Subject Line (article title)
Send to (required)E-mail
Send from (required)E-mail
Joel and Suzanne Fruendt remember the first time that then-Batavia basketball coach Jim Roberts dropped by their house.
"Coach Roberts came by to tell us that he was planning on having Nick up on the varsity team," recalled Fruendt. "Since Nick was a freshman, he wanted to make sure that we were OK with it."
It didn't take long for Joel and his wife to answer.
"Naturally, we were pleased," said Joel.
Unbelievably, that meeting took place nearly a decade ago.
"It seems like yesterday," Joel added.
Fast forward to this coming weekend, as the Fruendts prepare for Saturday's Senior Night festivities prior to Batavia's girls basketball clash with St. Charles East.
It figures to be an emotional weekend for the Fruendts, who will watch their youngest daughter, Liza, play the final regular-season game of her storied 4-year varsity career for the Bulldogs.
"It will be bittersweet," said Suzanne.
For the past 10 consecutive years, Joel and Suzanne have seemingly made local high school gyms their home away from home as they've watched Nick, Sara and Liza play hundreds of basketball games for the Bulldogs.
There have been many Tri-Cities parents who have had the privilege of watching multiple (3 or more) children participate in high school athletics -- other families that quickly come to mind include the Coffeys (Batavia), Santacaterinas and Whitleys (Geneva), Barrys and Hoscheits (St. Charles East), and the DeMoss' and Nearis (St. Charles North).
"There's nothing I'd rather be doing than watching my kids participating in athletics," said Joel Fruendt, who played college basketball at Illinois Wesleyan (1979-83). "I enjoy it more than playing myself. I just love watching them play.
"It's very gratifying and I think it has helped them develop as complete people," he added.
Playing at Batavia from 2004-08, Nick Fruendt was a 4-time all-Western Sun Conference performer who went on to become the Bulldogs' second all-time leading scorer (boys basketball) before playing 4 more years at Northwestern.
"Coach Roberts really took Nick under his wing going back to when he was an eighth grader," said Joel. "He has done more for more kids than anyone even knows about."
Sara Fruendt, who played 3 varsity seasons at Batavia from 2007-10, began her high school career as a point guard before growing a few inches to 5-11 power forward status. She went on to play 2 more seasons at the University of Dubuque.
Liza Fruendt, who will continue her collegiate career at Missouri State, recently became the Bulldogs' all-time leading scorer (girls basketball). The 5-9 senior guard has helped lead coach Kevin Jensen's team to an unbeaten 8-0 record in Upstate Eight Conference River Division play with 4 league games remaining.
While Joel and Suzanne have spent countless "summer vacations" watching their children compete on AAU travel teams in tournaments held across the country, they're much like any other parent when it comes to their kids.
"Any parent wants the best for their kids and wants them to pursue the things they're passionate about," said Joel. "The opportunities are there."
Those opportunities have reached far beyond the basketball court.
"Through sports, they've learned about time management, respecting others, eating correctly and have gained an understanding about dedication," said Suzanne. "It has been a great way for them to make new friends.
"In April, Nick is going to Spain along with former college teammate Davide Curletti to watch their former roommate, John Shurna, play basketball (for Badelona in the European League)."
"They've learned how important being part of a team is," said Joel. "They've learned how to define their roles. They've learned how to compete for something. These are many of the same principles they can apply later in life."
Competition is something that comes naturally for the Fruendts -- no matter the playing surface.
"Our family tennis matches are competitive events," said Joel. "A racquet or two has been thrown against a fence before."
Cheering on their kids from the stands, the Fruendts have experienced the highs and lows that come with the territory as athletes' parents.
"I think the toughest part for every parent to accept is when their child isn't out there playing," said Joel. "You have to accept it as the coach's decision and tell your son or daughter to keep working hard. That's all I've ever asked of my kids -- that they do it to the best of their ability."
Joel admits that some of the best learning moments have come in defeat.
"Great lessons are learned through adversity," he said. "They're character builders."
It hasn't always been easy listening to some of the comments made by overzealous fans at games throughout the years.
"I follow the policy where if I don't have anything nice to say then don't say anything at all," said Suzanne.
This weekend, the Fruendts will gather once again to watch a Senior Night basketball game.
They'll have plenty of time for reflection later.
"The time has flown by," said Suzanne. "The last 10 years have been very exciting and have brought us a lot of joy.
"I'm just thankful for all of the great opportunities the three kids were given."
You can reach Craig Brueske at firstname.lastname@example.org