Orange and Blue Athletics Podcast: Director of Athletics Tim Schoonveld

Alan Babbitt: Welcome to the Hope College Orange and Blue Athletics Podcast. This is Alan Babbitt, sports information director. It's the new year, 2021, and we are looking forward to chatting weekly with Hope College staff and coaches, to get to know what's going on. With us today is our Director of Athletics Tim Schoonveld, gracing us to give a little bit of time. I know it's a busy time right now, Tim, with all the plans to get the semester started and competitions and practices resuming. Obviously, we probably can't move forward without looking back to last semester, certainly, an unusual one, challenging but also, I think, pretty rewarding talking to you and others and our student-athletes. What do you remember about that semester and what you saw how we as a Hope Athletics family were able to work through those challenging times.

Tim Schoonveld: Thanks for having me on, Alan, and for your work on this. I think interesting is the right word. I think when you're in the middle of all the COVID-related stuff, it's pretty trying and tiring. But when you take a minute and step back, you can definitely see I think God sent in some gifts in that regard, even though it's a lot different than probably any of us would have hoped for. I met with one of our teams and I joke with them, I like to be positive and encouraging, we try to set up a mantra here of choosing joy and just, optimism, but I think I've turned a little bit into it when I walk up to meetings or into people's offices, I'm either the Grim Reaper, or they all pull up their mask if I'm around students, they think that I'm going to yell at them for that. That's been a little less desirable and hopefully, we can get back to just enjoying that. I think obviously for people in athletics not having athletics is pretty disappointing. We thrive off that, we get energy from talking and being around our student-athletes, we get energy from watching them compete. You learn who they are. There's a whole group of freshmen that are just hard for me to know because I haven't really interacted with them or seen them compete. That's been difficult. It's obviously been difficult, pretty heartbreaking for seniors who have competed for 12 years or so, put in so much time, effort and energy into being a collegiate athlete and then you know that gets wiped out through no fault of their own, with no remedy for that. That stuff's been really difficult. On the other end, and you can speak to this too, but the sporting world takes when you work in athletics, It just takes, right? It takes all your time. You work 50, 60, 70 hour weeks. You are pretty much on call, all the time, those types of things. There's been some uniqueness I think for everybody, and this isn't just specific to me, some priorities of, like, hey, family matters and spending time at home. For us, we've got some kids in college. I've got a daughter that I've probably spent four or five weeks within my house when I never would have spent time with her like this, again. We went to Florida over Christmas, we never would have been able to do that. That's a pretty cool thing. Our student-athletes here at Hope have been amazing. It's been really inspiring to watch them. They've done everything we've asked without complaining. They're trying and it's a hard time for students right now. it's hard for us as old people, or as adults, to know what's going on, but then to imagine when you're an 18- to 22-year-old. When you add on top of that the political tensions that are out there, the racial tensions that are out there, it's just a hard, hard time. It's been inspiring to watch them and our coaches. You'll maybe hear this and laugh, but you have coaches, coaches are used to, they are highly competitive control freaks, and they're used to kind of being the king or queen of their own kingdom. This has been a time where they've had no control. To watch them sort of shift from a mindset of competitive excellence, like it's all about the competition, to a mindset of 'Hey, How do I love on and look after my team? How do I care for them? How do I creatively connect with them? has been really just kind of fascinating, but also I think really inspiring for me, you know, just in this role. I would still take the games and playing and we wish that that were the case, but I think it's definitely been pretty exciting to see. I think I'd be probably remiss if I didn't say you know our staff has just been outstanding. I mean you, Alan, and Eva (Dean Folkert), have been amazing with the sports information side, the articles that are coming out, I think, (assistant athletic directors) Caroline Dykstra, Courtney Kust, and Lindsay Engelsman have just kept things together, trying to think of creative ways to thank and honor people, Tim Koberna our athletic training staff. I mean, they've kind of put themselves in harm's way. It's been really great. Obviously, there are others too but I think just with our staff, it's been really exciting. You love to be a part of this team and I'm just thankful to be a part of it.

Alan Babbitt: I know a lot of work has gone into (this semester). We went into the summer preparing for the fall, then the fall didn't happen. But now you're preparing and we're getting close to having competition again. As best you can summarize what it is to put together a practice schedule and a game schedule on these times with so many zigs and zags and just a variety of things that the average fan may not really get about all the work that goes in, to try and to put something together not only safely, but then to provide competition.

Tim Schoonveld: It's been interesting because I have some of my friends give me a hard time, they're like, well, you don't have sports so you're not doing anything or they're like, 'Hey, what are you doing?' Then I say, basically, I'm spending three months planning and preparing and doing a bunch of work to get ready for a season, and then in one week I flush it down the toilet. Then I have to encourage and keep people's spirits up, then we start all over and we do it again. Now we're on the third iteration of that where we've had to kind of start over. The interesting thing is, we're not different than others, but we have about five or six entities that we're having to work under. They all have similar rules, but different rules. First, there's the college expectations and what we're doing as an institution. That bleeds into the county right and we spend a lot of time with Dr. Heidel and his staff from Ottawa County Health Department. That leads into we're under the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services orders. All of those three, we've got to navigate when we're trying to do something. Then on top of that, when it comes to the sport-related stuff, then we look at the league level, at the MIAA. We're trying to build some consensus and some health and safety standards that everybody's going to add here too. It's not just your day to day stuff. Then, to make it even more complex is then we're answering to the NCAA and what they expect. There's all kinds of things in regard to testing in regard to fans, in regard to facility uses and percentages. If we've learned anything right now, everybody interprets things a little bit different, not to mention our league has two schools from Indiana, so they're under different expectations than what we are. It's been very, very difficult. What we try to do is we take the information we have, we plan out and the schedule. We spent May, June, July, planning for the fall and we plan out a schedule as best we can. When the state and the government kind of pulled the plug on some things, then we had to do the same. Then, you are doing the same thing again. Right now, we're planning on sports participating, plus hockey that's going to be participating this spring. We live in Michigan, right. You have snow and cold. How do you get everybody on fields? We're really blessed at Hope to have amazing facilities, but we're not set up to have facilities for all 22 at a time. Then you look at that we really don't have a staffing setup in terms of athletic training and staff to cover all of the sports at all of the times. And so we're trying to kind of it really this spring is a little bit of triage for us. We're getting close with the winter sports to potentially participating. we're feeling confident in doing that. Now we're really working on specific COVID-related plans for hosting. What does that look like in DeVos Fieldhouse for competitions. What doors do teams come in? How are we cleaning the lockers and the benches? How do we test officials? Who's testing them? Who's paying for them? How do we test students? That just bleeds out to if they go on the road 'What are we doing for transportation?' or when the swim team participates or competes at the Holland Community Aquatic Center? What does it look like to run an event there? There's just a ton of details and I'm just really, really grateful and I feel pretty blessed with the staff that we have here, and everybody's kind of doing their part. It's ironic. Our theme for this year is 'One Team'. Hey, we're all one team and that fits perfectly right. We're just one team. We're trying to help each other out and and figure that out. It's exciting, exhilarating, tiring, frustrating — pretty much every emotion you could think of.

Alan Babbitt: With basketball being an indoor sport and the times you're in now (with) orders and direction from the state government, what's it going to take as far as testing and mask-wearing as far as competition? What that's gonna look like if fortunately, we're able to play and tip-off at DeVos Fieldhouse house in the coming weeks?

Tim Schoonveld: There are a lot of different orders. There's NCAA guidance in terms of testing. It is a bit stricter with the Department of Health and Human Services. We are a little stricter than some other places. Our basketball teams are coming in and we're testing them two to three times a week with PCR testing, which is a little bit of the gold standard. We've worked out something with Trident labs here in town, so we can get results back a lot quicker. Appreciate Tim Koberna's work on that. Then we're really at the mercy of the Health and Human Services order here in the state in terms of masking. In terms of masking you're required to have to test six days a week if you want to not play with masks. if you watch you know the (Detroit) Pistons, if you watch Michigan or Michigan State, they're able to play without a mask because they're testing six days a week for their student-athletes. Even though the contact level is really high, they can kind of pull that back. That's really a state order right now. Our hope is that at some point that will change. We're not anticipating it wil. We don't anticipate testing six times a week because we don't think that the league level that all of our schools will. I think at this point will probably be held to the standard of wearing a mask, which creates a whole other slew of who's going to manage of that, who's going to keep track of that of whether they have it or don't have it. Honestly like we're at the point now where we're just grateful to be practicing. We're grateful to have the opportunity to try and play. We're thankful that you know our teams have come back and are able to get started. I think that's really our focus. If we've got to play with a mask, yeah, that stinks; it's not our favorite, but we're just going to do it. When the new orders come out that maybe there'll be some changes. Alan, I would be remiss to not say this. We want to do it safely and we want it to be safe, so in the end, we believe that sport can transform students' lives. It's transformed mine and many of our other staff. If it's a difference, the masking thing, it is just sport so the health and safety (aspect) is more important. Making sure that we're not the cause for the college to have to pause or shut down is really critical to us. We want to keep people healthy and we want people around. This is our job. We want to do it because we want to impact lives, but we're always mindful of that. I think Hope is a gold standard right now in terms of health and safety and how we've done things and the integrity with which we do it. We're going to keep following that, and we just hope that while doing that, we can still participate in some contests.

Alan Babbitt: Athletic directors like yourself put your heart and soul into this job for you. On top of that, you're a dad, as you mentioned earlier to student-athletes Kenedy, an outstanding All-American basketball player, tremendous unbeaten season last year got caught up in with having the season shut down and your son, Eli's a freshman on the men's basketball team. You're having to manage all those emotions and as a parent, and as well as an administrator. Talk about what you have learned and how you tried to handle that.

Tim Schoonveld: On some levels. I think having students here has helped a little bit of credibility, just with people and decisions and that type of stuff, especially with negative and bad decisions. Last year when we had to shut down, Kenedy's team was in the middle of amazing run, had a chance to potentially win the national championship. it was just a great season and it just got pulled out. The timing of it. I mean, everything just kind of hit. I didn't even have a chance to really grieve or be sad about it. I felt kind of bad about that because we just had to go to work. We didn't know what was going on in March and we thought it was only going to be a week or two — just weird times. I think the summer, and even this fall when it became pretty apparent to me that no matter what we have for a season for our winter teams was not going to be not great. It's going to be great to play, but everybody wants a 25-game season. They don't want to 12 or 13 game season. There's a couple days where it just sort of hit me like, man, that's just going to be tough. It's a tough way to have her go out. They've got nine seniors that have all been together. It's been a cool run. They've got maybe even a better team this year than last year. It's given some good perspective again, and I mean I'm saying this, this is my job. I do it for a living. Sports changed my life. But it's just sport, and I think I'm pretty grateful. We haven't had to experience COVID in our house. We've been able to be together. I'm just grateful for how my family's been. Hope's a place that's transformed my wife's and my life when we were here, and even now. To watch our kids be impacted by their coaches, Colly Carlson, and Brian Morehouse, and Courtney Kust with Kenedy and, Coach Mitch (Greg Mitchell) and Coach (Chad) Carlson, Ken George and Coach  Dav (Tom Davelaar) impacting Eli's life, it just shows me the difference that people can make. I'm completely biased, but the difference that Hope has, this is a place that's going to love and care for your kids and I've experienced that. We're hopeful for some sport, obviously with Kenedy. We've had a lot of fun and a lot of blessings and a good run, and hopefully, they get some opportunities this year and. If not, we'll grieve it a little bit and then we'll keep moving on.

Alan Babbitt: What is it about sport for you that has been such a transformational part of your life, a central part of your life. You played at the college level before knee problems took you off, then you became a very successful coach at the high school level. I met you at Holland Christian when you coached there. Then now moving in it as an athletic director at Hope. What is it about sport that has grabbed you and been something that's been with you throughout

Tim Schoonveld: It's too long to kind of get into specifics, but on many levels, I feel like the opportunity to be involved in sport has really like saved and pointed the trajectory of my life into really positive and amazing ways. That's from the people, Mike Phelps in high school, my high school coach, it's Glenn Van Wieren here at Hope and countless other people that have invested in me and used sport as a tool and a vehicle to change a kid's life. That has just had a profound impact I would say. I think sport has some uniqueness to it that, allows for some extra growth. I think being involved in extracurriculars across the board, people into music, fine arts, those types of things if it's done right, a teacher and a coach can literally like change the trajectory of somebody's life and that's what I found in mine. Every summer I have a golf outing with my high school basketball coach Mike Phelps. He's a Hall of Fame coach. I love him. He's one of the most important people in my life. The interesting and really fun thing for me to watch with sport is now that I'm old, I'm seeing the fruit of investing in people and how that just comes back around it. Mike Phelps was my high school coach completely invested in me change my whole trajectory were very close hired me again at Holland Christian to coach and teach over there. When my daughter comes up, then Mike Verkaik's daughter, Carissa, who I coached, winds up being Kenedy's coach. It just spirals down. My youngest daughter Keagan's at Holland Christian. One of my former athletes who I coached at Holland Christian Heather Swierenga is her coach now. I just really see and believe in the power of sport, and I think it's really the power of people. When you say, hey, this is something I love. I'm going to take something I love and then I'm going to use it to be able to kind of transform your life. That's what's happened to me, and so I'm eternally grateful to them. I think God certainly blessed me and I think it's just another reminder to me to find what you love and then use that tool to be able to influence and impact people's lives in your world, whatever that is for you it might be writing stories or podcasts and for other people it's music, and for other people, it's teaching. there's just a variety of different things. For me, that's been sport and I'm just very, very humbled and thankful to be where I am, because of the people who've done that for me.

Alan Babbitt: Lastly, Tim, you mentioned Coach Van Wieren. Why was your experience at Hope is a transformational place for you? What was it about your time here that helped propel you as an adult and your career? What made Hope that that place for you that you're obviously trying to make for other people?

Tim Schoonveld: On some levels, Hope was a place of like redemption for me. I had knee injuries and I couldn't really play. I got recruited very heavily by Coach and what's amazing is I had to sit in his office at the Dow Center and tell him I was choosing to go to Calvin over Hope. I still remember sitting across from him and that was 30 years ago. The grace and dignity and class that he showed how much he just loved me. A year and a half later, when it wasn't great for me at Calvin — and Calvin is a great school, but it just wasn't a good fit for me — he just said 'Schoonie, you need to be at Hope and then kind of took me under his wing and invested in me. The people that I've met here and I think of John Huskin, the registrar. I think of Rich Ray, who was the first person to see me after I tore my ACL in high school, then rich was the person that hired me here. Ray Smith, my predecessor in the AD job. Ray sent me as soon as I got hired said, 'Congratulations' and said, 'I want you to know. This is the greatest that there is in the country. And I just want you to know that.' He still says that to me. I just continue to find that people matter, people matter in terms of like having your life invested in and being able to have those mentors and those people. I see that now with people like Kirk Brumels, Paul Boersma, Matt Scogin, Scott VanderStoep that are investing in me. To be able to do that, I think that's motivation for me to kind of continue to do that with others, to try to influence and impact because as you've seen in this year the world needs light. I think the people of Hope bring light. I think that's God's call for all of us, and I think that's what we really desire. That's what our hope is. We want to play sport. We want to celebrate. We want All-Americans and we want to win. We want to do all of this and it's great, but like, hey, like when God's plan turns a little different way 'How do we help bring light?' through what we do. I'm so proud of our staff and everybody, you included Alan. I think we've tried to do the best to bring light in difficult times. I think that that's training people. I know I'm never going to be the President of the United States. I'm never going to cure cancer. But I just might influence and change the trajectory of somebody who does and who becomes one of those. I think that's what drives me. I think that's what people have done for me. I just feel really blessed and grateful.

Alan Babbitt: Thank you, Tim. Thank you for the work you're doing and the light you're trying to provide. Hopefully, we'll be reporting on some games and some competitions here sooner than later. Thank you very much.

Tim Schoonveld: Thanks, Alan. | PO Box 9000, Holland, Michigan 49422