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The Eastern Echo Sunday, June 23, 2024 | Print Archive
The Eastern Echo

Derrick Fries, a white man with short hair, running in black shorts and a blue shirt with the number '144' pinned to him.

Local professor Derrick Fries nominated for Michigan Sports Hall of Fame

The sailing community celebrates Fries as a highly skilled instructor and acclaimed author

Eastern Michigan University professor Derrick Fries' lifelong dedication to sailing and athleticism has granted him a prestigious nomination for the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame. With a career spanning nearly three decades in competitive sports and a profound impact on sailing education, Fries' achievements are being celebrated on a statewide level.

Growing up with a love for the water, Fries' passion for sailing was ignited at the age of four. His journey from those growing years to becoming a professor at EMU was shaped by the influence of sailing on his life.

"I just absolutely fell in love with it," Fries said. "Everything I did all day long was watersports. I was swimming, I was waterskiing, and I was sailing."

Fries' dedication to sailing and athleticism has been unwavering throughout his life. His participation in sailing and triathlons for nearly three decades has taken him across 17 countries and 23 states, competing in various championships and events. His endurance and commitment to the sport have earned him numerous World and National Sailing Titles, as well as two triathlon national titles.

One of the highlights of Fries' athletic journey was winning his first world championship in 1975, a feat that showed in him the power of commitment and perseverance. Despite facing setbacks, such as a broken clavicle during a triathlon, Fries' determination never wavered, leading him to accomplish remarkable feats in both sailing and triathlons.

“The idea of constantly moving and getting exercise, it has major benefits, health-wise and mental health-wise,” Fries explains his motto: “Always stay moving.”

Fries says there's a significant focus on mental health these days, but thinks many of the lesser-known benefits of staying active and exercising don't seem to receive enough attention in social discussions.

Beyond his achievements in competition, Fries has been a trailblazer in promoting inclusivity within the sailing community. His influential textbook, "Start Sailing Right," broke new ground by featuring inclusive imagery and teaching techniques, paving the way for greater diversity in the sport. This book, now owned by US Sailing, has sold over 1.3 million copies and is translated into six different languages. 

Before joining Eastern Michigan University in 2006, Fries enjoyed a distinguished career in the K-12 education system, retiring as a school superintendent from Avondale Schools in Oakland County. His contributions to education and sailing have been recognized on a national level, including being named a NASA Teacher in Space finalist and being inducted into the International Sailing World Hall of Fame.

Fries' nomination for the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame is a testament to his lifelong dedication to sailing, athleticism, and education. As the public eagerly awaits the announcement of honorees later this spring, Fries' legacy continues to inspire future generations of athletes and educators alike.

The Michigan Sports Hall of Fame plans to announce the honorees in late spring, with an induction ceremony scheduled for early fall.