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The first family of Spartan football
While most eyes are on the quarterback, Fred Grimm spends his Friday nights studying the Spartans’ offensive line.
“I’ve focused on it all my life,” said Fred, who played guard and linebacker during his high school days in Butte, Mont.
While the retired orthodontist has never coached a single down at BHS, he’s been a fixture on the Bainbridge sideline for decades, watching his sons – and now his grandsons – hold the Spartan line.
“It was kind of a tradition of me hanging out,” said Fred, who coached in the Navy. “Never around the coaches or anything. Just hang out, smell the grass, hear the hits.”
Andy Grimm, Fred’s son, played offensive and defensive tackle for the Spartans and is entering his 13th season as head coach.
“Ever since I came here, whether it was coaching JV level or assistant coaching, [Fred] will come down to be an extra cheerleader on the sidelines,” Andy said. “This is before the kids were in the program.”
This season – Andy’s 21st overall as a coach – marks the only time both his sons will play in the program together.
“It’s been really neat watching Alec come through,” he said, “and my youngest, Jarett, will be a freshman.”
Decades before Fred became a staple of Spartans football, he was suiting up in Butte.
“Football on Friday nights was as big in Montana maybe as it is in Texas today,” he said.
Fred’s high school only offered three sports: football, basketball, and track and field. He played offensive line and linebacker through high school, and one season at Montana State University.
After Fred joined the Navy as a dentist, the family moved to Guam, where he was selected to coach an intra-Navy football team.
“They had pretty intense football programs for the servicemen,” Fred said. “I got a lot of recruits.”
Since his predecessor used the decade-old Chicago Bears offense, Fred hit the books to develop offensive strategy. He gave the players their first playbooks, and went on to win a championship in his second year as coach.
“It was not very flashy football,” Fred said. “It was pretty basic patterns. We weren’t flooding the zone – more like flag football on the college campus behind the fraternity.”
The family moved to Whidbey Island before coming to Bainbridge in 1970.
“I coached [my sons] in Pee-Wees just like any other dad,” Fred said. “I didn’t do it because I had coached football.”
Fred also served on the school district’s board of directors and on the park district’s board.
“Everyone knows my dad and my grandpa,” Alec said. “‘You’re a Grimm? Oh, your grandpa did my teeth and your dad coached me.’”
When his sons took the field in high school, Fred joined the sideline as a booster.
“We had an open stadium,” Fred said. “Dads could stand around the stadium. It got out of hand eventually; dads were pushed off the field.
“I knew the coach real well, so he let me come out. It was kind of a special deal in that they instituted a group of guys who could be on the sideline because they were big helpers with the program.”
Xs and Os
As he sits in his office, Andy looks up at rows of photos commemorating every team he has coached over the last 12 years.
“I don’t sit there and go 8-1, 7-3,” he said. “We want to give them the best high school experience possible – that’s not exactly wins and losses. That’s teaching them the game, but also showing them how to be passionate for the sport.”
As a high school player, Andy’s zeal for football grew, despite poor results in the win-loss column.
“The best team I’ve ever played on was when I was about eight,” he said.
The Spartans only won one game Andy’s senior year, but that didn’t stop him from pursuing football in college.
“We were a scrappy team,” he said. “We were lost souls trying to figure it out.”
He went on to Pacific Lutheran University, where he played on two national championship teams. After graduating, he took a middle school teaching position in south Tacoma, and began coaching the school’s football program.
When his BHS offensive line coach decided to step away from coaching, Andy took the opportunity to return to the Bainbridge program. He served four years as an assistant coach and took over as head coach in 1998.
“One thing I try to get to the kids is that the thing you remember from high school is the relationships you build,” he said. “I just had my 25th reunion for high school, and you sit down and talk to somebody, and you can remember parts of the game.
“I’m not a score guy – I can’t sit there and go, ‘We won that 35-34.’ You’re going to remember the knucklehead guy who’s always messing around in the locker room or the guy who always came late to practice.”
As a physical education and health teacher, Andy took his educational philosophy to the gridiron.
“All those things like hard work, determination, perseverance, resiliency come through,” he said. “There are always teachable moments in football that translate to life. We’ve been able to put wins together, so we’ve been pretty successful, which is –to me – a bonus.”
The coach has compiled an above-.500 record over the last 12 years, with a state tournament appearance in 2001.
“Athletically, we’ve never matched up real well, whatever division we played in,” he said. “We were always undersized. There’s probably more satisfaction in the coaching of that; you know when you can coach somebody, or you’ve out-coached another staff.”
Over the years, Andy has learned to strike a balance between coaching and parenting.
“I’m pretty good at the coaching side of it out here, and to make sure not to take it home,” he said. “Sometimes I have to bite my lip.”
Dad and coach
While his father was already a presence, Andy’s sons quickly joined him on the field.
“The sideline was my babysitter,” he said. “When they were real little, my wife was working and I’d have them out at practice; I wouldn’t have it any other way. The safe way to do it was to have a babysitter and to have the kids at home, but I said, ‘They’re not going to get in trouble up here. They’re in a positive environment; they’re seeing kids working hard.’”
Alec and Jarett both worked as ball boys and played youth football.
“I remember taking the bus with all the players, going to all the games, hanging out at practice around the big older guys,” Alec said. “I wanted to be just like everybody out there and I couldn’t wait to be on the high school varsity team like them.”
Like their father and grandfather, Alec and Jarett both play offensive line, the position that Andy coaches.
“I get to coach them directly,” Andy said. “They get to hear whether I’m in a good mood or bad.”
On the field, Alec and Jarett don’t see Andy as their father as much as their offensive line coach.
“He’s really intense about it, but he’s always encouraging,” Jarett said. “He makes sure people get the message and does everything he can to make people get the full experience.”
While Andy pays particular attention to the line, as head coach, he must see the entire field.
“When I watch a play, I watch the whole play – my mind has been trained that way,” he said. “I’m not here to watch how my son’s doing. You are looking at it through two lenses.”
As players, the Grimms have an advantage, Alec said.
“[Players] have a coach on the field, but when I get home I have someone to talk to about my game and how I played,” he said. “The head coach of the football team lives in my house, and he can tell me what I need to do to get better and he’s always there to motivate me.”
Alec will implement the knowledge he has gained from his father as a line coach for a local eighth grade team.
“When it comes down to it, it doesn’t really matter how big and strong and fast you are,” Alec said. “It’s how hard you work, how much time you’re willing to put in, and the commitment that you make.”
In addition to football, Andy also coaches track and field, while his wife, Terry Grimm, teaches and coaches girls tennis at Kingston High School.
But the fall is always devoted to one thing.
“When it’s football season, everything’s football,” Alec said.
Andy sees himself coaching for many years to come, but it isn’t the statistics or quest for trophies keeping him on the sideline.
“I love the game,” he said. “That’s not for everybody, but that’s what pushed me because I definitely wasn’t having team success [as a BHS player].
“I had passion for the game, and I think that’s what I see the most in my kids, and that’s what I’m most proud of.”