In Ross Friedman’s 15 years of playing soccer, the jerseys, the coaches, the lineups, and the stadiums have all changed, but one thing has remained constant. For almost a decade and a half, Ross has been able to look into the stands and see his father cheering him on.
Tod Friedman has been to almost every game since his son started playing at the age of six. From the youth leagues to international competition, Tod has been there for nearly every single tick of the clock while Ross was on the field.
“At the very beginning, a lot of my friends thought I was a little overboard, going to all of Ross’s games when he was just a little kid,” Tod said. “But now that they have kids in college and beyond, I think they have a newfound respect for me. They can understand where I was coming from.”
For a man so committed to his son’s athletic career, Tod has barely any background in sports at all. He admits he was the complete opposite of a sports fan before his own children got involved in athletics.
“I’m not too coordinated of a person,” Tod said. “I never played any sports. The only reason I’m into soccer is because my son is into soccer.”
Despite this lack of personal experience on the field, Ross still thinks of his dad as one of his most valuable resources as an athlete.
“It’s kind of funny,” Ross said. “My dad doesn’t know too much about soccer, but he knows a lot about competition. Seeing all these games, it’s been pretty interesting for him. It puts a different perspective on things, and how to handle a win or a loss. His insight on the game means a lot.”
Tod has elected to be there every step of the way for Ross, whether his games were down the street or across the ocean.
“He’s gone all over the world to watch me play,” Ross said. “He travelled to Bolivia for a tournament, he came to Jerusalem to watch me play in the Maccabi games… Whatever means it takes, he’ll do it to come see me play.”
Over the past four years, Tod’s most frequent travel destination, however, has been Soldiers Field.
During the fall semester, he travels between six and eight hours round trip, on a weekly basis, from the Friedmans’ home in Columbus, Ohio to Cambridge.
In his four years as a defender for Harvard’s soccer team, Ross has played in 68 games. Of these 68 games, Tod has missed less than 10.
“He’d stay in my room,” Ross said. “I’ve got a futon for him and a bed set that he’d stay on. Sometimes he would just hang out while I studied. He’s always understood that Harvard doesn’t make exceptions for any student.”
For Ross’s dad, every single one of these moments was special.
“For me, it has really been about being there for the whole process,” Tod said. “From him getting ready for the game, to taking the field, it’s an amazing time I’ve gotten to spend with him.”
Knowing that a friendly face would always be in the crowd was a positive force for the entire team. Every game, the players could count on seeing Mr. Friedman cheering them on throughout wthe contest, and supporting them after each game win or lose.
“The guys on the team know him really well,” Ross said. “When he’s outside the locker room after games, it’s expected. It’s a pretty cool experience, and great to have him there with us throughout the fall semester.”
The handful of times that Tod has been unable to make it out to see Ross and the Crimson play, he still managed to be there in some capacity.
“When he couldn’t make it to games, he’d be live streaming them,” Ross said. “In some way, he’s watched every single one of my games.”
Ross’s final season was the winningest since 2009 for the Crimson, as the squad picked up five conference victories and seven wins overall, finishing second in the Ancient Eight after finishing last Ross’s junior year.
Moving the ball around all season long, Ross finished with an Ivy League-best 10 assists in his senior campaign.
Having witnessed the team’s journey for the past four years, no one understood the importance of this quite like Tod Friedman.
“I’m so grateful that Ross had the opportunity to find success at the collegiate level,” Tod said. “I’ve seen the team transform 180 degrees in terms of teamwork, process, and seeing the results.”
Besides losing one of its most valuable players when Ross graduates this May, Harvard will also be losing one of its most dedicated fans.Although it may be the end of an era for one team, it’s the start of a new journey for the father-son duo.
“I will miss the college games,” Tod said. “But I’m hoping that the fun continues at the professional level, and that I continue to get to see him play. But in the end, whatever he elects to do, I will be 100-percent supportive and encourage him all the way through.”