Head coach Mary VandeHoef is eager to lead her Hope College softball team on the field again.
After 364 days since their last games, she is poised to get the chance to compete with the Flying Dutch this weekend. Hope opens the 2021 season with a non-league doubleheader at Hanover College (Indiana) on Saturday, March 6.
Earlier this month, VandeHoef joined the Hope Athletics Orange and Blue Podcast to discuss how she and her team managed the past year that’s been disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
VandeHoef expressed pride in how everyone on the team — from student-athletes, coaches, and support staff — banded together to assist each other during a trying time.
“In my lifetime I’ve never seen something like that get taken away,” VandeHoef said. “To have it happen when you’re playing is really hard. We wanted to acknowledge that but also be moving forward and pressing on. We really were able to make the most of our fall season.
“I’m really grateful we were able to get a chance to do so. Now, we’re just getting better every day and itching to get out there and play and compete. I cannot wait to compete with this team — just get after it and enjoy it.”
‘Staying connected’ through softball
This is VandeHoef’s 11th season as head softball coach. It will be a unique one.
Understandably, there has been more on her student-athletes’ hearts and minds the past year as everyone has adjusted to online classes, new safety protocols and limited social contact.
There will be no spring break trip to Florida this year, so VandeHoef has been creative to bolster the team camaraderie that often has been elevated during the annual excursion down south. Also, there are more games against MIAA opponents to fill out a 40-game schedule.
“There definitely have been aspects that are tough,” VandeHoef said. “We talk about being a five-minute friend, being that friend and teammate who is there for each other when you need it, to talk, facetime, or text. I think they really did a good job of staying connected in their own way. We’re certainly connected as a team.”
The Flying Dutch is expected to be a contender for an MIAA title this spring. Hope finished third in the 2021 MIAA Preseason Coaches Poll.
Dow Center Director
In addition to coaching softball, VandeHoef serves as the Dow Center director on campus.
The facility is the student recreation and intramural center, holds space for academic classes and is the home of the college’s dance department, and is a fitness area for faculty, staff, and community members. The Dow Center also periodically is a practice facility for Hope’s varsity teams.
It is a role that VandeHoef relishes since she enjoyed numerous broad-based activities as a student-athlete at her alma mater, Central College (Iowa).
“The Dow is so important to our campus,” VandeHoef said. “Having a place to recreate and have some fun and be with your friends is important. There are a lot of aspects of campus life that happen at the Dow that are fun to be facilitating. It’s a great position to know more of the Hope community and what makes this place special.”