the Trojans of Fruitport, but it was the Lakers of Spring Lake who gave him his first shot at the varsity level.
So when Fritsma is inducted into the Michigan High School Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame on Saturday, he’ll be going in as a Laker.
“I had to put down one team to represent, so I went with Spring Lake, even though I coached at Fruitport longer,” Fritsma said. “But I was a varsity assistant at Spring Lake. I had to pick one, so I took Spring Lake for that reason.”
Fritsma, 69, spent 24 years coaching at Fruitport, starting at the freshmen level before spending nearly 20 years as the head JV coach.
In 1999, he was approached by Spring Lake athletic director Tom Hickman, who wanted Fritsma to join new varsity coach Jerry Rabideau’s staff.
At the time, there wasn’t quite the animosity between the Lakers and the Trojans since they weren’t in the same conference and didn’t meet on the football field.
“I had coached JV at Fruitport for something like 19 years, and I thought maybe I was getting toward the end of my career when Tom Hickman called me up and said, ‘How about you come over to Spring Lake,’” Fritsma recalled. “That’s when Jerry Rabideau was in his first year, so I went over there and coached with Rabideau, and of course, we had a pretty good run there.”
In Fritsma’s seven years as the offensive coordinator at Spring Lake, the Lakers posted a 47-25 record, including a 12-2 mark in 2000. That’s the year Spring Lake advanced to the Division 5 state championship game in the Pontiac Silverdome.
“That trip to the Silverdome, that was outstanding,” Fritsma said. “You just can’t say too much about that. It was so much fun to do that. That was probably the highlight of my career.
“We still talk about that game whenever I talk to Rabideau. It was too bad we couldn’t have won that game, but things weren’t to be. But yeah, we bring that up a lot. It’s always in the back of your mind.”
Rabideau, who is still the Lakers’ varsity football coach, credits Fritsma with helping him grow into the coach he is today.
“He’s been one of the greatest mentors I’ve ever been associated with in this game,” Rabideau said. “When he came to Spring Lake, he was such a veteran, so seasoned. He brought a wealth of knowledge that I didn’t have in the early stages of coaching.
“There were a lot of parts to the game that I just wasn’t ready for, and he was the guy who was instrumental in helping me develop as a coach.
“I can’t think of a better person to have this honor.”
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