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  • Writer's pictureNeal Hagberg


The Fridinger family – a longtime TLC family – has been named the National USTA Family of the Year.

And they don’t want anyone to know.

They don’t think what they do is a big deal.  Or should be made a big deal.  They would be happy if everyone would just go away.  So they can get back to serving others.

Let me sum it up in one story.  When Beth’s and Steve’s boys were young (for the purpose of NCAA rules, we cannot use their names or pictures), this is what happened at Tennis & Life Camps.

A boy had come to camp for the first time.  He was deeply anxious having come by himself.  And then he discovered the roommate he had been assigned had to cancel and he would be rooming alone.  He became bereft and begged his mom to let him go home.  Coming alone can be one of the hardest things a child can do.  I know.  I remember being terribly homesick when I did this as a child.  And if no one reaches out to you, it becomes a panorama of all happiness swimming around you with you as a center of misery just waiting to please be able to go home.

In this case, we always match a child up with another roommate.  Because of an odd number, we needed to triple this child up.  We approached a parent – out of earshot of the boy – and asked if this child might be able to room with their boy and his friend.  The parent stated that her boy’s experience at camp would be ruined with this third boy in the room that neither of the boys knew.  That her child would not be able to enjoy camp with his friend with a stranger as a third roommate.  So… no.

I was angry.  How could this mother do this?  But before I judge (which I am very good at, thank you), let me be brutally honest, I have been in this situation as a parent before, wanting to shut someone else’s child out so my own daughter can have a “better experience” not dealing with the other child, whatever “good reason” there might be to not include the other child.  It is something I am not proud of.  I don’t like acknowledging it in myself.  And when I see it in others, it angers me.  Because there should only be enough room in this world for me to be a jerk.  Not you, too!

That is when the Fridingers stepped in the door of camp to register. The Fridinger boys were in junior high.  They had a room to themselves.  They were excited, as always, to hang out together, to be with someone they knew so well they could complete each other’s thoughts.  And to have the comfort of comfortability.  I pulled Beth and Steve aside and explained the situation.  Before I was able to ask, they said, “He can stay with our boys!  Where is he?  We need to meet him.”  I assured them they did not have to do this, and they said, “What?  And leave him to a room by himself?”  “What about your boys?”, I asked.  “What about them?”, they replied.  The boys immediately, just as their parents had done, said genuinely, “Sure, he can room with us.  What’s his name?  Where is he?  We’ll make sure he has a fun time.”  And we all went over, had introductions, and before the conversation was through, the Fridinger boys had brought the new boy up to their room, where they were in the process of becoming friends.

This is why the Fridingers don’t believe they deserve the national award.  Because this is what they do as a matter of course.  It is how they live. It is who they are.  Why should they be awarded a trophy for doing something that others would (not, as we have discovered, but they believe others would) naturally do?

This is how Fridingers treat their friends, neighbors, strangers, teachers, cheaters, outliers, coaches, family.  In other words, everyone.

They deserve this award exactly because they think they do not.

Now they would like us all to get back to work and stop paying attention to them.

But not before we say one more time. Congratulations.  And thank you.


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