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New Jersey Native Finds His Niche at Calvin College

Friday, January 17, 2014

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By Gina de Haan

Behind every good team there is a great leader. For the Calvin College Knights, one of those leaders is the head of their student cheering section. Senior Ben de Waal Malefyt directs Knight Nation with his booming voice and contagious energy.

After growing up in Midland Park, New Jersey, Ben initially chose to attend Eastern University in Pennsylvania. However, he found that it wasn’t a good fit for him and decided to transfer to Calvin. “Coming out of high school, if you would’ve told me I’d end up at Calvin, I would’ve laughed in your face” Malefyt says. But after seeing and hearing about the relationships his older brother had built with his friends in Grand Rapids, he figured he’d give it a try. As Ben says, “It was kind of a shot in the dark, but I’m glad I did it.”

By his junior year, Ben was the head of Knight Nation. The summer after his sophomore year he grew close to Dr. Jim Timmer, Calvin’s athletic director, at the Gainey athlete leadership retreat in Montana. Ben eagerly accepted Timmer’s offer to take over the Knight fan section and, as he says, “We just ran with it and now I love it.” Malefyt especially enjoys the social aspect that his position includes; he gets to meet new people and bond with them by rooting for the Knights.

Although he is a big guy, Ben’s ego is the opposite of his stature. The senior is genuinely kind and a humble leader. He says, “Everyone makes me look good – without all of them, I wouldn’t look good. They’re the ones who deserve all the credit, not me.”

One of the most memorable events for Ben was cheering on the women’s volleyball team for the past two years as they traveled the road to the NCAA Division III National Championship. Under the direction of head coach Amber Warners, the Knights finished second in the nation in 2012 and won the national title the following year. His response to the gratitude he was shown by the team was, “Thank the fans, not me. You guys keep playing great and we’ll keep cheering great.” Malefyt describes the experience as unbelievable and something he’ll never forget; he plans to tell his kids all about the memorable journey that he was honored to be a part of.

All the shouting doesn’t seem to take a toll on Ben’s roaring voice, but when it does, his secret remedy is Sprite. He’s not quite sure why it’s so effective in rejuvenating his throat, but it’s been a necessity ever since his junior year when he went to Applebee’s after a game and had the soda. “My voice was great the next day, so I ran with it and have been doing it ever since. I figure, don’t fix it if it’s not broken.”

However, there is more to Ben than his leadership skills. He is a physical education major with a minor in health; he hopes to become a high school P.E. teacher and to continue coaching basketball; he is currently a boy’s coach at East Grand Rapids Middle School.

Malefyt is also a member of Calvin’s track and field team as a shot-putter and discus thrower. After participating in both basketball and track and field in high school, Ben realized that his basketball days were over and he wanted to focus solely on track and field at the collegiate level. Along with the competition aspect of his sport, Ben feels blessed to belong to the largest team at Calvin College. His personal goals for the indoor season are to get better each day and to get to know everyone on the team. He says, “The beauty about track is that there’s so many people on the team that you build a lot of relationships. I look forward to that and hope to get to know each person individually.”

Malefyt appreciates this opportunity that allows him to branch out; as he says, it fits his style.

For the outdoor season, his goals include throwing a new personal record of 51 meters, winning conference, making it to nationals in discus, and most importantly, beating rival Hope.

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