One might think that a 30-plus year coaching career would feature change after change, as the world became different and student-athletes did the same.
John Froedge’s uber-successful career was based on bedrock foundations that have never wavered since his early days.
Sure, there were some tweaks from early years to later, and his own life experiences broadened his own big picture, but for the greater part, it has been that consistency that led to success.
On the very personal side, his faith has always been front and center.
“My Christian faith has been the foundation of my life since I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior as a teenager,” he said. “I am certain that God placed me at a Christian College in Anderson University and led me into teaching and coaching and specifically to CHS. My baseball coach at Anderson (Don Brandon) in my time there had a huge impact on me as a young man. It was pretty amazing how everything came together with perfect timing for me to end up at CHS.”
“My intent was to bring glory to God in wherever He placed me and in what I was doing. I’ve always striven to be the best teacher and coach that I could be.”
A very short step behind Froedge’s faith strength is his value of family.
From a young married man and new father, he has seen his own family grown and he now relishes the role of grandfather. While the particulars may have changed over three decades, one of the first comments from former players of all eras is how Coach Froedge treated his players like a member of the Froedge family.
“Becoming a head coach at 23 years of age, and a new father myself, my perspective was quite different than it was in the last few years as a grandfather, plus there were many more years of life and coaching experience,” Froedge said. “I would hope that I gained some wisdom along the way. Wisdom is knowledge and experience put into practice, and I have tried to do that. I know my perspective changed dramatically once I had raised my own kids. I think I was better with the young men I coached as I went along. I will say that I was always doing the best that I knew how at the time.”
In addition to his own family, there has been the Crawfordsville baseball family.
“A very enjoyable aspect of running the baseball program at CHS has been getting to know and working with the families of the players,” Froedge said. “The parents over these many years have played a huge part in the success of CHS baseball. They have been so supportive and encouraging in what were were trying to do. Most of them were actively involved from field maintenance and improvements to providing meals and fundraising. They were all great fans. I did not take lightly the trust they placed in my to be an influence in their son’s life. A favorite memory was watching the family photos taken after a championship was won, and of course, every Senior Night ceremony with a player and his family.”
The words “I” or “me” were on the banned list.
“We always emphasized TEAM first,” Coach said. “Our consistent theme was: ‘If we all work together and put the team first, we can accomplish great things.’ We always talked about being self-less and putting other first. That isn’t easy for any of us.”
“We never had a set of written rules. Instead, we developed a culture and expectations that were passed down from year to year. The older players were always teaching the younger ones how we did things, and the players over the years were amazing at this over the years. Everything was built around what was good for the team; being a good person and doing the right thing. We were structured and disciplined. We wanted to be a good example on and off the field. Our players invested more than just their athletic and baseball talent. They all spent many, many hours working to make their field one of the best around. They made over 35,000 pizzas and did other things to pay for nicer uniforms, additional equipment and the spring trips. We tried to hold players accountable both on and off the field. It was always my intention and hope that when a player finished his time as a CHS baseball player, he would benefit from that experience as he moved on through life. We spent a lot of time talking about life and things beyond baseball.”
It was the emphasis on the player and the person that never wavered, even with all the changes in the world.
“The bottom line is that we tried to create the best situation for the kids that we possibly could, improving on that as the years passed,” Froedge said. “It would have been easier to not work so much on the field to make it nice, to not raise money to improve the program, to not take spring break trips, to not play games at special facilities, to not traveling all over during summer ball, just to name a few.”
“But to NOT do those things would have been giving the kids less than the best we could as coaches. We wanted to create an experience that would benefit the players for life and in the process make some great memories for them.”
As you will read in other stories today, there are lots of life-long memories and not-forgotten experiences.
By never straying from his foundations, John Froedge’s successes came along. There were baseball adjustments, of course, but when it came to faith, family and team, what worked three decades ago still holds a place today as that career comes to a close.