Southmoreland senior honors coach’s memory with youth camp

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Tuesday, July 19, 2022 | 4:47 PM


Kaleb Tkacs was 5-foot-10 and weighed 160 pounds when he joined the Southmoreland football team as a freshman.

Not small, but not exactly the roster specs of an aspiring lineman, either.

Tkacs was not judged on his height and weight, though.

Then-line coach Ron Frederick saw a player he could coach. A player he could form. But he never could have imagined he’d work with a player he could inspire as much as he did Tkacs.

“He personally helped mold me not only as a great football player but as an even greater person,” said Tkacs, who will be a senior lineman this season for the Scotties. “He was especially impactful to me … He never held my size against me and always chose to believe in me.”

And Tkacs also believed in Frederick, who died suddenly in February from a heart-related event, one day after finding out he was promoted to head coach at his alma mater.

Tkacs took it upon himself to honor his former coach. He put together a youth football camp, with all of the proceeds going to Frederick’s family — his wife, Liz, and three children, Sophia, Colin, and Dylan.

“He did it all on his own,” Southmoreland first-year head coach Tim Bukowski said of Tkacs. “I mean, we were there as coaches helping out, but it was his camp, his show. He has great leadership qualities.”

Tkacs said 74 kids attended the camp last month at Russ Grimm Field. They came from nearby neighborhoods in the district, but Tkacs also had sign-ups from Mt. Pleasant, Somerset and Brownsville.

There were 36 coaches in attendance, as well, ranging from youth and high school level men, to Scotties alumni.

“We had players go through 10-minute stations,” Tkacs said.”They did firing-off stances, conditioning drills, footwork drills, strength drills, and defensive and offensive moves and forms.”

Local donations came in the form of concession stand food and drinks, which helped give the event an official feel.

Tkacs, though, already had given it a special touch.

“I had been thinking about doing some sort of camp for the midget kids/linemen for quite a while beforehand,” Tkacs said. “I had always looked up to the high school players that came to help out during my years playing in the midget league. I had helped here and there my freshman year but really dedicated myself to help coach our D1 team last year. I would head straight up to the hill, where our midget teams practice, after my practices to assist in coaching the offensive and defensive line throughout the summer and into the season, sometimes helping out the younger D2/3 and flag teams. It was particularly funny that I would be helping coach Fred coach his son, just as he was coaching me only a short time beforehand.”

Tkacs said he formed a bond with the players at practices and at Sunday morning games. His players, wide-eyed and full of wonder, attended the high school games to root for Tkacs.

“They always grouped together at the 50-yard line in the bleachers, and would be looking down, watching, trying to get a wave or some sort of acknowledgment by saying, ‘Coach Tkacs,’ ” he said. “It really warmed my heart and reminded me of when I looked up to the high school players just as much as they did.

“There’s something special about being motivated and having almost a sort of role model you can see every Friday night. It’s also equally as special to know you have someone watching you play on the field, learning from your actions — it motivates you even more. Even acts of signing footballs after games and giving high-fives gave a smile and sense of fulfillment after games, and seeing them there even after losses gave me inspiration.”

The event served as Tkacs’ senior project. His English teacher, Jenna Hixson, helped him come up with the camp idea.

Tkacs helped raise $400 and scored a signed Cam Heyward photo as a giveaway prize.

“Coach Fred’s family and the whole community were extremely supportive of the camp,” Tkacs said. “It was not about the money raised; We only raised $400 for the family after the cost of the camp T-shirts and resources for the kids. The important thing in my mind is that the kids learned something from the camp that they can take with them into this upcoming season. I plan to continue running this camp, as a resource and tool for our midget and surrounding midget programs and most importantly as an asset to continue coach Fred’s memory and instill the values he taught of teamwork, leadership and commitment.”

Clearly, Frederick also was one of the men who inspired Tkacs to matriculate to coaching. The art of honing the skills of young blockers and tacklers just looked right when Frederick did it.

“Definitely, I have a sort of passion for it and an overall enjoyment in developing the players and watching them progress throughout the season,” Tkacs said. “I’m not sure exactly what level would suit me best, but I feel like I have a lot of experience, knowledge and an overall love for the game. But for right now I enjoy where I am, helping out with the youth.”

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at bbeckner@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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