A Great Teammate

Flewlaird and Michigan State University mascot

Robyn (Flewelling) Fralick ’04 with the Michigan State University Mascot

Robyn (Flewelling) Fralick ’04 isn’t one to back down from a challenge.

The recently appointed Michigan State University head women’s basketball coach comes to the role with a track record of success and the admiration of her peers—the choice comes as no surprise to those who knew Fralick at Davidson.

When Fralick and friend and former Davidson teammate Ashley Hallsted ’04 needed their P.E. water credit senior year, they decided to try sailing at Lake Campus. They got a lesson in the basics, thinking the experience would be relaxing and fun.

Then one Saturday morning, under an ominously darkening sky, the two decided to try out their skills and took a little sailboat onto the wind-swept lake.

“We don’t have any quit in us,” Hallsted recalls. “So we’re like, ‘Yeah, let’s do it. Let’s learn how to sail in kind of squirrely weather.’”

They intended to stay near the dock, but it was only a matter of seconds before a gust of wind pushed them deep into the middle of the lake. Fralick recalls being stuck in the boat, with “literally no idea how to sail,” as the wind whisked them further away from shore. In true Fralick fashion, she found the moment hilarious.

“The sirens are going off, and the sky is turning bright red, and the winds are howling,” she says. “The winds are so strong that we’re going quite fast in the wrong direction.”

How they managed to get back to dry land is debatable—Hallsted thinks they eventually guided the boat to shore, while Fralick believes they lowered the sails and swam. When asked what lessons she took from their sailing debacle that she now applies to her work, Fralick deadpans, “Career adaptability during chaos.”

A Davidson education is great preparation for life, Fralick says.

“You have to really learn to critically think, and it’s hard. But you learn to keep sticking with it,” she says. 
“And over time, I just think it gives you a lot of confidence.”

With the exception of sailing, she seems to have figured some things out.

On March 31, 2023, Michigan State introduced Fralick as the new head coach for their women’s basketball team, marking a return to her home state and an opportunity to guide an elite, Big Ten program. Hallsted and their close-knit group of college friends now lovingly call her “Big Time.”   

Flewlaird in Davidson WBB team photo


Entering her new role with a career win record of 192–76 at 41 years old, she will be the sixth head coach in the program’s 50-year history. Her $1 million guaranteed annual compensation makes her one of the highest-paid coaches—man or woman—in women’s college basketball.

“Robyn Fralick checked all the boxes, and some,” said Michigan State athletic director Alan Haller at a press conference introducing her in April. “It was clear, after talking to people across the country, she was the right person for our program.”

Fralick remains close with her Davidson teammates and classmates; a few booked a trip to see her first game in person, at Michigan State’s Breslin Center in East Lansing. Her ability to build strong connections 
with people sets her apart. According to Hallsted, Fralick is “the glue” that holds relationships together.

Hallsted and Fralick first met while coaching a kids’ basketball camp the summer before their freshman year at Davidson. Fralick brought an album full of photos of her high school friends, and she shared stories about each of them with her new friends at the camp, Hallsted recalls.

“She was a super-connector, and people just automatically gravitated to her. I did, for sure. She made people feel comfortable,” says Hallsted, who now works as a consultant in San Francisco.   

Katherine Hatch ‘04, a tennis player who roomed with Hallsted and became close with the women’s basketball team, said Fralick “just went there with people.”

“I feel like she was the person I met freshman year who was just asking all the questions. About anything,” says Hatch, now a grief therapist living in Portland, Oregon. “There’s an incredible curiosity about her.”

Fralick, also known as “Birdy” to her college teammates, graduated from Davidson with a degree in psychology and a minor in religious studies, also etching her name in the basketball record books in career assists with 312.

Fralick later earned a master’s degree in counselor education from Western Michigan University.

“She’s very relational, and she brings that,” Hatch says. “She builds relationships with her players, and that’s I think what makes her special … Robyn holds people accountable and is a blast. She’s both things.”


Fralick grew up just down the road from Michigan State, attending Okemos High School. She comes to the Spartans after leaving an impressive win trail across the Midwest.

After graduating from Davidson, Fralick moved 100 miles northwest to join the coaching staff at Appalachian State University. She followed that with stints at Western Michigan and Toledo before landing at Division II powerhouse Ashland University in Ohio.

Over the course of her 10 seasons at Ashland, the team went to the Division II national championship four times. She spent her last three years there as head coach, leading the team to an incredible 104–3 and a national title in 2017. In 2018, she received the C. Vivian Stringer Award, given annually to an outstanding female coach.

Fralick’s decade at Ashland was marked by career success and life-changing moments, including meeting her husband, Tim, who proposed at center court; the couple’s first house; and the birth of their children, Will, 10, and Clara, 7.

Fralick left Ashland for her first Division I head coaching job at Bowling Green State University, from 2018 to 2023. She led the team to a trio of postseason bids and a remarkable U-turn from a 10–21 record in 2020 to 21–8 the following year. She was recognized as the Mid-American Conference coach of the year in 2021.

Michigan State noticed the wins and accolades, and Fralick’s capacity for building and turning around programs. After a nationwide search, Michigan State hired Fralick under a six-year contract. She brought her Bowling Green staff with her.

For her Davidson friends, Fralick’s professional success just makes sense.

“It’s been incredible to watch her progress, but I will tell you this, we are not super surprised at all,” says Hatch. “It just seems like what’s happening for her is just aligned with who she is.”

Former longtime Michigan State coach Suzy Merchant resigned in March after 16 seasons, citing medical reasons. Fralick, who herself played through a coaching transition at Davidson, says she tries to keep the players’ emotional mindset close when she’s on the sidelines, remembering what it feels like to be out there.

“I think sometimes we live under this silly assumption that if we just do some team bonding events, we’re going to be a connected team,” she says. “But the reality is, every day, and everything you’re doing, you’re building or breaking the team. Every day.”

Staying Healthy

Fralick doesn’t just preach this kind of holistic mindset to her players, she lives it.

Her children have always been fixtures in their mother’s coaching life.

“I get asked a lot about work-life balance,” Fralick says. “For me, it’s work-life integration. My kids come to the gym with me. They go recruiting with me sometimes. They come to games, they go on road trips. Can they be distracting? Sure, but in the best of ways, right? In a way that keeps you feeling human and normal and connected.”

At a time when no one seems quite sure whether women really can have it all—(“We can try,” Fralick says)—she sets an example for her young players.

“As a leader, you’ve got to kind of always be finding ways to stay healthy,” she says, “trying to keep some level of normal life.”

Fralick stresses the core value of being a great teammate: to each other, the campus and the community.

“Not everything has to be basketball,” she says. “We’re identifying how these core values just make life [in general] better.”

Hatch keeps a copy of the core values Fralick handed out to their friend group (at their request) tacked to her refrigerator.

“It’s so Robyn,” she says. “‘Be a great teammate.’ They’re simple, but they’re beautiful.”

This article was originally published in the Fall/Winter 2023 print issue of the Davidson Journal Magazine; for more, please see the Davidson Journal section of our website.


  • November 21, 2023


  • Amanda Ottaway ’12