Michael Fries is in his second season as head coach for the lady Sandcrabs.
By day, Michael Fries teaches ESE students at Seabreeze High School with an encouraging personality. But when the bell rings at 1:45 p.m., he becomes the tough-love head coach of the girls flag football team.
“I’m a little harder on my girls,” Fries said. “I’m pushing them to strive to be great. ... My students would probably tell you I’m very easygoing. But it’s two different worlds.”
Fries said his coaching style stemmed from that of his wrestling coach at Flagler Palm Coast High School.
From 1996 to 1999, Fries starred as a wrestler at FPC under the tough but encouraging direction of Coach Steve DeAugustino. After winning second place at the state competition his first two years, he earned two back-to-back state championships to close out his junior and senior years.
Fries went back to school at Daytona State College and earned his Bachelor of Arts in Exceptional Student Education in 2016. When he started teaching special education at Seabreeze, he didn’t think he would be coaching at all. When Seabreeze Principal Rawlings asked him to be the girls flag football head coach, Fries said he was a nervous.
“I had never coached girls before, never was the head coach of anything before and never really coached flag football,” he said. “But it really turned out to be one of my favorite things to do.”
His relationships with the JV and varsity teams at Seabreeze are simple. During practice, laughs are thrown into the mix, but when game time comes, it’s all business.
“I’ll yell; I’ll scream; I’ll push them,” Fries said. “If they make a mistake, I let them know it was a mistake. But they understand I’m doing it out of love.”
In his classroom, a handwritten note on an index card is pinned up on his bulletin board. It reads “Thanks for the tough love” and is complete with a drawing of a flexing emoji arm muscle and a heart. Fries’ star quarterback, Bailey McQuarrie, who wrote the note, stuns him with her talent, even being only a sophomore.
“I’ve loved having him as a coach for two years,” McQuarrie said. “He’s been one of the best coaches I’ve had since he’s really tough on us. He doesn’t let anything just slide. He gets on us about everything, which makes our playing a lot better.”
The team’s flag football game on Tuesday, March 20, was cancelled due to impending inclement weather, but while Fries sat in his classroom before the school day was over, he said he bet at least two of his players — McQuarrie and Grace Remey — would be out on the field, practicing for themselves during seventh period. Remey postponed graduation to play another year of flag football with the Sandcrabs.
Sure enough, the pair and sophomore Kara Haas were spotted on the field throwing a football around until the thunder rang too loud and pushed them inside.
“He makes it fun, but we’re still learning everything that we need to learn,” McQuarrie said about practices. “And then at game time, there’s no laughing on the sidelines or anything. We’re serious.”
“I’ll yell; I’ll scream; I’ll push them. If they make a mistake, I let them know it was a mistake. But they understand I’m doing it out of love.”
- MICHAEL FRIES, Seabreeze girls flag football head coach
Fries said the Varsity Sandcrabs have set high standards this year, scoring 73 points total for the two regular season games so far, while also keeping the opposing teams from scoring any points.
“I love coaching girls,” he said. “They learn so quick. They push themselves so hard. They kind of adapt to my personality and want to go out there and succeed in everything that we do.”
Last season, the Sandcrabs ended 8-2. While Fries is optimistic about this season, he’s keeping his girls level-headed — with their game faces at the ready.