Christian Education

Calvary’s VanHolstyn quits coaching and teaching post after 37 years


During his long tenure at Calvary Bapist Academy, John VanHolstyn’s years of service have passed over the decades. His basketball and training wins number in the hundreds. And the students he taught number in the thousands.

But the long-term impact it had on so many ABC elders cannot be calculated by any earthly measuring stick – only by a heavenly stick.

When asked what he found most rewarding about serving as Calvary’s athletic director, as well as teacher and coach, for nearly four decades, VanHolstyn immediately responded, “The opportunity to share the Word of God and trying to help students apply it to their daily lives. life, both in (my) teaching and in coaching.

“I believe interpersonal relationships are important, and it’s always gratifying to see children move from grade seven through graduation, seeing their growth and maturity,” added VanHolstyn, who has retired. of head coach and teaching at the end of the 2020-21 school year. “… To see them mature and grow and be able to train them in college and have that relationship is special. I still have relationships with a lot of the guys that I have trained … Three of my pastors, who are technically , my bosses are former students. Watching them grow up and start their own families (has been rewarding). “

One of the many VanHolstyn alumni who have stayed with the ABC is men’s football coach James Day, who coached alongside VanHolstyn for a season and then took over the head coaching role a year ago. a few years.

“I enjoyed playing for him. I was lucky… that we had good teams (during my prep career), and football has always been my thing, so it was good,” Day said. “I’ve always had a great relationship with him, and he’s a family friend. The relationship side was really good (when I was a player), and I really enjoyed continuing that.”

Day said he learned a lot from watching VanHolstyn coach football.

“There were a lot of things he did really well that I took (and used myself),” he noted. “He’s always been team-oriented, and he’s done a really good job of figuring out, ‘Hey, that’s who I have, and how do I get these players to play together?’

“And if there were some things that he maybe didn’t trust (the coach), he did a good job delegating to the assistant coaches he had, and he would make sure everyone world was on the same page, ”Day added. “It was also about playing for the right reasons – playing sport for the right values ​​and connecting them to everyday life.”

CBA volleyball coach and alumnus Danelle Dickerson said she has known VanHolstyn in a variety of ways since she was a child and “will definitely be missed by Coach V” as a teacher and coach, although he will continue as director of athletics for the Kings for at least another year or two.

“I’ve known him personally since I was a teenager, and I went from being a high school student where he was AD, to being a teacher and a peer with him, to now a coach under him,” Dickerson said. “I have always appreciated his humility and loyalty, and I love that he is always available to coaches. He listens and gives great advice. I will miss his comments and perspective (when he is gone) .

“… He is always so attentive to listen, and he always takes the time to tell you what he really thinks,” she added. “Sticking to something for so many years is really a milestone, but he never seems to brag about his accomplishments or take credit for himself. He always returns the credit to the Lord, who gave him this job. and this responsibility. “


A native of Grand Rapids, VanHolstyn graduated from Creston High School in 1974 and went to Grand Rapids Baptist College and then Calvin College, earning a Bachelor of Arts in History from the former and a Bachelor of Science in Education from the latter in 1978. .

VanHolstyn admitted that after college he wasn’t quite sure what he wanted to do with his life.

“I was exhausted. I was married, teaching and working part-time in Meijer, and I wasn’t really sure I wanted to teach,” he noted. “I worked for about a year in construction, then one day I realized that the Lord had given me an interest in school and a desire to teach, so I started looking around (for opportunities).

VanHolstyn found his first opportunity on a deer hunting trip with a family whose oldest son was a trustee of White Lake Christian School in Montague. After serving as a long-term substitute teacher for a Christian teacher in White Lake who died of cancer at the end of the 1979-1980 school year, VanHolstyn and his wife moved to Montague in the fall of that year. , and he taught school school for the next four years.

As fate – or perhaps divine intervention – would have it, VanHolstyn trained against Calvary Baptist during his tenure at White Lake Christian. And that experience led to a meeting that would change her life.

“Pastor Mike Reece (of the CBA) saw me when I was coaching against them, and he asked permission to speak to me. It was the return home to the CBA that night, and… he (Reece) spoke to me after the game and said, ‘If you ever hear from anyone, we are looking to hire a coach, AD and teacher,’ “recalls VanHolstyn.

“… He said, ‘If you know anyone who is interested in coaching and teaching these subjects, let me know’ – then he explained all the subjects I was teaching (to White Lake Christian), ”VanHolstyn added. with a small laugh. “So I moved here in the fall of 1984, and have been here ever since.”


The move resulted in hundreds of wins – and several Michigan Association of Christian Schools State Championships – for the Kings in men’s basketball and men’s football under VanHolstyn. Mark Dickerson, Jr., who played basketball under VanHolstyn from the mid to late 2010s, said his former coach insisted on some non-negotiable items but was also willing to move on if necessary.

“He’s been doing this for a very long time, and he always had a system of what he liked to do, but he was also ready to listen to other perspectives and gradually adjust his attack and defense, depending on what was happening. was currently in the game, ”said Dickerson, who is entering his junior season as a member of the Bob Jones University men’s basketball team.

“In defense he likes to pick on people, and as a player you loved it. He really encouraged that tough defense,” Dickerson added. “And, offensively, sometimes he just let us play. He gave us the freedom to be able to work with other people and get the shots that we needed and the team needed to win.… I always have it. appreciated that he listened to and considered the comments. “

Beyond X’s and O’s, philosophies and game plans, VanHolstyn was also kind of a life coach, Dickerson noted.

“As a coach his goal was to make an impact on people, and he really wanted to see his players grow up and become young men,” he said. “That’s what he’s been doing for so long, and that was his whole goal, and I really enjoyed that as a player. He wanted to see us grow into great people.”

VanHolstyn said his coaching philosophy was greatly influenced both by legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden and by the Bible itself.

“(I stress) we are trying our best to do your best, and we came up with one line, ‘Do your best and let God do the rest,'” he said. You hear it a lot in sports: ‘Control what you can control.’ We can control how hard we work and make sure that we are giving the best of ourselves. We can control our attitude. ball, we can control our defense and work ethic in rebounds etc.

“Usually each year we will choose a theme based on a principle or scriptural verse,” he added. “… Last basketball season, I tweaked 3 John 4 a bit, and our theme was, ‘I have no greater joy than seeing my students and my players walk in the truth.’ “


Although he held a plethora of coaching and teaching positions during his 37 years with the CBA, VanHolstyn has recently been a boys basketball coach, junior football coach, and a Bible and Drama teacher. physical education for grades 7-10, as well as school AD.

Day praised VanHolstyn for the effort it took to program quality opponents for the Kings during a pandemic.

“This year has been pretty crazy. I enjoyed all the work he did just to make us good games. Talk about a tough year for (being a director),” said Day. “He gives me room to help me make the schedule as good as it can be, and he’s been really good at making me better games every year. Getting us into the MHSAA (as a member fully fledged recently) is another thing it has done.

“Working under him has been a huge blessing,” Day added. “… He’s a great boss. (He’s) also very patient.”

Danelle Dickerson agreed that VanHolstyn was an AD model.

“He always supports us,” she said of herself and her fellow coaches. “If we ever have a problem with the parents or the players he has always been an amazing sounding board, and he will give us the support we need and advice on how to handle different scenarios.”

VanHolstyn has said he will serve as an assistant coach to new college boys’ basketball coach Joel Small over the next school year, while also coaching Small to eventually take on the AD position. In the meantime, VanHolstyn will use her reduced schedule to travel and visit family.

At the same time, he still intends to remain a strong member of the Académie Baptiste du Calvaire.

“I turned 65 last November, and I was advised not to wait too long (to retire) because you never know about your health,” he said. “We have grandchildren in Pennsylvania and Montana, and we want to be able to travel and do other things.… But I’ll always be a replacement at CBA.

“I told them that I would like to do something part time, but I will do whatever they want me to do, whatever they need me to do,” he added.

Day, who hunts and fishes with VanHolstyn in his spare time, admitted to having mixed feelings about his friend and mentor’s diminished role at school.

“I’m happy for him, but at the same time he’s a longtime friend, and it’s one of those things where I’m going to waste time with him, lose part of this relationship,” said Day. “I’m sad about it, but I’m really happy that he has time to do other things.”


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