Well, as the dust starts to settle, I have had some time to think. I haven’t slept much at all the past few nights. And as I have thought through some things, I’ve realized it has been a long time since I used this space as an outlet. As I post this Sunday night, I am about 48 hours post soccer season ending. It ends this way for all but one, and yet I can’t imagine a coach (or player) gets used to it, or ready for it. Each year brings about slightly different emotions. This year has been particularly difficult because of the type of on-field season we have had – because of the ultimate finish that was very much within reach.
And yet, as I sit here 48 hours later I am so incredibly pleased to affirm what we have been talking about the entire time – We are just fine. Disappointed? Certainly. But what we have been about with Calvin Men’s Soccer has never, actually, in fact been about championships. Yes, we would have loved to win, and will continue to work to do just that. But our treasures are stored elsewhere. The work that Christ has begun in us has very little to do with soccer and isn’t dependent upon any on field results. Thankfully, I believe we can be made complete and whole without a national championship – because I don’t believe that is the missing piece for anybody.
Mark Richt, former head football coach at Georgia, said in his last words to the program this week, ‘Life is about people, not rings. Rings collect dust.’ His wisdom, along with this weekend’s result, have caused me to re evaluate where in fact our treasure lies. I hope dearly that we can educate our players in good soccer. We want to pursue excellence in all facets of what we are doing. But that is just the second facet of our mission. First, we want to be men that exhibit Christlikeness. If we aren’t doing that, all of the excellence is simply misplaced.
And so, while I am gutted for our guys, and disappointed we couldn’t climb the peak, I am so proud of who our young men are, who they are becoming, and of the work the Lord continues to do in, amongst, and through us. That wins. Period. I am so incredibly blessed to be associated with these 26 men, our athletic department, and Calvin College as an institution. What a ride it has been.
So many people have reached out, over the past few weeks in particular, to offer congrats to our program and to me personally. It is my goal to try and more specifically follow up and thank each of you, but I wanted to, in this space, take a minute to publically thank so many that made this fall so incredible. (I have bolded the headings, to try and save you some time)
Supporters and Friends: In the past few weeks, so many have reached out to congratulate us, to congratulate me on some of the accomplishments and honors we have received. From emails, texts, Facebook posts, and other social media mentions, you have made us the forefront of your own social footprint. Thank you for taking the time to notice, and thank you for the incredibly kind words and encouragements. I apologize for not reaching out and thanking you individually. I will. We just wanted to try and keep the main thing the main thing until it was time to look back.
Notre Dame Men’s Soccer: You guys have allowed me a first rate, up close and personal look inside the best men’s soccer program in the country. I have learned an incredible amount from you all. However, even more, I appreciate your friendship. Additionally, I am incredibly thankful for the group of coaches you bring around the program. It has been such a pleasure to work with and be supported by coaches like The Brothers Casper, Blake New, Michael Tanke, Kelly, Turf, Quinny, Nate, Mark Bell, and others.
Crown Graphics: A huge thanks to Mark, Rob, and Rap. Your investment in me over the years both as a coach and as a man are traits we want to invest in our players here. Thanks, also, for all of the printing and gear you provide for our guys. Thanks, too, for your willingness and desire to print championship T-shirts. I hope we can get you that business in the future.
KnightNation: I cannot thank you enough. Throughout the fall, you made the short trip to Zuidema, came out to Holland, down to Kalamazoo and other locations along the journey. Most notably, I simply could not believe the number of you that came down to support us in Kansas City. To those of you that took the fan bus, thank you so much. Aaron and Jay, thanks for putting this together and supervising it. I get chills just thinking about the reception our men received as they walked off of the bus at the stadium. You have supported us through thick and thin. We always have the most, and the best fans. Quite simply, you’re the best out there. Thank you so much.
Calvin College Colleagues: So many of you have offered some form of support to us this year. To the kinesiology department, in particular, thanks for your high fives in the hallway and your encouragement along the way.
- - A particular thanks to Amber, Kevin, and Bret for listening to my griping and confusion and finding a way to see past it and impart some much needed wisdom despite being more than busy with their own sports, schedules, and families.
- - To JR, John, and Tim, thanks for conversations and needed laughs and distractions in times that were particularly stressful this fall.
- - To Jodie and Natalie, we quite literally couldn’t have done any of this without you. Your tireless work to organize and arrange details for us allowed us to focus chiefly on the soccer tasks at hand.
- - To Justin and Geoff, I cannot thank you enough for all of the things you never get thanks for. Our field and its condition is absolutely top notch. You deal with my requests and questions with nothing but smiles, when I know that I drive you both crazy. Thanks for your support and for all of the incredibly thankless work you have done for us.
- - Thanks to Jeff Febus for all of his late nights, score updates, interviews, and passion for Calvin Men’s Soccer. Thanks, too, for your friendship and partnership in the frustration that is support of the Gunners.
- - To Brian, Jim, and Nancy. Thank you for your leadership, your investment, and your encouragement. You help to create a culture where we have been able to find on field success while maintaining a desire to invest in student-athletes.
- - To Aaron Winkle, I don’t think there’s been one person at Calvin that has helped me in the tension of wanting to be competitive, but wanting to do it in a way that doesn’t jeopardize the things that really matter. Your support, friendship, and mentoring have been one of the best aspects of Calvin.
- - To Ben and Paul, thanks for your understanding and your encouragement. You two have been all in on us from day one. You come to games, you ask questions, and you love it when we win. When others might question my absence, you two have spurred us, spurred me, on like no one else on campus. I would be fortunate enough to have you as colleagues and supervisors, but am significantly more fortunate to have you as friends.
- - Dr. LeRoy – I can’t imagine there is another college where the school president has made not one, but back-to-back road trips to follow their men’s soccer team. One the one hand, you have love and supported us with words and tongue. Your vision for Calvin College and for the complete nature of our pursuits as athletes has enabled, in many ways, all of the facets of success our men have had. What is more, you have also loved us in action and in truth. Thank you for modeling both for us.
Calvin Men’s Soccer Alums: Quite simply, we are not here without you. You set the initial standard. You are the ones that have placed the bar for us to reach. Our current players are here because you have left a legacy that they want to reach for. What is more, your continued support has been incredible. Personally, you have accepted me from day one. I wasn’t originally one of you, and yet you have chosen to graft me into this incredible family. I am forever grateful for the trust, the support, and friendship you have shown and continue to show. We will continue to work tirelessly to lift the crown so many of you should have hoisted and that you have encouraged us to pursue, ourselves. I want to specifically thank Bert Bowden. Bert, your investment in this program and of the young men has been other-worldly. While I have no doubt you have enjoyed some of the wins, it has quite simply never been about that. Thanks for challenging and charging us to chase after Jesus. That’s a model we want to continue to be encouraged in.
Calvin Men’s Soccer Parents: Calvin Men’s Soccer fans outnumbered almost every other team this year, ON THE ROAD. That is a microcosm of the support you offer us – you are all in, period. You offer our staff countless words of encouragement, follow us any and everywhere in the country, and provide the best meals I eat all year after our home games. I want to offer a special thanks for Julie Filippini and Dirk Pruis. Julie was the go between for our team parents and myself. She was always quick to distribute information and helped organize every facet of team and family interaction. For anyone who was around the program this year, you know Julie was the glue that kept so many things together. Dirk was at every game this year taking some incredible photos of our guys. Being able to go back and look through these has been such a joy to see our men and both the highs and lows throughout the year, recaptured.
Kerri Clausen: Kerri, I cannot thank you enough for the care and treatment of our men this fall. At times, you were the only female on a bus of 29 other males. And yet, you never complained, never told us we were wrong, and put in extra hours to make sure our guys had what they needed. Your assessments and follow up with our players, their parents, Dr. K, and myself was seamless and allowed us the quickest and best chance to get guys back. Thank you for everything.
Chatham Guys: I won’t take the time to list you all, but you have supported our program in spades. For some it has been constant texts of talk and encouragement. Others have supported us financially. You understand the vision of what is trying to be accomplished here, large in part because you have been a part of something similar yourselves.
Christian, Matt, and Greg: You three are on a different level. You take my stressful phone calls, come to mid-week games from out of town, and even made a trip to Kansas City. No matter what is has been you guys have had my back. I cannot thank you enough for that.
Chip: Who would have thought we’d both be in soccer sixteen years ago? Who would have thought we’d both be in west Michigan? And yet here we are. I appreciate your love for the game, but not near as much as your friendship and your mentorship. Thanks for supporting us despite being on the staff of another team across town. Thanks, too, for pushing us to be more than just a good soccer team. Those are the things that have impact well beyond any game or season.
My Family: A link to a blog for thanks doesn’t really cover it. I am not even playing, and you make trips to away games. You’re always willing to let me ‘dump my bucket’ and are as excited as anybody when things go well. But what makes you particularly great is that you aren’t silent when things haven’t always gone well. You’ve always been there, and you’ve always affirmed my gifts and the use of them for Kingdom purpose.
Brady: I don’t even want to know the number of people that have told you not to come to Calvin. Being here simply doesn’t make coaching career ladder success for a guy with your resume and your abilities. Everyone here knows you could be a head coach on your own with no problem. And yet, because it has never been about those things is why things here have been so great with you. You are an amazing coach. You bring soccer knowledge, coaching insights, and clout that has helped our program immensely. And yet your love for our guys and your friendship are things that far outweigh anything you bring to the soccer field. I cannot thank you enough for your partnership in this. Anything we get recognized for doesn’t happen without you. I don’t know how long we can keep you, but we will do everything we can for as long as we can to keep your voice here. There is no doubt that no matter what happens you are both a knight and a friend for life.
Our Guys: Where do I start? Each and every one of you brings something unique to this program. Context falls apart at some point, but when I read Paul’s letter to the Philippians, I feel quite similar of you: ‘I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.’ I am not in chains, but I am so grateful for each and every one of you. I am also fully confident that the good work Christ is completing in you has nothing to do with soccer. It may provide context, and it may shape part of it, but as I have gotten to know (and continue to get to know) you, I know that what God is working in each one of you is amazing and it is a privilege to watch it play out. Thanks for buying in. Thanks for your partnership. Thanks for your lives.
Kacie: Authors and speakers always seem to save the best for last. This isn’t any different. You deal with more mess than anyone else on this list. You get the brunt of things. You get a crabby coach (more than others), and all you do is smile, encourage, and affirm the road that God has me, has us, on. You know soccer better than I do, and yet you appreciate and value who we are becoming far more than the soccer. Amidst an incredibly busy fall, you set about basically planning and entire wedding on your own. You’re crazy. I love you, cannot tell you how fortunate I am, and how ready I am to get married. Thanks for who you are, your commitment to us, and your love and support for Calvin Soccer.
If you’ve made it this far, and aren’t Kacie or my parents, I apologize for taking your time. I know this isn’t exactly the best way to get all of this out, but like I said, I haven’t been sleeping much and needed an outlet. I am certain there are people I have missed. For that I am sorry and want to thank you as well. There are far too many people that don’t get mentioned in things like this that allow for all of this to happen as well.