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A Picture of God’s Ever-Present Support

Mike Fregeau experienced more than a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity while working with U.S.A. Track and Field at the 2019 World Athletics Championships in Doha, Qatar. But more importantly, the trip reminded him of God’s constant love and protection.

By Jason Schoonover ’09, content specialist

December 19, 2019 | 11:30 a.m.

Mike Fregeau ’84

Bethel Assistant Athletic Director for Event Management and Facilities Mike Fregeau ’84 traveled to Doha, Qatar, this fall to work with U.S.A. Track & Field during the 2019 World Athletics Championships.

“Pictures are deceiving, right?” says Mike Fregeau ’84, Bethel’s assistant athletic director for event management and facilities, looking at the photos hung in his office.

On one hand, the many photos tell a lot about the longtime Bethel employee. His love for his family is clear through a collage of photos of his wife, Cheryl ’83; his daughters, Casey ’11 and Courtney ’14; and Courtney’s husband, Tim Anderson ’14. His passion for athletes is shown in the many photos from his days as the Bethel football team’s defensive coordinator and as an assistant track and field coach. And they show his many successes during his career, including photos from the year he coached Courtney to an all-American season.

But like Fregeau says, pictures are deceiving, too. He points to a photo centered behind his desk. It shows Fregeau intensely grasping the facemask of linebacker Erik Smith ’12, urging him to stay focused or he would have to come out of a key game. The photo alone depicts Fregeau as a tough coach, but it doesn’t reveal his deep, intense care for the men and women he coached. Fregeau shares how Smith’s grandfather approached him to thank him for the positive influence he had on Smith’s life. And Smith presented Fregeau with the photo to thank him, telling him, “This photo means a lot to me,” as it shows how Fregeau pushed him to grow.

Images are deceiving. The sentiment touches on a recent transformation Fregeau experienced when working with U.S.A. Track & Field during the 2019 World Athletics Championships in Doha Qatar, and the experience reminded him to be thankful for God’s ever-present support. Fregeau pulls out his phone and swipes through a series of photos from his trip. Many show him with the top American track and field athletes in the country, and he talks of their events and accomplishments.
Mike Fregeau ’84

Mike Fregeau ’84 poses outside Khalifa International Stadium in Doha, Qatar, during the 2019 World Athletics Championships.

But he stops on one picture. It shows the flashing lights of a police escort leading the team bus through a hazy Doha, Qatar, morning. He felt uneasy seeing the escort leading the team. It reflected the trepidation he felt in anticipation of the trip. But now it reminds him of the transformation he underwent during the trip, as the experience reminded him to be thankful for God’s constant love and protection.

“It’s just kind of woke me up in a way that’s hard to explain, but I know it’s real,” he says. “When the day is done, people say, ‘That must have been a cool experience.’ It was, but so much more has come out of it.”

“So Much More”

Along with his Bethel duties, Fregeau has also worked at occasional track and field events each year with Eagle Eye Digital Video, a company specializing in innovative video technology for track and field analysis and officiating. Fregeau typically records video that supports the officiating crew. Coaches like Fregeau display a knack for knowing and documenting when issues may occur, whether it’s a false start or a runner stepping on the line. And since he retired from coaching a few years ago, his work with Eagle Eye has allowed him to stay involved at a high level of competition while also building relationships with top coaches and athletes.

In July, Eagle Eye officials approached Fregeau—who is nicknamed “Money Mike” for his ability to capture quality footage—about working at the World Athletics Championships in Doha Qatar, but in a different role. U.S.A. Track & Field wanted him to capture footage of U.S. athletes to be reviewed to improve performance. “It’s a lot about technique,” Fregeau says. “People think people just go out and run. Well, there’s a lot of form and technique involved.”

Fregeau felt honored by the offer to work with the team, but the timing proved challenging. He would be gone September 25 to October 5 during Bethel Homecoming—one of Fregeau’s busiest times at Bethel as he helps prepare the football field for games. His sporadic work with Eagle Eye typically falls on weekends and in the summer when he can easily use vacation time. He approached Athletic Director Bob Bjorklund, saying that if he was in Bjorklund’s seat, he would likely say no. He told Bjorklund about the offer and the timing, and Bjorklund replied, “Well you’re not in this seat” before urging him to go. “For Bethel to say ‘Yes’ to me, that was one of the biggest blessings,” Fregeau says. “Without their support, I couldn’t have done that.”

Mike Fregeau ’84

Mike Fregeau ’84 poses with his family: (from left) son-in-law Tim Anderson ’14, daughter Courtney ’14, wife Cheryl ’83, and daughter Casey ’11.

But Fregeau expressed other concerns to his family. He felt pangs of trepidation at traveling overseas. “It was hard for me to say yes,” he admits. He worried about being away from his family. But Fregeau’s wife and daughters urged him to go, and Cheryl urged him to put his trust in God. “We knew it was way out of his comfort zone, but we also knew it was a chance of a lifetime,” Cheryl says. “I was confident God would teach Mike a new reliance on Him during this time, which is priceless.”

Though Fregeau admits he was a wreck leading up to the event, Cheryl and their daughters were right. His experience on the trip proved to be fantastic. Along with enjoying the work with the team, he was treated well by everyone he encountered in Doha, Qatar, and he enjoyed experiencing the culture. It proved to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience, but not for the reason he expected.

Fregeau realized he had been living a comfortable life, driving familiar roads between his home in Andover, Minnesota, and Bethel. But the trip helped Fregeau recognize that he had been taking God’s grace, protection, and faithfulness for granted. “I came to a crossroad in my life, this trip, where God said, ‘No. I’m here for you on this trip, but I was there for you 20 years ago, and I’ll be here 20 years from now,’” Fregeau says.

Mike Fregeau ’84

After enjoying breakfast with the world champion U.S.A. men’s 4x100 relay team members, Mike Fregeau ’84 stopped for a picture with Fred Kerley, Wil London, Nathan Strother, and Michael Cherry.

Sharing His Story

Fregeau returned home looking to share his blessings. He told the story of his transformation at a couples’ Bible study he and Cheryl attend, and he has shared the story with friends and colleagues. “This trip brought a different kind of awareness. God allowed me to do this to draw me closer to him,” he says.

Along with sharing his story, he has felt even more comfortable sharing his faith and living it. Fregeau mentors coaches and players at Centennial High School, where he once worked, and he has felt more comfortable being open about his faith. He aims to convey his faith often by how he acts and how he speaks, urging the kids to be respectful of whomever they’re around. And he’ll reach out to players at Centennial and Bethel with a note like, “Praying for you, man. Just keep the faith.”

Though he was often a tough coach, Fregeau cared deeply for his players and seeing them grow. To him, coaching was about serving players and setting them up to be successful. In the Bethel Athletic Department, he brings that same drive to serving athletic programs. He remains thankful to Bethel for the opportunity to go on the trip—and for everything it has given him and his family. “I don’t think I can ever pay Bethel back for what it did for me and my family. Everything I do here is a reflection of what Bethel did for me,” he says.

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