The sticks, the skirts, the socks, the pads, the wire-mesh cages and the balls have long been packed away but the memories remain.
From 1968-until-1990, the women’s field hockey program evolved into a thriving sport on the Calvin College campus and in the MIAA.
And at the forefront of Calvin’s field hockey rise was Doris Zuidema who served as head coach from 1977 until 1989 when she stepped down to serve on an academic sabbatical.
During her tenure as Calvin’s field hockey coach, the Knights captured six MIAA titles and became the league’s first team to advance to the NCAA III Tournament, doing so in 1988. In 1981, her squad went 12-0 in the MIAA, becoming the first team in league history to go through a double round-robin schedule undefeated.
Zuidema took over the reins of the Calvin field hockey program in 1977 after seeking a change from coaching basketball - a sport she had coached successfully at Calvin since 1965.
“I was looking for a change from coaching basketball and the rule was in the Calvin physical education department that you had to coach something along with your teaching load,” said Zuidema. “I decided to try coaching field hockey even though I knew very little about the sport.”
Zuidema pushed ahead to learn the sport however, attending a field hockey camp in Brooklyn, Michigan, where she actually played the sport while also seeking knowledge from other experienced coaches attending the camp.
She also credits several of her players for guiding her along the way. “I had players like Leslie Shaw and Kathleen Haun who were more-or-less student assistant coaches,” said Zuidema. “They really helped me with game strategy and were great assets to the growth of our program. I wasn’t afraid to rely on my players to help me out.”
One of her former players Deb Bakker remembers Zuidema as a great coach to play for. “Doris was so much fun to play for,” said Bakker who currently serves as a professor in the Calvin kinesiology department. “She had so many great one-liners that would make you crack up but she also took the game seriously. She was in it to win.”
Zuidema was also in it to make sure her team was the best conditioned team on the field hockey pitch. “We started out every practice with a two-mile run,” said Bakker who was a goalie from 1979-to-1981 under Zuidema. “The goalies would run with their gear on too. We were always a well-conditioned team.”
According to Zuidema, many of her coaching drills involved concepts she developed as a basketball coach. “Many of the drills I used in basketball were adaptable to field hockey,” she said. “We worked on individual defenses like man-to-man and zone just like we did in basketball. We worked on give-and-go’s and also fast-break plays. There were many similarities.”
During the early years of Zuidema’s tenure as field hockey coach, Calvin’s field hockey program was a member of the WMIAA and also the AIAW and the SMAIW, which like the men’s NCAA, controlled regional and national competition. In 1979, Calvin, led by the superb play of Julie Besteman, won the SMAIW State Tournament and went on to the national tournament at Princeton. At the turn of the decade, the MIAA assimilated women’s athletics into its structure and field hockey became an official MIAA sport.