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BENNINGTON — The longtime Arlington and Mount Anthony basketball coach who won eight state championships will be inducted into the Vermont Sports Hall of Fame this April.

Dave Fredrickson, who coached in southern Vermont for 36 years, 32 of those years at Mount Anthony, takes the honor in stride with his trademark humor and disarming smile.

“It’s kind of a select group,” Fredrickson said from his home in Bennington. “I’m pretty honored. I mean, there are Olympians in there. There are people I watch on TV. I’m happy to be there.”

Fredrickson grew up in Westfield, Mass., and eventually went to Springfield College, where he met his wife. “She was at Bay Path, an all-girls school. We went to a dance, and I recognized her because we went to the same high school. Yeah, but she’s old. She’s a year ahead of me,” he said, laughing.

“Until I started my senior year in football, I did not have a lot of confidence in such things. But our first date. I took her to a Westfield High football game.”

During a brief stint student teaching at Springfield, a co-worker told him about the opening in Arlington. Even though he was only two years out of college, with no experience coaching, Fredrickson volunteered to take on its struggling basketball team. He was hired in Arlington to create a physical education program for the school and stayed there for four years.

“Truth is, sixth grade was the last time I played basketball. I was a football guy,” Fredrickson said. “That team in Arlington was 2-18 when I came. I told myself I could do that,” he said with a laugh.

“Funny story about those first years coaching in Arlington,” Fredrickson recalled. “We start practice, and I said, ‘We’ll be in six days a week, and 10 o’clock Saturday morning.’ There was a lot of grumbling right about then. Finally, I said, ‘If you’re going to be on this team, you’ll be there at 10 o’clock.’ So, I’m setting up the gym at about 9:30, and the first kid comes in carrying a rifle. The next two guys come in carrying rifles. I think this is going to be a hostile takeover. They don’t want to practice. It turns out Saturday was the opening day of deer hunting, which was a big deal, and they all had guns. It was 1963. Go figure.”

But what Fredrickson really wanted was to coach football. “I took coaching classes, so I could do it.”

And coach football he did. For three seasons, Fredrickson coached the football and basketball teams in Arlington before giving up football. He won four straight league championships with the basketball program, one for each year he coached, before moving to what he jokingly called “The Big City” of Bennington to coach at Mount Anthony. Fredrickson went on to coach the boys’ basketball team at Mount Anthony Union High School for 32 years, eventually winning eight straight state championships.

When asked about any notable players or teams he’s coached over the years, Fredrickson deferred to the advice of a former player.

“People ask, you know, ‘Who’s best player you ever had?’ And Jonathan Aviana, one of my guards, said, ‘Coach, don’t answer that. You’re going to piss off a lot of people.’ That’s not a bad idea, I told him. OK, we’ll take that to heart.”

Fredrickson’s coaching philosophy never strayed from some very basic basketball fundamentals.

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“It always starts with defense. One of my teams gave me a shirt. It said something like, ‘Offense wins games, defense wins championships.’ Those kids were believers. We started with defense and kept things pretty simple. It helped me that I was not a star and could relate to our guys. I think a big part of coaching is selling. If they’re buying what you’re selling, then you will have some success. Those teams didn’t have that one player, but everybody chipped in, from the starters to the bench. That’s a selling deal. Like you guys in the media, you write up the high score. I tried to talk about the guy who made the pass that helped him score, and this and that. And the kids bought in, at least most of the time.”

Fredrickson, who retired in 1999, is still active in the community at Mount Anthony. He cross-country skis daily in the winter, is a School Board member, and attends all of the athletics, music recitals and plays at the school.

“They gave me a lifetime laminated pass,” he said with a smile.

What has changed about the game over all these years?

“For one, I think the three-point shot has screwed up the game. We had, the dictator that I was, specific shooters who had to qualify to shoot a three. I mean, who shoots a technical? Your best free-throw shooter, right? Not everybody’s going to shoot a three. And if everybody’s jacking up threes, how do you get anybody in foul trouble if you’re not going inside?”

“The other thing is people don’t want to pay their dues and work their way up. They say, ‘Well, if I’m not on the varsity by a sophomore, I know, I’m leaving.’ We had guys that never started until they were seniors and had a great year. Freshman shouldn’t be making varsity unless they’re awful good.”

Fredrickson then turned his attention to the latest controversy.

“And then this transgender thing. Oh, my goodness. I was at a School Board meeting, discussing the policy, the transgender policy. I said, ‘I’m not causing any problems, but the policy said you should provide a place for them to suit up.’ I’m pretty familiar with Mount Anthony’s locker room. I don’t know where you could provide it. ‘We got it covered,’ they said. I said, ‘Well, it must be a broom closet.’ Also, what will you do with little Susie’s mom and dad when they come to the School Board and say, ‘Susie got bumped because of a transgender person?’ I don’t know the answer to that. Well, it did come up at Long Trail. It’s a hard balance between someone’s freedom and rights, and that of the team or other players. That kid who gets bumped out who’s worked hard because someone’s physically stronger? I don’t know the answer there.”

When asked about his legacy and what he sees as important now, Fredrickson thought for a while before answering.

“I think a high school coach, compared to a college coach, can impact a kid’s life more. I think they’re still malleable. You can see them grow. I’ve had guys that we’ve thrown off for one reason or another that have returned and played as seniors. I think you can help them grow. And if you stay in one place, you can say, ‘Hey, he’s a good citizen, and maybe I helped a little.’ Many of my guys are still calling me ‘coach,’ and I’m very pleased with that. I am very proud of that.”

The Vermont Sports Hall of Fame induction ceremony takes place in South Burlington on April 29. {span}Launched in October 2011, the Vermont Sports Hall of Fame is a nonprofit organization that recognizes those individuals whose achievements and efforts have enhanced sports, athletics and recreation in the Green Mountain State. {/span}{span}To be elected to the Vermont Sports Hall of Fame, the person must be judged to have brought lasting fame and recognition to Vermont through his/her contributions in athletics or have been outstanding within the state’s borders. {/span}

{div}In addition to Fredrickson, among this year’s inductees are Olympic alpine skiers Suzy Chaffee of Rutland and Doug Lewis of Middlebury, Olympic snowboarder Kelly Clark and two-time Olympic mountain biker Lea Davidson of Jericho.{/div}

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