GH soccer coach inducted into Hall of Honor

MHSSCA honores Haven's Dave VanderKooi
Matt DeYoung
Feb 27, 2013


It’s not that Dave VanderKooi doesn’t like to win. He does. And his win-loss record as a soccer coach backs that up.

But VanderKooi knows that some things are more important than wins, and that’s what he’s shared with the thousands of young soccer players he’s coached over the past three decades.

“It was my birthday (on Monday) so we went out to eat,” VanderKooi said. “One of the girls I had coached was there, and she said, ‘Hey, coach, we had fun, didn’t we?’

“That’s more important than anything you can put on your wall. There are way too many kids who don’t have a good time. I don’t want to be one of those coaches.”

It’s that infections sense of enthusiasm and encouragement that’s made VanderKooi such a tremendous coach over the years, and for that, he was inducted into the inaugural Michigan High School Soccer Coaches Association’s Hall of Honor this past weekend.

In typical “Coach Dave” fashion, VanderKooi downplayed the honor.

“It was way too big an honor for me,” said the 59-year-old VanderKooi. “There’s a ton of guys out there that really deserve it. I just feel like I don’t need the awards. I’m just there for the kids.

“But it’s a great honor, it really is.”

VanderKooi grew up in Muskegon and attended Mona Shores High School. He didn’t play soccer as a youngster — “They didn’t have soccer when I was a kid,” he said with a laugh.

He got involved in the sport when his daughters, Laura, Theresa and Amy, began playing the game.

It was about that time that he met then-Grand Haven High School varsity boys and girls soccer coach Rick DuShane.

“Rick was the one who let me in, who took me under his wing,” VanderKooi said. “A coached a couple years with him, then went to junior high.”

It was there that he coached current Grand Haven varsity boys soccer coach Aaron Dean, and later, assistant varsity girls coach Jared Kram.

VanderKooi has coached at all the various levels of soccer at Grand Haven. The past several years, he’s served as the JV girls coach and an assistant on the varsity boys team. He also works closely with the Bucs’ varsity girls coach, Cor Damhuis.

Dean said VanderKooi deserves a tremendous amount of credit for helping make Grand Haven soccer what it is today.

“Coach VanderKooi has always been a tremendous asset to the soccer program since its inception in the early 80s,” Dean said. “I’m fortunate to have the opportunity to coach with and learn from such an amazing coach.

“You can’t help but be moved by his sincerity and kindness. Because he so genuinely cares about each of his players, they are that much more motivated.

“The award really recognizes the immense contribution he’s had on the Grand Haven soccer community. Along with Rick DuShane and Cor Damhuis, he’s one of the original coaches. He’s worked practices, games, clinics, camps, and served as an amazing ambassador of the game.”

VanderKooi has worked for the U.S. Postal Service for 35 years. His wife, Joan, recently retired from the post office after a 39-year career. 

He said all those coaches who helped him along the way, and those who he had coached along the way, deserve much of the credit for his accomplishments.

“There are so many guys, like Rick and Cor,” VanderKooi said. “Just tons of them. All the Strikers coaches do a great job. And I think the world of all those guys like Aaron, Jared, Greg (Kobylak), they do such a great job.

“It’s just awesome. There’s so much you can learn. That’s the greatest thing about soccer is that you keep on learning.”



I am very happy to see this article about Coach Dave. He is truely an amazing person. He was my coach for two years and I loved going to practice everyday just because I knew he would be there. He is more then a coach to me. He is more like a friend and I can talk to him about anything. He has a special place in my heart and I will never forget him. He always put a smile on my face because he knew when I was having a bad day!


Great guy


Never met the man, but congratulations, Coach VanderKooi. It sounds like you've done a heck of a job with our kids and you've earned this honor. I and many others in the community are grateful for your service.


Coach Dave, otherwise known in our neighborhood as Mailman Dave, is a wonderful man, and he brings smiles to every person that he meets. It is no wonder that he was recognized for his achievements as a soccer coach, and he is truly a credit to our community. Every resident on Gladys Avenue looks forward to seeing Mailman Dave every morning, and we all love his infectious smile and laughter. Congrats to you, Dave!!!!


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