Top coach gets all 11 kids into the game
The nomination here for Oregon Coach of the Year in 2002 isn't Ernie Kent or Clive Charles or Steve Coury, bless their souls.
My candidate was robbed of much of his strength and balance by a stroke nearly six years ago, yet it has taken none of his spirit or enthusiasm.
Even at 64, he connects with his seventh-graders on the basketball court, conveying wisdom and compassion as he helps prospects turn into players.
For 30 years, Fritz Page has been a fixture in the athletic arena, teaching youngsters the importance of both sportsmanship and competitiveness. The John L. Scott real estate agent is long past having children of Little League age, but he has continued his commitment to being involved because he knows he makes a difference.
'I just enjoy being around the kids, seeing them improve,' Page says. 'It's like being a teacher. You watch the kids grow, get better.'
For the past few years, Page has served as coach for the seventh- or eighth-grade select teams in the Westview High area of Beaverton. He has earned the respect of Westview coach Pat Coons, who oversees the youth programs that feed into his high school.
'Fritz is just great,' Coons says. 'He absolutely loves kids. He cares about them. He wouldn't be afraid to tell you he's not the top X's and O's guy, but you don't need John Wooden to handle kids. He's very organized, and a great communicator with parents and kids. And even at his age, he's very much a student of the game.'
Page's teams win the majority of their games. That's important Ñ or at least that his players try hard to win. But it's not the ultimate goal at his teams' age group and level of competition. On Page's fall seventh-grade team, all 11 players saw significant minutes each game.
'If people criticize Fritz, it's because he plays too many kids and doesn't go with the star system,' Coons says. 'I love that about him. He wants to give kids experience and help them get better, not just win trophies and tournaments. That is really special because there are not many people like that in sports. He's able to swallow his own pride and little ego and say, 'I'm going to do what's best for the kids.' '
Page corrects his players' mistakes Ñ but not in a manner that embarrasses them. He never gets upset. He's always under control, and in control. His players are in good hands. They know it, and he knows it.
A couple of years ago, he approached me at the end of a Little League season in which I coached his grandson.
'You did a nice job with those kids this year,' he told me.
Back at ya, Fritz. And then some. You are making a difference, and kids Ñ and parents Ñ are all the better because of it.