Tributes To Retired Men's Soccer Coach Steven Smith

From left, coaches Lee Schopp and Steven Smith watch a 2013 match at Van Andel Soccer Stadium. Former Hope College men's soccer players offered their thank yous and wrote about the impact Hope College men's soccer coach Steven Smith had on their lives during his 28-season tenure. He retired from coaching in February of 2018.

JEFF CARLSON

Class of 2006
Zeeland West High School Athletic Director

Coach Smith was my soccer coach for two years at Hope, but was more than just a coach.  He took a chance on me. After joining the mission trip to Jamaica over Spring Break my junior year, he encouraged me to try out for soccer my senior year which would turn into a two-year experience with the Hope Men's Soccer team with a fifth year added to my studies.  First and foremost, Coach Smith taught me and the rest of the team what it meant to be a man of faith and integrity. Everything he did was based on being a servant to our team and creating a culture of selflessness and teamwork. The teams that I was fortunate enough to be a part of were made up of young men from all walks of life, different majors, athletic teams, fraternities, etc. and he showed us how to work together for a common goal.  Coach Smith also taught me valuable lessons in leadership. He led with authority when it was needed but also was able to step back and give the team and the team leaders ownership of the direction the team needs to move toward accomplishing our goals. Being a part of the Hope Men's Soccer team under Coach Smith's leadership was one of the most influential two athletic seasons of my life that I was ever able to experience. Thanks, Coach!

MATT HASSENRIK

Class of 2000
Territory Manager at Intersect ENT, Grand Rapids, Michigan

Coach Smith was a coach who cared a lot about his players. He worked hard to make our program one of the best in the country in the late 90s. He is a very intelligent man who cares about his family a lot.

EDWARD HUEBNER

Class of 2004
Clinical Social Worker, University of Michigan

In short, Coach Smith has had a tremendous impact on me, my career path, and my faith. He has been, and continues to be, more than a coach.  I would describe Coach Smith as a man of God, whose faith was on display from the first time he contacted me as a recruit in 1999. He used the game of soccer to teach me lessons about life, integrity, generosity, and passion. Coach Smith brought me on a Spring Break mission trip to Jamaica to serve in a deaf school. I had never taken a trip like that and was inspired by his genuine commitment and love for those children. From there, with his encouragement, I volunteered two additional summers working in Jamaica with the deaf. I credit those life-altering experiences as the catalyst for my eventual career in social work and passion for social justice.

ZACHARY JONKER

Class of 1999
Petoskey High School teacher and varsity soccer coach

I was fortunate enough to be mentored by Coach Smith both on the field and in the classroom. He has had an immeasurable impact on both my personal and professional development over the past 20 years. He was able to elevate the soccer program to national prominence and maintain that standard throughout his career.

CONNOR KOGGE

Class of 2015

"I am sure I echo the same sentiments from all of Coach Smith's former players in saying that rarely, if ever, do you come across a coach that cares as much about his players as Coach Smith. Not only about our success on the field, but more importantly, Coach cared for every member of the program as if we were family; and we are.  Throughout all of our success on the field, it is the family culture cultivated in the locker room and off the field by Coach Smith and Coach Lee that made Hope Soccer more than just another college program. Some of college's and life's most important lessons were taught right at this field and in that locker room. Lessons we couldn't learn in a textbook, but lessons we learned as a result of being part of a brotherhood and having a Coach who loved us that wanted to see us succeed in life just as much as in soccer. As we graduate and move on over the years, the successes and men we have become can be traced back to our years with Hope Soccer, the brotherhood we are a part of, and to CoachSmith.

After my playing days at Hope were over, I was fortunate enough to be able to take my playing career overseas, an opportunity only made possible through Coach Smith. My playing career was finished at Hope, and at a time when many other coaches would be putting their time and energy into next season, next recruiting class, etc., Coach Smith used his time and energy going to bat for me for this opportunity. When he did not have to, he cared and believed in a former player, for which I will be forever grateful and speaks to the character of a man who guided us through four of life's most pivotal years.  While overseas, I had teammates from all over the world and when I would talk about my Hope Soccer experience, they could not relate. These were players from huge programs (DI, DII, and DIII) and although some may have had more success on the field, they couldn't relate to having a team and coaches that transcended the soccer field and cared for one another as a family.

I feel I speak for my former teammates and other alumni from Hope when I say that only as we look back on our time here do we slowly start to understand how special our time with Hope Soccer was and how much of an impact Coach Smith has had on all of us. While we had some memorable moments on the field, it was the leadership, guidance, character, and love of our Coach during those years that we will take with us and model in our own lives as husbands, fathers, friends, Christians, and people. We all love you Coach. Thank you to you and your entire family for everything you have given, sacrificed, and done for the countless people surrounding Hope Soccer and congratulations"

TARWO KONBLOA

Class of 2016

It has been a privilege and an opportunity to have met Coach Smith as we called him, but to me, he's a father figure WITHOUT QUESTION. It is difficult to describe in words of the influences Coach has had and still continue to have on me and others. I can recall today meeting Coach and President Bultman at East Kentwood High School in a room filled with many people include my mentors, teachers, and school principal who were invested in me. As we started the conversation, not one time did Coach mention anything about the game (soccer) that I love, but persistently steering me towards something far greater than the game I so desire to play. He stated, "East Kentwood has built you a village, and now we (Hope) will furnish that village to a town or a city. You could get hurt tomorrow and that athletic scholarship will be lost, but bringing you to hope, you will benefit tomorrow. Those words have been my personal motivation because none of the other coaches that offered me full athletic scholarships mentioned anything compared to Coach. Not just between these four walls of the classroom or the soccer field, but my daily interaction with Coach has played a vital role in my life.

"This is not the end. When one cannot stand tall. 

Many times I have missed the lane.

Where youngsters constantly fall

I wish this was my land

So that I won't see myself as small

If you give me peace

I would not be tough

Please have me teach

So things won't go rough

A child may have that reach

But society chokes him or her till they cough

Only if one could live by their wish

Things would be solved.

Life is like a rain drop

That we quite don't see

Because we have so many paths

Life at times is deceived

This is a true fact

That we sometimes don't believe

This may set us back

When our action has not been ceased

Let's replant this life tree

So the Lord will help us all indeed.

Now, do you understand what I mean?"

Coach has helped me to replant this life and I hope and pray that I will someday replant this life seed for others in the future.

MATT MARGARON

Class of 2002
Metro Director, Young Life Naperville & Aurora, Illinois

I am so incredibly thankful for Coach Steve Smith's influence on my life.  As a man, a father, a coach, a leader, a lifelong learner, a spiritual director, and friend, "Coach" is someone I have spent my life admiring. The reason is simple: As I have watched from up close and afar, He has relentlessly pursued putting life in it's proper order.  

St. Augustine says it this way: "But living a just and holy life requires one to be capable of an objective and impartial evaluation of things: to love things, that is to say, in the right order."

The truth is I chose to attend Hope because of Coach Smith and the Hope College Soccer Program.  While at Hope, I experienced tremendous team and individual success. 20 years later, I am now a husband, dad, a high school soccer coach, and a director of Young Life. What I learned from Coach extends far beyond the field.  

In his 28 years, Coach Steve Smith was an excellent soccer coach.  He coached many conference champions nationally ranked teams, countless All-Region and All-America soccer players, and Marv Zuidema Award Winners. But the lasting legacy that endures for me from Coach Smith is who he is as a man. He loves Jesus first. He cares deeply about being a man of integrity. He is a faithful husband and father. He is an excellent writer, professor, and learner.  And he values character above all else.

GRANT NEIL

Class of 2014
Supply Chain Territory Manager 

Growing up going to Hope soccer camps with Steve I never thought that I would have the opportunity to play for him. When I walked on to campus for the first time for tryouts it was a surreal feeling. When I saw my name over a locker I remember looking at Steve in shock because it is something that I wanted since I was a little kid. We had a lot of success in my 4 years on the field but it was the growth in my relationship with Steve that I will always remember. He challenged me to grow as a leader and as a man. Some of my favorite memories were in Jamaica on the mission trip running down the mountain after a long day's work and talking to him about my goals and aspirations not just for the rest of my collegiate career but for life. Steve, thank you for allowing me to be a part of the soccer program. Its where I met my best friends to this day, its where some of my favorite times were at hope, and it is where I grew a ton. Appreciate all that you've done for me.

LANCE PELLOW

Class of 1999
Hope College Admissions Office, Assistant Director and Group Visit Coordinator

As a 17-year-old kid, I shook the hand of someone who would become my soccer coach, my professor, my mentor and most importantly, my friend.  Steve has poured into me for nearly 25 years. What started out as a relationship built around soccer has turned into one that now focuses on family, friendship and faith.  I have been blessed to coach one of Steve's boys, watch another one play for his dad and now see his daughter attend and soon graduate from Hope. I've also been blessed to eat meals in his home and worship with Steve and his wife, Nancy.  Steve has been a Godly example to me, often reminding me that his role in my life and hundreds of others is to share God's love through soccer. Win or lose - and we did plenty of both - Steve has always made sure that our time together was special.  I'm excited for what the future holds for Steve, Nancy, Trevor, Macall and Shanley. I'm also excited to know that his Hope story continues and that I get to be part of it.

LEE SCHOPP

Class of 1993
West Ottawa middle school teacher

My life has been forever changed and transformed by Steven Smith.  The impact he has had on my life as a person is immeasurable. This impact is far reaching because all that he has taught me and the wisdom he has imparted on my life has now touched everyone I have encountered (my relationships with my parents, my sister, my wife, my children, all of the hundreds of players I have been fortunate enough to coach, the relationships with the thousands of campers and families through soccer camp, and all of the students I have taught at West Ottawa). Hundreds of other players and families during his 28 years have been impacted by Coach Smith just like me.  So those people's lives have been forever changed, and all of the people they have touched and reached have also been impacted by the man Steven Smith is.  While we can count all of his wins, league titles, All American players, etc, and certainly point to an amazingly successful head coach, it is the transformation in the lives of so many people that is his greatest accomplishment, and it is simply beyond measure.  The impact and legacy Steven has imparted on so many people, not just at Hope College, the Holland community, or the soccer community, but literally across the nations, has eternally changed the life course for scores of people. Words cannot express the gratitude I have for Coach Steven Smith.

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