Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2007

Fraiture: Three decades of Georgetown Prep soccer

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Chris Rossi⁄The Gazette
Guy Fraiture has, to date, won 310 games in his 30-plus years as the head soccer coach at Georgetown Prep in North Bethesda.
High-school and youth soccer has seen its fair share of changes in the 30 years since Guy Fraiture became the varsity head coach at Georgetown Prep.

Going into Tuesday’s game against St. Albans, Fraiture had won 310 games in his career, against 113 losses and 38 ties. He has coached standouts like A.J. Wood (Class of 1991), who played in the Olympics and Major League Soccer; Nick Noble (2003), now a backup goalie with the Chicago Fire; and Fro Adu (’07), a national-pool player.

Two things haven’t changed in all that time. One is that Fraiture, 68, can still be found on the Little Hoyas’ sideline, standing and watching, wordlessly mulling over what needs work in the next practice. And the second, according to the coach, is the players themselves.

‘‘Things change physically. But kids? No,” Fraiture said. ‘‘They’re teenagers; they weren’t different in 1980 than they are today.”

Even the names are beginning to repeat themselves. This season, for the first time, Fraiture is coaching the son of one of his former players. Sophomore Brian Ayers’ father, Chris, was himself a sophomore on Fraiture’s first-ever Georgetown Prep team in 1977.

Even in those days, Fraiture had plenty of experience in both soccer and life. Born in Belgium, he came to the United States in 1962, at the age of 23. It was supposed to be a month-long visit to his aunt, who had married an American, moved to the States, and had nine children.

‘‘One day, I asked my aunt, if I wanted to come back, what should I do?” Fraiture said. ‘‘She called the immigration office in Baltimore. The quota for Belgians was still open; you know, you don’t have many of us around. She said ... ‘If you want to stay, stay. One more at the table won’t make much difference.’”

Fraiture (whose first name rhymes with ‘‘free”) said it took two years to learn the language and adjust to life in the United States. In 1964, he enrolled at the University of Maryland and joined the soccer team.

He only played one season for the Terrapins. By then, he was involved with a team of internationals organized by the British Embassy, known as the ‘‘British Lions.” He signed a semi-professional contract to help pay for school, and said good-bye to NCAA soccer.

The Lions eventually evolved into the Washington Diplomats, with whom Fraiture became a charter player in the North American Soccer League, a predecessor of MLS that attracted international superstars Johan Cruyff (Holland), George Best (England), Franz Beckenbauer (Germany) and Brazilian legend Pelé.

By 1969 — before Cruyff and Pelé — Fraiture had a family, and retired from playing, though he officiated NASL games until the league shut down in 1985. He taught and coached at the McLean School in Potomac, and when his two sons took up the game, he went into coaching with MSI, then the only club game in town.

‘‘We were specialists at that time,” Fraiture said. ‘‘‘That guy has played soccer before; grab him.’ But of course, for me, it was my kids. If they were going to play, I was going to coach them.”

In 1977, Fraiture accepted Georgetown Prep’s offer to become its new soccer coach. He became a teacher in the school’s Modern Languages Department a few years later, and has been there ever since.

‘‘I had actually played against his McLean team when I was at Mater Dei,” said Chris Ayers. ‘‘We all knew who Guy was, because of his accent. ... We all felt very fortunate when he came to be the varsity head coach at Prep, because we knew we were getting someone who really knew the game.”

Things were a little different then. Winter was soccer season, so as not to conflict with football. Half of Fraiture’s first team were soccer players; the other half were moonlighting football players, like Dan Paro, now Prep’s head football coach and athletics director.

Nonetheless, in Fraiture’s first season, the Little Hoyas won the Interstate Athletic Conference title.

‘‘We had to wear the old football jerseys; those were our soccer uniforms,” said Dr. John Conaghan, another member of Fraiture’s first Prep team whose son, Willy, is a junior-varsity player this year. ‘‘We played the championship game on the football practice field, which was all mud. We had to roll the mud flat so we could play.”

A great deal has changed. The NASL generation sired a generation of club-team players — Brian Ayers went to Florida for the U.S. Youth Soccer National Championships three summers ago. The ‘‘European style” of one-touch passing and playing the ball into space that once made Fraiture unique in the area is now widely imitated.

Beyond its coach, the Prep program also bears little resemblance to its humble beginnings. There are three teams — varsity, JV and freshman — with two regulation-size grass fields all their own, plus the artificial turf of the stadium field for some practices and games.

‘‘He’s managing a much larger system there,” Conaghan said. ‘‘It used to just be a bunch of guys, a very secondary thing. Now he’s got assistant coaches, full-time trainers, and I think he’s managed it all with the same grace and calm demeanor he’s always had.”

All the while, Fraiture continues to have success at a rate that belies that calm exterior. The Little Hoyas won IAC titles in 2002, ’03, and ’04, and shared the championship last fall.

‘‘I attribute the success and the well-running machine to good people,” Fraiture said. ‘‘When you go so far back in a sport, the importance they put in winning the game is what hurts the sport. ... My approach is, I will get them where I want them, but not as quickly as somebody would like. Simply because I want them to create their own game, under guidance.”

Fraiture has begun to contemplate his future, though he uses the term ‘‘slow down” rather than ‘‘retire.” He says he will step down as head soccer coach before he stops teaching, and that even then, he likely won’t disappear from the sidelines entirely.

When that day comes, it will just be another instance of how, when it comes to Georgetown Prep soccer, things change — but not that much.

‘‘One thing that Guy had when he got here was instant respect, and he never had to yell a lot,” Paro said. ‘‘He’s class. That’s what Guy is, is class.”