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Former Calvin Soccer Players Reflect on Life of Dr. Marv Zuidema

Monday, June 27, 2011

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By Sports Information Student Assistant Andrew Knot

“My life at Calvin has been one of wearing many hats.”  So said the late Dr. Marvin Zuidema in a 2004 interview with the Calvin Spark.  An educator, administrator, and coach of multiple sports, Zuidema’s most-recognized role came at the helm of the Calvin men’s soccer program.  Most often with a maroon windbreaker jacket and a pair of khaki slacks, Zuidema wore that cap for 36 years.  Less than a week ago, on June 18th, Zuidema died after a year-long struggle with illness.

“Coach Z” no longer wears the Calvin soccer hat he donned in his 36 years as head coach, the one he continued to wear for the next 14 years as both an administrator and a fan.  The next season of Knight athletics will mark the first in almost a half-century without Marv’s warm focus on sidelines and in bleachers. 

His memory, however, remains very much alive, uncontained by white chalk lines.  Several of Calvin’s current soccer coaches played for or coached with Zuidema.  Some did both.  Their reflections on his legacy glow with admiration.

“Coach Z was a wonderful person with a contagious passion for the sport.  He was such a gracious coach and man,” said women’s soccer goalkeeper coach Casey TerHaar, who claimed the distinction of Zuidema’s first All-America selection as a goalkeeper on Zuidema’s inaugural team.  TerHaar later accompanied Zuidema on almost all of his trips through Europe with the soccer program. 

“He has influenced my life tremendously,” said Don Buchholz, goalkeeper coach for the men’s team.  “He was a great example of how to live as a Christian in this world.”  Buchholz earned MIAA MVP honors under Zuidema in 1971 and also travelled with Zuidema on several of the European trips. 

“He was much more than a coach to me, “said current men’s team head coach Chris Hughes, an All-MIAA player for Zuidema in 1990.  “He was a mentor for me.  He molded and shaped me,” he added. 

Beyond their words, Zuidema’s influence is especially evident on the soccer field that bears his name.  Already known for an authentic investment in his players, Coach Z extended that preferential attention to the playing field.  Regardless of result or weather, Zuidema’s top post-game priority was to tend to the pitch.

“He loved that field,” said Buchholz.  “That was his pride and joy.  Even after his retirement, invariably, he’d be out there replacing divots.” 

Coach Hughes, who marvels and remains gracious for Zuidema’s inability to stay away from the program, plans to continue the field maintenance into next season, memorializing Zuidema’s meticulous devotion to the program.

Other coaches highlight Zuidema’s uncanny knack for the slightest minutia.

Buchholz fondly remembers trips to coaching conventions, after which Zuidema demanded ten things learned.  Similarly, TerHaar recalls Zuidema’s obsession with tactics after watching European squads play abroad.  Even in recent years, Hughes remembers Zuidema as his best scouter.

“By the time he was done with his scouting reports, I knew which shoe the opposition tied first,” said Hughes. 

“He was a connoisseur of details, even at a young age” said TerHaar.  He continued, “He really wanted to learn the sport and he became a quick learner.”  He had to be.  Zuidema took the job in 1961 after some prodding from then athletic director Dave Tuuk.  Zuidema hadn’t previously—nor would he ever—played on an organized soccer team.  Still, his passion for the game laid the foundation that allowed Calvin to enjoy perennial success today.

“He truly was a pioneer for soccer in West Michigan,” said Hughes, who cites Zuidema as the reason he got into the coaching profession.

“He really helped the local soccer scene flourish,” said TerHaar. 

In doing so, Zuidema stressed the teaching of the game.  Zuidema, whose work on physical education curriculum is in use nationally, coached the responsibility of passing the sport on.

“He taught us the responsibility of the current generation to pass on the beautiful game to the next generation,” said Hughes.  “Now, we’ve taken what he taught us and applied it in our own way.”

Zuidema’s efforts bore great fruit.  Players of his remain active in the game on a national basis.  His physical education credo:  “play fair, share, and care” prospers not only as a proper, yet all too-brief, summation of his intentionally-crafted life, but also the hallmark phrase of the soccer program he built, a program now inseparably connected to his name.

“I don’t think anybody can mention soccer at Calvin without mentioning Coach Z,” said Buchholz.  Simply put, as he says it, “He’s an icon.”

Underneath the khaki cap and maroon windbreaker lived a man who wore many hats.  He did so for Calvin College and for its soccer program.  After a lifetime of dedicated service, Zuidema’s hat may be gone, but his influence fits better than ever.

Posted in: Men's Soccer
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2 comments on "Former Calvin Soccer Players Reflect on Life of Dr. Marv Zuidema"
  • I feel sad to hear about the passing of Marv Zuidema.  I remember him best for teaching physical Education for teaching elementary education students.  I still have my books and notes from the class.  He lead by coaching, he lead by teaching, and he lead with solid Christian principals.  He will be missed.

    Posted by Sandra Destrempes on 07/01 at 05:38 PM
  • I was deeply saddened when I heard that Coach Zuidema had passed away. In the late 70’s, Coach Zuidema supported my efforts to start a fencing club at Calvin.  He further asked me to teach a class in fencing, which I did for the next 8 years.  He helped raise the money to buy equipment, and helped me reserve the gym to host fencing tournaments.  His support made all that possible.  Thank you coach, rest in peace.

    Posted by Dave Griffiths on 07/01 at 08:18 AM