SPRING LAKE – There’s been a tradition around the Spring Lake soccer program this time of year.
At the behest of their parents, the varsity players have taken to dying and bleaching their hair in a show of team solidarity heading into the state tournament. Most opted for blonde, but that wouldn’t have changed much for senior Malachi Mulder, who usually pushes his blonde hair back into a man bun.
Instead, the midfielder has opted for cornrows, part of a ritual that has stretched back a handful of years – and head coach Jeremy Thelen is used to it by now.
“It doesn’t bother me,” Thelen said on the eve of the Lakers’ district final, being played on Saturday morning against Reeths-Puffer in Allendale. “It’s fun, it takes a little pressure off the team to be silly and do something fun together. It’s a good thing for us to be together.”
There are some interesting looks, to put it mildly. Sophomore Porter Saunders has a splash of red across the front of his hair, goalkeeper Aidan Cooper’s usual floppy black hair has some blonde to it.
Most of the team agreed that sophomore Link Dephouse has done the most work. He ducked away before having a chance to answer questions, but his mullet has his teammates’ support.
“I didn’t really care,” Saunders said when asked how nervous he was to have his hair on show. “I saw Link did it first, so I said if he looks that dumb, I guess I’ll do it.”
The tradition started around 2013, during a run to the state championship game. Now, the Lakers are a game away from a district title. Maybe not all thanks to the hair, but try telling the team that.
“I like it,” Parker said. The sophomore goalkeeper is part of a young backline that includes sophomore defenders Dephouse and Jonah Wilhelm. “It’s fun to get the guys together to do something. Some guys have gotten really into it.”
For each win, a handful of players have marked a dash into their eyebrows as well, including junior forward Ben Bush, who has gone blonde up top while keeping his usual brown hair around the sides.
I like to think I have some experience with it,” Bush said. “I don’t know, we’ll see. I just had my regular haircutter take care of it.” Bush and a handful of others also enlisted the help of Ben DesJardin’s mother. The junior also brings up a good point about making such a statement with the team’s appearance. “The thing is, you can’t lose first round of districts with that hair.”
The Rockets are a team that Spring Lake saw earlier in the season, notching a 2-0 win at home in September. They’ve also played twice at Allendale Middle School’s grass field, where tomorrow morning’s game will be played.
Spring Lake has had the talent all year, but the jury’s out as to whether or not they can match up in the style category.
“We’re all going into this expecting not to look good,” said Parker. “It’s just for fun.”
Contact Kyle Turk at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @KyleTurkGHT.