Longtime Calvin Soccer Coach, Educator and Administrator Passes Away
Saturday, June 18, 2011
GRAND RAPIDS - Calvin College has lost one of its legendary Knights.
Dr. Marvin A. Zuidema passed away late this afternoon after a battle with illness of just over a year. He was 75.
Known as “Dr. Z” to those in the Calvin community, Zuidema touched many lives at Calvin, in the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association and in collegiate athletics across the country.
A native of Muskegon, Zuidema graduated from Calvin College in 1957. While a Calvin student, he was a member of the baseball team. After graduating from Calvin, he continued on to earn a master’s degree at Michigan State University and in 1961, returned to Calvin as an instructor and coach in the school’s physical education department. For the next 43 years, he served the Calvin physical education department as a professor, department chair, coach and director of men’s athletics.
“My life at Calvin has been one of wearing many hats,” said Zuidema in a retirement tribute in Calvin’s alumni magazine Spark in 2004.
As a coach, Zuidema was the head coach of the Calvin men’s tennis team for seven years as well as the head baseball coach for 10 years. As baseball coach, he led Calvin to three MIAA titles. His most storied coaching run however came in men’s soccer soccer as he served as Calvin’s head coach for 36 years.
Zuidema took over the reins of the Calvin men’s soccer program in 1961 and remained in that position through the 1997 season, missing only the 1968 season while completing work on his Ph.D at Indiana University. In 36 years as men’s soccer coach at Calvin, Zuidema posted a won-loss record of 341-175-48 for a .647 winning percentage which included 14 MIAA titles, four NCAA III Tournament berths including an appearance in the national quarterfinals in 1980. He is ranked 16th all-time in NCAA Division III men’s soccer for career victories. In 1993, he became the first coach in the state of Michigan - at any level - to reach the 300-win plateau in soccer.
Prior to taking over as men’s soccer coach in 1961, Zuidema had little background in the sport. He had gained some knowledge as a graduate assistant at Michigan State University before coming to Calvin but had never played the game himself. Nonetheless, Calvin’s director of athletics at the time, Dave Tuuk, convinced Zuidema to take the job. “He (Tuuk) said to me, ‘Marv, I know you love baseball but I really have to ask you to take soccer. It’s OK if you don’t know everything about the game. You can learn it; the guys on the team will help you. You’ll be fine,”” recalled Zuidema in his interview with Spark.
A year later, the man who had never played organized soccer coached Calvin to a first-place tie for the championship of a league that included the only seven schools in the Midwest to field soccer teams; Calvin shared the title with Michigan State University. In 1970, soccer became an official varsity sport in the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association.
Under Zuidema’s director, Calvin began to host soccer clinics and tournaments for the area’s Christian high schools. From Grand Rapids-area high schools, excitement rippled outward and spread, as Calvin soccer players graduated and took jobs teaching the sport. At one time, Zuidema counted more than 100 of his former players coaching soccer in schools around the state and country. His successor as Calvin men’s soccer coach, Dave VerMerris, was one of his former players. Calvin’s current head men’s soccer coach Chris Hughes, was a four-year player for Zuidema from 1987-to-1990. Calvin’s current head women’s soccer coach, Mark Recker, was also a four-year player for Zuidema from 1976-to-1979.
“It’s a warm, wonderful feeling to see the sport develop the way it did in our community,” said Zuidema in his retirement tribute in Spark. “To see your former players spread the love of the game has been very gratifying.”
During the 1970’s, Zuidema began taking college and high school players every four years on summer trips overseas to Europe where the Knights would play a series of games against club teams in France, Germany, Switzerland and the Netherlands. The trips to Europe were based just as much on culture and education as they were on athletics however. Players on the tours visited historical sites in cities such as Amsterdam, Brussels, Paris and Munich. The tours also featured visits to the World War I battlefield in Verdun, France as well as to Arnehm’s John Frost Bridge in the Netherlands made famous in the 1977 World War II film: A Bridge Too Far. Zuidema took great pleasure in watching the players experience European history in person for the first time.
“The trips to Europe were very memorable,” said Zuidema in an interview with the Calvin Sports Information office a few years back. “Our players came back from those trips with a new appreciation for history and the way Europe views the game of soccer.”
Zuidema also had a national impact in soccer in America, serving as the Division III National Chairperson to the National Soccer Coaches Association of America. He also served on the NSCAA Ethics Committee for several years. In 1998, he received one of the highest honors in all of collegiate soccer as he was awarded the Bill Jeffrey Award by the National Soccer Coaches Association. The Bill Jeffrey Award is named in honor of the legendary Penn State and former U.S. National (Men’s) Team coach who served as NSCAA’s president in 1948 and received the NSCAA Honor Award in 1949. It is presented annually for outstanding service to or achievement in intercollegiate soccer. The individual’s contributions must have made a positive impact on the improvement, advancement or presentation of intercollegiate soccer.
In addition, Zuidema served the MIAA as the conference men’s soccer coordinator for over 20 years. In 1999, the MIAA instituted the Dr. Marvin Zuidema Award for men’s soccer. The award honors a senior men’s soccer player in the MIAA each fall. The recipient is selected for his contributions to team play, leadership qualities, demonstration of ethical virtues and excellence in athletics and academics—all principles that Zuidema cherished deeply.
In 2005, the soccer field at Calvin was renamed Zuidema Field in his honor. The renaming of the field took place at halftime of a men’s soccer game between Calvin and Hope.
After retiring as men’s soccer coach at Calvin at the conclusion of the 1997 season, Zuidema transitioned into an administrator’s role, taking on the position of Calvin’s director of men’s athletics - a position he held from 1997-to-2003. During his six-year term as Calvin’s director of men’s athletics, the Knights captured four national championships - two in women’s cross country and one each in men’s basketball and men’s cross country. Calvin also captured 19 MIAA team championships during that time.
While serving as the men’s AD at Calvin, Zuidema took on the additional role as MIAA secretary to the Committee on Athletics. Zuidema served as MIAA secretary up through this winter.
Zuidema also had a deep passion for academic scholarship and instruction. After completing his Ph.D. at Indiana University in 1968, he was encouraged by Nick Wolterstorff, then a professor in Calvin’s philosophy department, to begin to work out on paper the Christian approach to physical education that he was practicing on the field and in the gym. Those jottings eventually became an entire K-12 curriculum published by Christian Schools International (CSI). Now in its fourth printing, the curriculum is used by schools far beyond the CSI umbrella.
One of Zuidema’s well-know phrases when referring to physical education, sports and recreation was: “Play fair, share and care.”
As a professor in the Calvin physical education department, he served as department chairperson for several years and also served as the director of the department’s teacher education program.
In 2009, Zuidema received the Faith and Learning Award from the Calvin Alumni Association. The award, given annually since 1992, is granted to a current or former Calvin professor for excellence in teaching, spiritual impact, concern for students and lasting influence. Candidates are nominated by Calvin alumni and chosen by a committee of alumni board members.
In a congratulatory note to Zuidema upon receiving the award, a 1974 Calvin alumn wrote: “Your writings on physical education, especially in materials produced for CSI had a lot of impact on the programs of the schools with which I worked. [You are recognized] as a colleague concerned with the development of people who see their bodies as a gift from God and are committed to their maintenance. Thank you for your work. It has had an impact far greater than you know.”
His former players also sent words of thanks at the time of the award one of whom wrote: “Coach Marv Zuidema was a coach whose leadership, influence and speech, on and off the field clearly portrayed a Christian lifestyle and witness that positively influenced us during our tenure at Calvin.”
Zuidema is survived by his wife Virginia, sons Roger and Kevin, daughter Vonnie and several grandchildren.
Visitation will take place at Zaagman Funeral Home in Grand Rapids on Tuesday, June 21, from 5-to-8 p.m. and on Wednesday, June 22, from 5-to-8 p.m. The funeral will take place on Thursday, June 23 at 3 p.m. at Shawnee Park Christian Reformed Church located directly (east) behind Grand Rapids Christian High School.