This text might be revealed in The Overview’s particular journal situation, set to be obtainable on campus beginning the week of April 24.
When Rolf van de Kerkhof departed his publish as head subject hockey coach at Michigan State College in favor of the identical function at Delaware, he was questioned by practically everybody in his circle within the school sports activities trade.
He heard chatter that he could be committing skilled suicide by voluntarily leaving a highly-resourced “Energy 5” athletic division at Michigan State for a mid-major Division I member in Delaware. In his interview with then-Blue Hens athletic director Bernard Muir, he was requested if he felt snug transferring from teaching within the prestigious Large Ten Convention to competing within the Hens’ Colonial Athletic Affiliation (CAA).
Van de Kerkhof’s reply pleasantly stunned Muir and spurned the assumptions of onlookers.
“I mentioned, ‘Why not?’” Van de Kerkhof instructed The Overview. “That’s what we mentioned in 2016. ‘Why not?’ ‘Why [not] us?’ And so we bought nice buy-in. That [2016 national championship team] might haven’t been probably the most gifted gamers group as people, however as a workforce, they had been the strongest unit.
“They might in all probability surrender their lives for one another, and no person might mess with them.”
Because it occurred, nobody was capable of meddle in these Hens’ playoff march: it culminated of their nationwide championship win, which stands as Delaware’s most up-to-date NCAA title and because the crowning achievement of Van de Kerkhof’s time on the helm.
From participant to teach – or participant and coach
Van de Kerkhof, a local of the Netherlands, tried his hand in quite a lot of sports activities in his youth.
“I say it with my very own kids now, you attempt to permit them to discover and get some publicity to totally different sports activities, so we performed tennis and judo and soccer,” Van de Kerkhof says. “Soccer was perhaps not cool sufficient in our opinion, so a few of our associates appreciated hockey. Hockey tryouts grew to become hockey workforce, and hockey workforce grew to become hockey profession.”
Van de Kerkhof rotated throughout positions as a younger participant earlier than being drawn to the cage.
“I actually was amazed by the goalkeeping place,” Van de Kerkhof says. “Unsure why. However ultimately as I grew older, I grew to become a goalkeeper and that was lots of enjoyable and I used to be in a position then to play for my first age-group groups.”
Van de Kerkhof has fond reminiscences of his enjoying days, through which competitors spanned throughout Europe. Travels led him from Germany and Belgium to tournaments in England and the Netherlands.
All of the whereas, Van de Kerkhof appreciated teaching as a path within the sport.
“I all the time loved teaching, working with little folks,” Van de Kerkhof says. “When you find yourself a younger participant, they need you to work with youthful youngsters, and that’s how I bought into teaching.”
This mentorship of youthful members enhances one’s personal skills as a participant, the teaching veteran says.
“By having to teach or having an curiosity in teaching little folks, that then strengthened your understanding as a participant. What we’ve got tried to do right here at Delaware, too, the final 12, now 13 years, is assist our gamers develop into their very own coaches and have a look at it from totally different angles, totally different views to allow them to develop of their understanding, and with that the applying when that second happens [on the field].”
Below Van de Kerkhof, Delaware’s gamers have compiled way more profitable moments than not.
Ascent to convention dominance
Because the flip of the 2010s, subject hockey has been probably the most profitable workforce sport at Delaware. This system marks a decade of dominating the CAA in 2023: Van de Kerkhof, since his December 2010 hiring, has overseen the Blue Hens’ 5 straight CAA event championships from 2013 to 2017. In 2016, the Hens took down an annual heavyweight within the College of North Carolina, 3-2, to seize the nationwide title and cap a 23-2 season.
Upon arrival in Newark, Van de Kerkhof known as Delaware “a sleeping big” in subject hockey. To wake it, although, required getting a way of the gamers’ needs and dealing from there.
“The very first thing I did is, I had conferences with all my gamers and requested them these questions,” Van de Kerkhof says. “‘What do you want?’ … ‘What do you assume isn’t useful?’”
This was step one in Van de Kerkhof’s imaginative and prescient for compromise together with his gamers on the best way to workforce development.
“As a way to develop, we’ve got to have buy-in from everyone in that program,” Van de Kerkhof says. “We created that first. We additionally did an analysis of the extent, the understanding [of the game by the players], and it was not what I used to be used to. However as there was a spot, I needed to guarantee that I couldn’t maintain them to my requirements, however we needed to meet within the center.
“We needed to work towards one another.”
The CAA has witnessed Delaware’s fruits of that effort ever since. The Blue Hens, after falling to William & Mary within the 2018 convention championship sport, have strung collectively 4 consecutive league tourney titles from 2019 to 2022.
“Our personal little area of interest”
Delaware’s common NCAA event appearances throughout Van de Kerkhof’s tenure, on paper, rival the speed of postseason journeys by power-conference foes.
Van de Kerkhof, although, acknowledges that recruiting towards that opposition stays tough regardless of the Hens’ nationwide championship stirring dialog about this system.
“It isn’t a secret that being an FCS [Football Championship Subdivision] faculty provides you some challenges as a result of one of the best athletes on this nation, and it appears to be like like these days additionally from overseas, should not simply a [field hockey] program, they’re wanting on the total division,” Van de Kerkhof says.
As a result of most “can’t examine” Delaware with the football- or basketball-centric notoriety of North Carolina, Penn State and Maryland (all of which Van de Kerkhof identifies as competing recruiters), his goal is to intensify what differentiates the defending CAA champions from the family names.
Van de Kerkhof says he pitches Delaware’s funding in subject hockey, accommodating enjoying time, tutorial prowess and participant growth.
“We have now created our personal little area of interest,” the coach says.
In flip, Van de Kerkhof has positioned Delaware for continued success in what he calls a wealthy area for recruiting domestically–“the center of hockey.”
Van de Kerkhof acknowledges that the Blue Hens are “not all the time one of the best workforce,” he says. “However when one of the best hockey needs to be performed, Delaware is there.”