Posted 12/11/13 (Wed)
By Neal A. Shipman
Fred Fridley always knew that the day would finally come when he would hang up his whistle, put his clipboard down one last time and stop dreaming up the offensive plays that have helped create a dynasty for Watford City Wolves football.
And Monday, Dec. 2, officially became that day when Fridley made a surprise announcement that he would not be returning as the head coach of Watford City’s storied football program.
“I knew in the back of my mind, at the start of this season, that this was going to be my last year of coaching,” stated Fridley, who after 42 years of coaching at Watford City High School, is leaving the coaching realm as a legend.
During Fridley’s 42 years at the helm of Watford City’s football program, he has developed the Wolves’ program into one of the best in the state. And along the way, he became one of North Dakota’s most honored coaches.
With a career record of 321-103, Fridley has the most wins of any North Dakota football coach. And under his direction, the Wolves brought home the state title in nine of their 16 trips to the state championship game. Additionally, his teams have won the Conference or Regional crown 16 times.
And as his football teams gained state recognition, Fridley was honored with many state and national awards. He was named the North Dakota High School Coach of the Year four times, was named the AP Sportscasters & Sportswriters Coach of the Year in 1978, inducted into the North Dakota Hall of Fame in 1989, named the National High School Coach of the Year in 1997, and inducted into the National High School Hall of Fame in 2005.
But of all of the honors and accolades that have been bestowed upon Fridley, the one that he says is the most important to him was when the W.C.H.S. football field was named in his honor in 1997.
“When the Watford City community honored me in 1997 by naming the football field, Fridley Field, it was the highlight of my career,” states Fridley. “It was something that the community did for me. While being named the national coach of the year and receiving the high school awards was nice, having the field named for me was especially touching.”
Winning 231 football games and nine state titles, according to Fridley, wouldn’t have been possible without the commitment and dedication of his players and assistant coaches.
“I’ve had some great players who went on to play college football,” states Fridley. “And I always had assistant coaches who really loved the game and helped develop the players.”
And for Fridley, who always seemed to have a knack for finding the right position to get the most out of his players, he knew how to produce winning teams.
“I always tried to keep all of the players equal and to teach them the importance of everyone’s role on the impact of the team,” stated Fridley, who coached well over 1,000 W.C.H.S. students during his career. “And I always tried to give the seniors leadership roles so they could help bring up the younger players.”
Fridley’s formula of working with his players and instilling in them the concept of being the best that they could be obviously worked as he coached over 100 All-State football players.
As Fridley steps aside as head coach and prepares to fully enjoy his retirement years, he is confident that the Wolves will continue to field good teams in the future.
“One of the reasons that I retired now is that we have a decent team coming back next season,” states Fridley. “I wanted to leave the new head coach a good team that he could work with.”
While there are many Watford City High School players, parents and fans who were hoping that Fridley would continue to coach “just one more year,” he says that now was the time for him to step aside.
“I have no regrets with my decision to retire,” says Fridley. “After coaching for 48 years of which 42 have been at W.C.H.S., it was time. But I’m definitely going to miss being on the sidelines coaching next fall.”