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Tom Vanden Bosch named national NAIA coach of the year

When the Western Christian volleyball team was in its fledgling stages in 1972 the Maroon and White needed a coach. There was no search committee. There was no lengthy interview process. There were no applications. The job fell to a teacher who had a free period. Nearly thirty years later that man, Tom Van Den Bosch, has received the highest coaching honor possible from the NAIA in being named the Tachikara/AVCA (American Volleyball Coaches Association) 2003 NAIA coach of the year.

Coach Tom Vanden Bosch and his wife, Carol, were honored at the banquet.

Coach Tom Vanden Bosch and his wife, Carol, were honored at the banquet.

Van Den Bosch helped build the Western Christian volleyball program into one of the most respected in Iowa with sixteen state tournament trips, four state titles, two runner-up finishes, and four finishes in the Final Four.

In 1997 Van Den Bosch took the challenge of coaching Dordt College volleyball. A school which had one National Tournament trip to its credit in 1996, has now gone to the National Tournament four more times with three finishes in the quarterfinal round and a historic finish in the Final Four this past fall.

"Coaching at Dordt College is extremely gratifying, and I feel very blessed for the opportunity to be part of this unique Christian college," says Van Den Bosch. "God has seen fit to allow this volleyball team and coaching staff to play in high level tournaments and experience national recognition."

The 2003 volleyball season, for which Van Den Bosch is receiving the national award, saw the Lady Defenders win the Great Plains Athletic Conference regular season championship with a 16-0 record. The Lady Defenders then took the GPAC post-season tournament title and were the runners up in the NAIA Region IV tournament, earning a berth in the NAIA national tournament in the process.

Even though the competition is what most observers see, Van Den Bosch says it's the day-to-day play that he enjoys most. "My favorite part coaching is still the practice time each day," says Van Den Bosch, "It is simply a joy to be around young women who enjoy life. I am positive I have learned as much from them as they have from me. These students sincerely have the right perspective on where athletics fit into the academic community."

At the national tournament the twenty-team field is split into four pools with the five schools within each pool playing a round robin format, determining the top two teams. The top two finishers from each pool then advance to quarterfinal play, something Dordt College had done three times since 1998. This year the Lady Defenders won their first three matches in the pool format, losing in their final match in five games. With a 3-1 record the Lady Defenders advanced to the quarterfinals to play Walsh (Ohio).

Playing their fifth match in three days against top-notch competition, the Lady Defenders played as well as they had all week in beating the Cavaliers, 3-0, advancing to the Final Four-something no other Dordt College athletic team had ever done. On the last day of the tournament the stopped short of the ultimate storybook finish, losing to the eventual National Champion, Fresno Pacific, closing the year with a 37-6 mark.

"I see these young women as unfinished pieces of God's handiwork" says Van Den Bosch. "I hope in some small way to be used as a role model in a competitive environment, as a guide their personal development, an adult who answer questions, as a friend who can enjoy different social settings and as a coach who improves their volleyball skills. By molding, sanding and even chipping at each individual, I hope that the volleyball experience at Dordt College will enhance their total Christian educational experience."

In thirty plus years of coaching Van Den Bosch's teams have a combined record of 947-124, winning over 88 percent of the matches he has coached in. "Tom's knowledge of volleyball is second to no one. He is especially talented in making adjustments in game situations," says Dordt College Athletic Director Rick Vander Berg. "He is both admired and respected by his peers in the coaching profession. He instills confidence in his players-they believe in their ability and are confident, yet humble. Tom is the person I would want to coach my daughters!"

While wins and losses may be the measure by which most awards are given Vander Berg puts it best as to why Van Den Bosch is considered a valuable asset to Dordt College, and deserving of the award. "Tom always handles himself with the utmost professionalism. His Christian perspective and commitment are evident in his coaching and his teams."