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.”