Josh Frechette is Marin Academy’s Athletic Director and led the MA Boys Lacrosse team to an undefeated league championship and the Division 2 North Coast Section Championship against defending champion Marin Catholic in 2012. He has taught English and coached ice hockey, wrestling, basketball, football and lacrosse, and is a subcommittee chair for the Diversity Council.
1. One of the things that I love about our athletics program is that our students are incredibly good sports—you never see them quit. How do you and your coaches instill this positive athleticism, determination, and character?
One of the largest influences is a tenet from our long-time partner, Positive Coaching Alliance: “Winning is important, but teaching life-lessons is the most important.” Our coaches also believe athletics are an extension of the classroom. Because we talk a lot about being a journey program over an end-result program, there’s always an opportunity to continue to learn whether you’re winning or losing. And because it’s about the journey, the focus is on what we’re doing—and how we do it—more than on what the opposition is doing. That being said, without opponents, we don’t have an opportunity to learn, to push ourselves, and to measure our progress.
Athletics is a place in our society where it’s still okay to fail. It’s not like a one-time, crushing bad grade—there will be another game. Our athletes and coaches really put themselves out there in a positive way. We ask a lot of them, and they work really hard, so we as a school should give them a lot of respect for that effort. This is why we ask so much from our fans. If somebody is coming to a Marin Academy game because he or she wants to heckle fans or get after that coach’s players or whatever, well, that’s not where we’re coming from. Everybody is working hard, and balancing sports with academic work, and they’ve earned our respect for doing so.
2. There is no question that our teams have grown stronger, and we’ve had some incredible championships in many sports. How do you balance the pressure to win with sportsmanship?
We want our athletes to give their best effort, and we seek to coach them so they peak at the right time. Having those conversations about controlling what they can control is important as it focuses the athletes on what they can do best. When we celebrate the banners and the trophies, it’s because they are icons that represent the journey of the season and a testament to our effort. When they are only focused on the end result, that’s when you get into sportsmanship issues, that’s where you get into issues of lack of respect for the game, for the opponents, the refs.
3. How did your time as a teacher influence your coaching and vice versa?
To be a teacher-coach mirrors what we ask of kids: to be a scholar-athlete. The skills I learned in each area go hand in hand. I got into this because of teacher-coaches that I had—I learned at Andover that you could be a serious student and a serious athlete. As a teacher, I found myself seeing similarities between group work in class and teamwork on the field. Being in the classroom and in the athletic realm also allows you to have more time with students and gives you the opportunity to model what we ask of our students. One of the reasons I left coaching college football was that I wanted to also experience the academic side with my students. When I became a high school teacher and coach, I was able to have discussions and connect with my athletes about more than just athletics, so these relationships became fuller. I have kept in touch with a lot of alumni whom I both taught and coached from my previous schools, and those relationships are really important. And now I’m feeling old, because they all have real jobs now!
4. Some people say that MA used to be an arts school, and now there’s a lot of attention on sports. What’s your perspective?
We’ve continued to try to align athletics with the curriculum of the school, including the arts. I think we did a good job before, and we are definitely still improving. The biggest challenge for students is how to balance all of their interests—and high school is a 4-year period to learn more about who you are and how to make those tough choices. We work hard to embrace what the kids are doing outside athletics. I think it’s great that MA has so many students who are super-talented, and it’s also a huge challenge about how to best support them and their various passions.
5. Two years ago, you led us to winning the Elmer Brown Award. What are your thoughts on winning it?
I was really proud to win the Elmer Brown Award from the North Coast Section, and I think it’s symbolic of how we think about this balance at MA. The award is similar to NCAA’s Sears Director’s Cup because it recognizes the top performing schools, both academically and athletically. We competed against 170 other schools for the award. Some schools do athletics really well, some do academics really well, but it’s hard, I think, to find a school that balances its academics and its athletics equally well. The Elmer Brown Award allowed our students to be recognized for both their academic and athletic strengths.