Kenny Boudreaux

Coach's winning attitude plays on and off the court

The Courier (Houma, La.) - June 23, 2004

Most people who meet Freddie Frye would never guess he's 43 years old. He looks younger.

In fact, the 6-foot-4-inch Thibodaux resident said he feels like a teenager, always excited and looking for something new to learn and do.

"When you are around kids all the time, you're going to look and feel young," said Frye, a native of New Orleans. "I love working with kids, and I have to have that youthful mentally of always changing, so I can relate to them and impact their lives."

Preparing to enter his fourth season as head basketball coach at Houma Christian School, Frye has gotten used to working with teenagers and leading them to success. Frye has guided the Warriors to three consecutive Louisiana Christian High School Athletic Association playoff appearances. The team advanced farther each year, including a final four appearance this past season.

Frye said he was thrilled when he joined the program in 2001, but he struggled with the fact that the basketball players at the small private school on Valhi Boulevard were not the most athletic players he'd ever seen. Though Houma Christian has had some notable athletes in the past, many leave the school before they graduate so they can play on a higher level at the area public schools.

But Frye, who had previously coached at the athletic-laden Ellender Memorial High School, was impressed when he discovered that, in contrast to many public school athletes, the Houma Christian competitors cared strongly about their faith. He knew the players would listen to his instructions and work to become a winner.

"The kids were much more spiritual, and they were easy to coach," Frye said. "It was a matter of teaching them how to win and how to execute structured offenses and defenses. Many of the players were probably not used to working that hard, so the experience was as new to them as it was to me."

Frye said the first year was a struggle, but the team advanced to the state playoffs before losing in the first round. The following two seasons, Houma Christian advanced to the second round then the semi-finals.

While Frye has built the Houma Christian basketball program into a winner, he's much more concerned about teaching life skills than athletic skills. But the sports lover and assistant pastor at Living Word Church in Houma tries to mesh the two areas of life together so he can instill Christian values into his players.

"Basketball players come and go and basketball teams come and go," Frye said. "Only what you do for Jesus Christ will last. My primary goal is to build these ball players into better Christians. Long after these players finally put that basketball down, we pray that they never put Christ down."

Frye relies on a Scripture verse from Philippians 3:14 to motivate his players to do their best to live a Christian life both on and off the court. In a Bible verse often used as inspiration to athletes on all levels, the apostle Paul writes: "I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." To Frye, the verse means life is not about racing a sprint, but running a marathon.

"When it comes time for the fourth quarter and the home stretch, these kids need to be ready to battle," Frye said. "God wants people who are willing to stick it out. They'll be able to endure injuries and won't have to sit out. In sports, players rehab injuries. Rehab is spending time with God and studying his word during times of trouble in spiritual life."

Fry said each situation during a basketball game gives athletes a valuable opportunity to apply Christian principles that deal with life. He also believes the way players react in those situations will be a reflection of what's going on in their life away from the basketball court. While many have said sports builds individual character, Frye believes athletics expose character.

"If they can't obey a few rules in the classroom or with parents, it will show up in the game at some point," Frye said. "Some kids think that's not relevant to basketball, but it is. It's a mindset that they've developed that will affect them in game situations. We work hard to instill that mindset in the kids, but the ultimate decision they will make will be between themselves and God."

Frye believes athletes who commit to God and embrace Christian values will be successful in life and on the hardwood. He also believes the players can have a positive influence on opposing players who have rejected or ignored Christianity. Starting next season, the Houma Christian players will have that opportunity in a practical way when they leap from the LCSAA to Class B of the Louisiana High School Athletic Association, a league with hundreds of public and private schools.

"It will be a great ministry opportunity because we can bring public school players into the gym and expose them to a Christian environment," said Frye, who plans to schedule both varsity and junior varsity games against the larger schools in the area. "We also feel like when kids leave here, they should be ready for the real world. People will challenge their faith and this will help prepare them to face it. Some of the things out in the world have never been seen by these kids at a small school."

While Frye admits it will be more difficult to win on the court in the LHSAA, he plans to rely on his coaching experience at Ellender to lead the Warriors to success. As Ellender's head coach, Frye led the team to the state championship game in 1997, only to suffer a heartbreaking one-point loss to Cohen High after officials made a controversial foul call as time expired. The Patriots won the championship the following year under new head coach Sterling Washington after Frye was released.

Though he was not a part of the championship team, Frye said many Ellender players who had him as a head coach for a year and an assistant for the two previous years have told him they appreciate his contribution to building a high school dynasty. Ellender has since become a perennial basketball powerhouse in both 4A and 5A and a favorite to win their district each year.

Frye will also rely on his career as a standout basketball player to guide Houma Christian in the next level. After transferring from F.T. Nicholls High School in New Orleans to E.D. White, he became a starter during his junior year and missed winning the district most valuable player award by a coin flip during his senior season in 1977.

Though he was upset he didn't win the honor, Frye put it behind him and led a successful four-year college basketball career at Ozark University, an NAIA school in Arkansas.

Frye, who played against NBA stars Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman, started all four years at Ozark and in 1980 led the team to its first outright conference championship in nearly four decades. During his senior year, he became Ozark's athlete of the year and was invited to play in a basketball all-star game for collegiate athletes in Arkansas.

But when he went undrafted by the NBA and did not receive a call from any professional basketball team, Frye said he felt God call him into preaching ministry. At first, he wanted to continue pursuing a basketball career at the highest level, but with his fervent Christian faith, he knew following God's will was the most important decision he could make.

Frye, who also served as a graduate assistant coach at Ozark for a year, now helps with youth ministry, preaching and music ministry at Living Word Church.

Frye also hosts his own Hoop-La basketball camp each summer where Christian lessons are taught each morning before the elementary school-aged children take the basketball court for training. He also helps the YMCA with their basketball camps.

"When the kids come to my camp, I want them to leave with lessons that are much greater than just learning basketball skills," said Frye, who also teaches social studies classes at Houma Christian.

Frye said his inspiration for reaching out to young athletes stems from his personal relationship with Jesus Christ and his family. Frye met his wife of 21 years, Nadine, while he was a student at Ozark. The couple’s oldest daughter, 18-year-old Dominique, recently graduated from Houma Christian and will be attending college.

Frye's two sons, 9-year-old Nathan and 4-year-old Emmanuel, have already become standout athletes in Terrebonne Parish Recreation sports. Frye believes that because he obeyed God by going into ministry, God in turn blessed him with kids that have the potential for opportunities he never had. He believes one day his two sons can lead Houma Christian to state championships and possibly become professional athletes.

If that happens, maybe Frye's dream of becoming part of the NBA could still come true. To him, it would be a blessing.

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