Cal head coach Scott Frandsen has a new title, but the job and the regatta has not changed
Scott Frandsen easily blends into the crowd watching practice on Lake Natoma in Gold River, California, where the IRA Championship is about to get started. He doesn't look a lot older than some of the undergrads moving around him, carrying boats and oars, wearing their team gear and colors.
There is good reason for that.
Frandsen has been in this spot enough times before that he is very comfortable in it. It wasn't all that long ago he was one of the crowd of student athletes, some also wearing the same Cal blue and gold baseball hats and black, mirror sunglasses, Frandsen is wearing Thursday morning.
He won the IRA in the varsity eight as a Cal undergrad three successive times, the first in 2000, the third in 2002. And after leaving Cal he went onto row for his native Canada in three-Olympics, winning silver in the pair in Beijing.
And, during his career as a Cal and Canadian athlete, Frandsen has rowed under some of the bigger names in the sport - including his two predecessors, Yale head coach Steve Gladstone, and US men's national team coach Mike Teti, the guy who helped guide Frandsen through the beginnings of his second stint in the school's program as an assistant coach.
So, the IRA is not new to Scott Frandsen. Sitting on a wall on the beach Thursday watching the last practice before racing gets started Friday morning, he appears anything but tense, or nervous about this particular regatta - even if it is his first as Cal's head coach.
"Honestly, it's all very. very similar to when I was an athlete myself," said Frandsen. "If you let other people's expectations crowd in on what's important to you, or what you are supposed to do, then you get away from racing with freedom, and racing for guys in your boat, and racing for yourself."
The questions about what it is like now for him, now that it has been a year in the job passed down to him when Teti left last June to return to the US men's team, have been asked repeatedly this season. And his answers are always the same.
It's the same job, the same expectations, nothing has changed.
Nothing except this really is his team now. And, whatever happens will ultimately be his responsibility.
"It's the same old job, a little bit more pressure as we get towards IRA," Frandsen said Thursday. "But it's the same job, and I think if I let it become a different job then I'm not doing my job."
Franden's job, as he explains it, is to keep things familiar to the group of athletes he is guiding, some of whom have been with him the past three-years. He holds to a mantra of "keep it simple, keep the same training program, and similar relationship with the guys.
"Yea, it's a little bit more pressure for sure, but my interactions with the guys, or my approach to training and coaching is the same. If I make it into something different, then I think I'm getting away from who I am as a coach.
"I think whenever I'm asked how I feel about following in the path, or the footsteps, of Gladstone or Teti, for me it's not about that, it's about me helping the guys create their own history. And my role in that, or the pressure I feel in that, is to make the right decisions along the way to put them in the right position to be successful.
"Maybe I thought it was going to be a different role, but again, if I allow that to happen or force that to happen, then I am getting away from my genuine coaching style, or my genuine approach to it. So, I don't feel I need to be this domineering or commanding head coach. I'm me, and I think the guys have responded really well to that."
These answers come easy to Frandsen, and not once do they sound like something he is just saying to deflect attention. The IRA, and everything that goes with being a part of it in a program that has won 17 times before, is all very familiar to him.
And when he sends his crew to the water Friday morning for the opening heats, he will do it in the same way he launched as a student athlete, and then an assistant coach. Nothing, Frandsen tells anyone who asks him, has changed but his title.
"Other people's expectations - all the questions about what's it like in your first year as a head coach - none of that matters. The more you can put that aside and focus in, or really clarify it, and focus in on what matters, which is the guys in these boats and what we've been building towards all year, and working really hard towards, nothing else matters."