Close-knit. Shared love of sport. Competitive. There are many ways to describe families, but these words aptly describe each of the three unique families involved with Hope College Athletics this school year.
The Coles, the Fritzes and the Morehouses all feature fathers as head coaches and one of their children as student-athletes on their teams.
Kevin and Jacinda Cole (women’s track and field), Stu and Tucker Fritz (baseball), and Brian and Meg Morehouse (women’s basketball) are relishing a special time together. They’re all hopeful more memories can be made next semester when competitions can resume amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Kevin and Jacinda Cole
Women’s Track and Field
Close-knit. Kevin Cole finds joy in every opportunity he has to see his daughter, Jacinda, run, whether at practice or at a meet in 800 or 1,600-meters events.
“I’ve always liked to watch all of my kids’ sporting events as often as I can. Once they got into college, I thought it might be a little more difficult,” Kevin said. “I obviously can see every single race of hers; I’m always right there. Plus, I get to watch her in practice. It’s kind of a dad’s dream come true that you get to spend more time with your kid.”
Jacinda Cole, a senior, relishes the opportunity as well.
“We’re in a unique position when we’re actually in practice since I am a distance runner and he coaches more of the sprinters,” Jacinda said. “I can have two different coaches that I can go and talk to; it’s exciting to talk to someone else about my races. When he was in college, he ran some of the same events. It’s cool seeing that perspective, too.”
Kevin Cole is a two-time MIAA Field Day champion in the 800-meter run (1986 and 1987) who set Hope and MIAA records in the event. He earned All-MIAA honors four times between track and field and cross country. Since 2006, he has coached the Flying Dutch women’s track and field team to two indoor and two outdoor titles, and the Flying Dutchmen to a co-championship in outdoor track and field in 2011.
“It’s been fun watching him as a coach to other people instead of just my dad,” Jacinda said. “It’s a different interaction with everyone, especially the sprinters who he spends a lot of time with, but I’m proud to see how comfortable they are with him and how willing he is to be a coach for them.”
Jacinda Cole is an accomplished student-athlete in her own right who has flourished as a runner since deciding to focus on it during his junior year in high school at West Ottawa. The education major, with a focus on English language arts, earned All-MIAA honors in cross country as a junior in 2019 while helping the Flying Dutch claim their school-record fifth consecutive league championship.
She also was a member of track and field team’s MIAA title-winning teams in 2018 (indoor and outdoor), 2019 (outdoor), and 2020 (indoor).
“If she ever gets to race this year, she’s going to turn in some amazing times because she’s really, really put in the effort for it,” Kevin said. “She’s also a leader. She’s just somebody that people always look to for answers.”
Stu and Tucker Fritz
Shared love of sport. Tucker Fritz found his own passion for baseball while playing Little League while he was growing up. Stu Fritz introduced his son to the game, of course. Now Tucker Fritz runs with it, glove, bat, cleats and all.
“I met some of my best friends playing baseball. I started forming solid connections with kids and really making friendships,” junior Tucker Fritz said. “That’s when baseball started hitting at my heartstrings.”
Stu Fritz, too, was introduced to baseball by his family in Iowa, namely his father, Darwin, and brother, Scott – both accomplished athletes in their own right. Stu Fritz went on to letter four years in baseball and football at Wartburg College (Iowa).
In 1994, he became Hope’s baseball coach and has led the Flying Dutchmen to 579 career wins and nine MIAA championships over 27 seasons. He has also been the president of the American Baseball Coaches Association.
The game of baseball obviously means a lot to Stu Fritz. Yet, he is glad Tucker Fritz has made it his own game.
“He’s really done a great job of becoming his own person,” Stu said. “People will say when they hear our voices, we sound exactly alike. We have a lot of similar interests. We have a lot of different interests, too.”
A business major, with a communication minor, Tucker Fritz is an outfielder for the Flying Dutchmen. The West Ottawa High School product is looking forward to competing with his teammates this spring. Hope played only three games during the 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Selfishly for me, baseball allows me to see him every day,” Stu said. “We’re best friends, but at the same time, we don’t talk a lot about [baseball] stuff off the field. It means the world to me to watch him interact with his teammates and to see his work ethic.”
Tucker Fritz is grateful for the support he received from teammates immediately his freshman year, a sign of the healthy program his father has built.
“I tried really hard to gain the trust of my teammates, but I didn’t have to; the guys here were extremely accepting of me,” Tucker said. “I don’t call him ‘Dad’ on the field. It’s more of a respect relationship. I don’t want him to treat me any different as a player. If that means I’m not good enough to play, I want to know.
“But it has meant a lot to me seeing my dad compete, be emotional with his players and relate to college students. It’s been an awesome experience.”
Brian and Meg Morehouse
Competitive. Brian Morehouse laughingly admits family board games happen “on a very limited basis” in his household because of how much everyone wants to win, himself and daughter, Meg, included.
The Morehouse-compete gene came in handy for his basketball team, though, during last season’s memorable drive to a 29-0 record and postseason run.
At his assistant coaches’ insistence, Meg Morehouse was plugged in and quickly became a harassing, shut-down defender for the Flying Dutch as a freshman guard. She helped Hope win the MIAA Tournament and two NCAA Tournament games before COVID-19 forced the cancellation of the tournament. The Flying Dutch finished ranked No. 1 in the nation and were Division III’s lost remaining unbeaten team.
“Freshmen don’t understand our defense for most of their freshmen year, if they ever get it. Meg kept battling and battling, though,” Brian said. “For her to earn our coaching staff’s trust to be put in in the biggest moments, with less than two minutes and we have to have a stop, was an incredibly cool Dad moment. It was also a really cool coaching moment to say, ‘Hey, a freshman has earned our trust to play in the biggest moments.’”
Meg Morehouse’s drive to play basketball came from watching her dad’s Hope teams while she was growing up. She made it her own game to love while in middle school, though.
“I just realized this is just so much fun. I love playing. I love being around my teammates,” Meg said. “Before it was ‘I’m going to the gym because Dad wants me to go.’ (Then) the switch kind of flipped and I wanted to go to the gym. I want to get better.”
After choosing to enroll at Hope and play basketball, Meg Morehouse is enjoying the opportunity to be on the same team with her dad.
“It’s definitely been a really good bonding experience for us. When I was in high school (at Zeeland East), he would have to miss some games, just recruiting, having his own games,” said Meg, who’s pursuing a physical and health education major. “It’s nice to be learning more about each other. I’m seeing everything that goes into his coaching from a player’s perspective. That’s something I never realized until I was a player here.”
The 2020-21 season is Brian Morehouse’s 25th season. He is one of the most successful women’s basketball coaches in the country, reaching the 600-win mark in NCAA-record time, claiming a national championship in 2006, and owning 15 MIAA titles in 24 seasons.
“I did miss things when she was growing up,” Brian said. “I’ve done Hope Basketball with my dad (Dean Morehouse) for 20 years, seeing him every day. Now I see Meg. I really appreciate the chance to see my kid every day and have this new connection point.”