Dordt College News

Van Den Bosch was a good role model

January 19, 2011

At the end of the season, volleyball players from teams from many different years came to campus to honor Van Den Bosch upon his retirement.

After fourteen years as the head volleyball coach at Dordt, Tom Van Den Bosch recently finished his last season.

He ends his career with a 464-112 record on the college level.

“I decided to retire based on a couple of things,” Van Den Bosch said. “I just turned 62 and would enjoy doing some other things in the fall. Recruiting athletes on the college level is a year-round process that involves night time and weekend work. My grandchildren are just getting into school activities, and I do not plan to miss those.”

He intends to watch his son as well, who coaches rival Northwestern’s volleyball team–but now he will be watching from the stands, and not the opposing bench.

Van Den Bosch will also spend more time in the office, as the associate director of admissions. He serves transfers, returning students, adult learners, and high school seniors from nearby community high schools.

“There will be no extra time; it will just be different,” he said.

It was extra time that got Van Den Bosch into volleyball in the first place. 

After graduating from Dordt in 1970, Van Den Bosch was hired by Western Christian to teach history. When Western wanted to start a volleyball program in 1975, Van Den Bosch had a convenient opening in his schedule.

“I was not an athlete, but they happened to have the position open. I was young, so they gave it to me to do. And when you’re young, you think you can do anything.”

However, he found out that volleyball did not come naturally.

“After playing the game like backyard volleyball, I was told by the refs I better get some training.”

So Van Den Bosch attended volleyball camps, to learn both how to play and how to coach.

Now, thirty-five years later, Van Den Bosch can claim success on many levels of play. He has coached a championship AAU team of fifth graders, four state champion teams at Western Christian, and eight National-qualifying teams at Dordt.  He has even coached a high schooler, Nancy (Meendering) Meltcalf who went on to be an Olympian.

“If you look at stats, his career has been pretty amazing,” said Glenn Bouma, Dordt’s athletic director. “Not only the years he’s been involved, and how many wins he has, but his win percentage.  In over eighty percent of the games he’s been coaching, his team came out the winner.”

But those numbers are not how Van Den Bosch measures his accomplishment.

“I just hope players enjoyed the game for what it is supposed to be—fun! I have been fortunate to have been part of a couple of state championships, national tournaments, and more wins than losses. Those are just the frosting on the cake that the media sees. Ninety percent of what coaching is all about is not seen in public.”

Bouma agrees and does not hesitate to commend Van Den Bosch for much more than his number of wins.

“His numbers are impressive, but what’s most impressive was how he treated his athletes,” Bouma said. “He also had respect among his peers, because he did everything with a certain manner of class that was unique to Tom.” Van Den Bosch lives what he believes.

Looking back on his thirty-five years of coaching, Van Den Bosch has more memorable moments than he can list.

One is his AAU Championship with a team of girls that called themselves the Ladybugs.

“I still have the ball they all signed. I think I got as much satisfaction from that win as from a National Championship. Coaching is coaching—the level doesn’t matter,” he said.

His success on the college level has also left him with some wonderful memories.

“In 2005, we beat a team of Brazilians from National American College for a berth at the national tournament. We were down 2-0, and came back to win 3-2,” Van Den Bosch said.  “In 2003 we finished in the final four at the national level. That was another highlight that involves being pretty good, plus getting all the right breaks.”

One person who has been with Van Den Bosch for so many of those memories is Traci Hiemstra. She played on his AAU team, the 2005 Dordt team, and is currently his assistant coach.

“Coach is a lot more than a great record, he is an amazing person. He is always looking at the big picture rather than the next match,” said Hiemstra. “Coach is concerned with the well-being of his athletes and is thankful for the relationships that are formed each year. He is a leader and a role model for young women and has been given the gift of volleyball to fulfill that role while keeping Christ in the center of his life and never losing that focus.”

Van Den Bosch plans to keep attending games, and he expects to see the team performing well.

“I wanted to leave the program when the team was doing well and with good recruits committed to keep the team playing at a competitive level,” he said.

Watching from the sidelines will be much different.

“I will miss just about everything—recruiting, practices, social interaction with wonderful young women, preparing game plans for an opponent, competing against great coaches, gaining friendships with other coaches and officials,” he said. The only things he won’t miss are making tough decisions about playing time, uniforms, and where to eat on the road.

His team will certainly miss him.

“He had a good sense of humor and would joke around with us,” said Jessica De Stigter, a junior volleyball player from Sioux Center. “He pushed us to become not only better athletes but also stronger in our faith lives. Dordt volleyball will not seem the same without him.”


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