The 2020 high school fall sports season was supposed to get underway Wednesday for student athletes throughout Maryland.
The non-surprising announcement made by the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association early last week put an end to said season, ending the complete sports season for all sports for the second straight time. The 2020 spring high school sports season was previously canceled.
Mike Friskey, a phys ed and weight training teacher at Bel Air High School, was excited and poised to take over the Bobcats girls soccer program.
“So, obviously, it’s disappointing. I feel so bad for the girls, especially the seniors because they worked so hard,” Friskey said.
Friskey is in his third year teaching at Bel Air, but he has a pretty good amount of coaching experience behind him, especially in girls soccer.
Friskey, who is entering his 16th year in teaching, coached girls soccer for 10 years at Edgewood High School, nine as the varsity head coach. He also served as the Rams Athletic Director for three years, before getting relocated to Bel Air.
In his time at Edgewood the Rams girls soccer team won a Susquehanna Division championship in 2012, and Friskey says his best Edgewood team was the 2013 team. That team won regular season games over C. Milton Wright and Fallston, before falling 1-0 to CMW in the playoffs.
“I told the principal and AD, listen I’m just here, I’m excited to be here, it’s 10-20 minutes closer to my house. It’s a nice change and I said I’ll coach whatever you need. I coached basketball, baseball for 10 years, I even tried girls lacrosse. I did tennis and golf at Bel Air, so I just said whatever you need,” Friskey said. “In the back of my mind, girls soccer has always been my favorite sport to coach, so if that position ever came open I would definitely put my name in for it.”
So, it came open and Friskey jumped at the opportunity to take over one of the better programs across the state.
“I think expectations are different at Bel Air High School, I think at Edgewood I held similar expectations, but you just try to do the best with that you are given and we lucked into some good years. I’m humbled to be selected to be a head coach at Bel Air. I’m super excited for the opportunity. Bel Air’s had some great coaches in the past,” Friskey said.
He noted past coaches Josh Clemmer and Bill Zimmerman. Clemmer led the Bobcats to their lone state title in 2015.
“Just trying to build on the foundation that those guys have laid, try to build a positive culture,” Friskey said.
Over the past decade the Bobcats have been a state contender almost annually. Highlighted by the title in 2015, Bel Air had state semifinal appearances in 2010, 2013, 2014, 2016 and 2017.
Friskey was looking to continue that trend. “I think winning is one of those things, I think we’re going to have some talent at Bel Air High School. It’s hard to tell from year-to-year and I think it cycles through all the high schools,” he said. “I think it’s about building positive culture and then when the opportunity presents itself and the talent and the hard work come together, then you have this really awesome year. At Bel Air High School, those really awesome years can be state championship caliber years, depending on everything going the right direction. So that’s definitely exciting.”
Despite the excitement, Friskey was a bit nervous. ”It’s a strange situation to step into, because I don’t know the girls well. Honestly, I didn’t go to any of the games last year. I have seen them on film but not in person, I only know a couple of them from class,” Friskey said.
Friskey says he did reach out through email and sent out summer conditioning information, but no face-to-face conditioning due to COVID-19.
“We were going to play in the 11 vs. 11 league, but that got canceled this summer,” Friskey said. “It’s just been difficult to have that communication. The nice thing is we have had a lot of interest.”
Friskey was extremely happy with his coaching staff. Former football coach Dave Huryk, who played college soccer, was to assist, as was Dave Ackley, who has previous experience with the Bobcats program. State champion girls lacrosse coach Kristen Barry was to run the JV team and Dave Merritt, a volunteer coach, has championship soccer experience at Concordia Prep.
Unfortunately, Friskey and all the assistants will have to look forward to 2021.
“To me, it’s easy to forget. Maybe been a nice reminder during all this pandemic, is just the fact that we’re people who play sports, being that the athlete doesn’t define who you are as a person. But for us as a coach, it’s really important to remember that. So for me, I think the big thing is just making sure to stay communicative and to check in and to let these players know you’re there for them,” Friskey said. “The big thing is to connect and to make sure that as people, we’re taking care of each other, because we’re all in the same boat. Not all at the same level, some people are experiencing more hardships than others, but the point is we have to row the same direction and just make sure we’re picking people up as we go.”
Friskey understands that with a season or not, kids will find a way to play. “The kids are going to play, if these rec and club leagues stay open. To me that’s the important thing, is they have the opportunity to play safely,” Friskey said.