Robert Friske never gets a break, and that’s the way he likes it. Friske is not only the head coach of the Oswego State men’s soccer team, but he is also the head coach of the men’s tennis team as well. He made a yearlong commitment to both teams — a commitment he made very willing. One might ask why Coach Friske wants to take on the responsibilities of two Division III college sports teams, and his answer is simple: he loves what he is doing. “I enjoy coaching student athletes and I’m happy to help them,” Friske said.
Friske knew what he was getting himself into when he accepted the offer to become the interim tennis coach four years ago. At the time, he was already the men’s soccer coach at Oswego State. While some coaches would back away from the challenges of coaching two teams at once, Friske wanted to take on the challenge. In fact, he was excited.
“I was pumped because I knew some of the tennis guys from the PED classes I teach and I was happy to help them,” Friske said. “They were great guys. One of those student-athletes is my current assistant, Tom Loughrey. I wanted to make sure students like Tom Loughery had a great senior year, and he did. My favorite part of being a coach is seeing student-athletes improve and building relationships along the way.”
Coaching two teams at once might be his expertise. Friske, an 18-year coaching veteran, had previously coached two teams at once for six years at Keuka College and at Norwich University. The teams he coached there were also the men’s soccer team and the men’s tennis team. Friske accepted the challenge, and has since had the interim title removed and has become the official head coach of the men’s tennis team.
“I was named head tennis coach two seasons ago. I was named interim coach four years ago also. Whether it’s interim head coach or head coach, I don’t think about the title; I think about how I can help,” Friske said. He tries to always make himself available to all of his players. “Coaches have to be available 24-7 though, and I’m available to them like that also; it’s not a 9-5 job,” Friske said. “We also have individual meetings in both sports throughout both semesters.”
“He’s in his office all the time to talk about strategy or anything else. It’s pretty easy to talk to him,” senior tennis player Dillon Corbett, who has played for Coach Friske since the fall of 2010, said.
While Coach Friske leads both the soccer team and the tennis team, he is by no means the same coach for both sports. On the soccer field, Friske takes a more hard-nosed approach.
“On the soccer field, he’s more of a ‘play your heart out’ kind of coach. He tells us to always give it your all and has more of a ‘stick it to him’ type of attitude,” sophomore Sam Moores said, who plays for Friske on both the soccer team and tennis team. “In terms of tennis, he’s more laid-back. He says you always have to respect your opponent and be polite, so he’s definitely more laid-back.”
Soccer and tennis are two completely different sports, so it’s not surprising to hear that Coach Friske has different coaching styles. However, when it comes to motivating his players, Friske is the same no matter who he’s talking to.
“I actually had a match today (Tuesday vs. Elmira), and before the match he pumped up the guys on the tennis team before the match the same way he does the soccer team before a game,” Moores said. “It’s kind of cool to see because all of the tennis coaches I had before college were very composed and professional, and Coach Friske is just a huge motivator; he holds nothing back and I like it.”
Some may wonder if there is any conflict of interest with Friske, but since fall semester is the soccer team’s regular season, and spring semester is the tennis team’s regular season, there are generally no issues.
“Whichever team is in season I tend to focus on, but it’s a year-round effort to manage and organize, not seasonal. “ Friske said. “The players and captains are mature, quality athletes. The support staff, administrators, academic monitors, trainers, equipment room — everyone plays a major role. My assistant Bryan Pacchiana is doing a great job helping as the soccer assistant. Tom Loughrey is doing a great job as the tennis assistant. Both teams are talented, young, competitive and a pleasure to work with.”
However, Friske does make an effort to attend pre-season matches for both teams.
“I think he does a good job of mixing and matching,” junior tennis player Ben Weiss said. “Obviously now he has to put most of his attention on soccer, but for our first match of the fall, he left soccer practice and then came to the match and stayed to the end of it. So, he still cares about what’s going on and he still keeps in touch with everyone.”
Going forward, Friske has high expectations for the soccer team, despite the slow start (1-7-0). The team has four consecutive home games coming up, and two big games this weekend. This weekend is Alumni Weekend and the team will be going up against SUNY Potsdam and SUNY Plattsburgh.
“Playing at home is great and Alumni Weekend is always exciting. These next four games will be interesting and memorable, I’m sure,” Friske said.
Friske knows how exciting this game can be and knows he sometimes has to calm his team down.
“Coach told us we pretty much need to keep our composure, knowing we’re all going to be excited and pumped up, and remember what we are doing here. We need to not be over-excited, stay calm, keep our composure and keep our minds straight,” senior goalie Pat Breen said.
Next weekend, the soccer team has its Senior Day game and will sport jerseys to support breast cancer awareness.
Friske has also set several goals for his tennis team this season. “Our goals are for each player to get better, our team to compete well, and represent the school well while having a positive and fun experience.”