At a time when media, and social media in particular, directs our attention to the very worst in youth sports coaching, it is such a treat when the task of reviewing nominations for PCA's Double-Goal Coach® Award Presented by TeamSnap comes around. Narrowing down the list to “only the best,” however, is another story.
This year the Awards Committee selected three outstanding coaches to represent PCA-Minnesota as Chapter Winners. Coach Fartun Osman was selected as one of 50 National Winners. Coaches Dan Fritze and Brian Flynn were named as National Finalists. Take a few minutes to read their stories.
Fartun Osman has made it her mission to develop the athletic and leadership skills of Muslim girls who are overlooked by traditional sports teams because of cultural differences.
After escaping the violence of her Somali homeland, Osman began this work at the Urban Youth Leadership Connection in St. Paul in 1996. Having two young girls of her own, she quickly become involved with the Muslim girls to understand their challenges. They looked different from their peers, ate different food, spoke a different language at home, and often struggled at school because of their language. She formed soccer teams for the girls and encouraged them to defy the stereotype that a Muslim girl with a hijab [head scarf] can't play sports. And play they did – both soccer and basketball. And they loved it.
Osman, a former professional basketball player in her home country, knew athletics could be the ticket to building confidence and bridging cultures. The young girls Osman coaches may well be Minnesota's only all-Muslim girl teams. But Osman isn’t just a coach. She organized a tutoring program for the girls, acts as a mentor, drives the girls to and from practice, and is a cultural bridge for their families.
Eventually Osman began working in the athletics department at Higher Ground Academy in St. Paul, where she does similar work. She continues her volunteer work at Urban Youth Leadership Connection -- up to 15 to 20 hours a week. At Higher Ground Academy, Osman scours the city, recruiting girls for soccer. She makes it her business to take every girl home after each game. She is considered a “second mom” by all her players.
Respected by parents and children alike, Fartun Osman is a unique role model for Muslim girls and most deserving of the national Double-Goal Coach Award.
Dan Fritze knew exactly what he was getting when he took over the East Ridge High School football program five days before the 2015-16 season began. Faced with a program forced to forfeit the two previous seasons’ records; the resignation of a head coach; hostile relationships with neighboring communities, local newspapers, and news crews; and a complete turnover in athletic administration, Coach Fritze took the challenge.
Beginning on the first day of practice, Fritze was determined to put the focus back on the student-athletes and the personal lives of the kids. He established the process of setting weekly goals which included a family goal, personal goal, fitness goal and football.
To Fritze, it was critical that everyone understand that the team was a family, not just about football. Players needed to believe that he cared about each of their lives, both in football and outside of the game. Players shared personal stories, tears were shed and the foundation for the team was formed. It was about the kids -- their personal growth in all aspects of lifen -- and really understanding your teammates. “We Are One” became their rally cry for the season, and it quickly became how they behaved.
Fritze changed the football aspect, too. By concentrating on the positive efforts of players, instilling a “team first” mentality, demonstrating and requiring good sportsmanship, promoting team and school spirit, and incorporating fun into practices, the team continued to come together. Practices were less focused on opponents and more focused on getting better, both as a team and as individual players.
Coach Fritze stayed with this process throughout the season, reinforcing the focus on personal growth, as well as football. As the team continued to grow, the wins followed. And in the last game of their season, the MSHSL 6A Football Championship – a place no one thought the Raptors would ever be – their loss on a last-second play could not take away from the accomplishment of coming so far so fast.
Fritze changed the lives of 50-plus student-athletes, giving them a positive, character-building experience and one in which they could take great pride. He changed the community, bringing a respectable and respected program, both on the field and off, to East Ridge High School. He changed the public perception about East Ridge. People took note of the efforts to change; they saw how players treated other teams, coaches, and officials regardless of the outcome. East Ridge earned the respect of all involved.
Under pressure, under the microscope, in full view of all, Fritze utilized Double-Goal Coach principles to rebuild his team and earn a spot as a PCA-Minnesota Chapter award winner.
Brian Flynn, our final Chapter award winner, is a leader of young people, not just a coach. In his roles as boys' hockey coach and girls' tennis coach, he wears many hats. He is a friend, mentor, motivator, counselor and teacher. To watch Brian teach the game of hockey or tennis is one thing, but to see him shape boys and girls into young men and women -- who know what it means to work hard, to work as a team, and to hold each other accountable -- is quite another thing altogether.
Coaches often sign up to “coach” a team. Maybe they have a child on the team. Brian does not. He never has. He does this for the kids. He teaches them that there is no shortcut to success. Hard work, honesty, and trust in others is the way to live life.
Flynn takes the time to get to know his players individually and knows their personality both on and off the ice or court. A believer in positive reinforcement for good play -- be it effort, following instructions, creativity or leadership exhibited by the player -- Coach Flynn always praises the player on some positive aspect of the game before making any necessary corrections.
The wins will come as long as the kids improve each time on the rink or court. In hockey, Flynn has all his players play all the positions so they learn and understand the responsibilities involved in each. For athletes who improve, even if they lose a game or match, it counts as a victory.
Coach Flynn always opts to coach the less skilled players in both hockey and tennis. And yet, many have gone on to be great players in high school and even some in the college ranks. They credit Flynn with making the game fun and teaching life lessons by challenging oneself. These same athletes say Coach Flynn is the reason they decided to continue playing when they reached that critical decision point; Flynn had instilled the confidence in them to continue and to believe in themselves.
Flynn is active within the Chippewa Falls community, specifically with young people. He believes that the development of quality kids is the key to creating upstanding members of the community, good parents and spouses, who in turn pass this on to their kids. When one of his 10-year-old hockey players passed away, Flynn kept the team together and was instrumental in starting a Squirt C Hockey Tournament in memory of the young boy a few months after he died. He also helped raise money for a new rink in the boy’s honor. He has attended the tournament every year and will coach a team in the tournament this year.
While some coaches measure their success by wins and losses, this is not the end goal for Brian Flynn. Yes, he enjoys winning. But it’s the development of strong young men and women of character that is Flynn’s greatest victory, making him the epitome of a Double-Goal Coach.
We will honor the contributions of these coaches at a Minnesota Twin’s game on August 8th.