Home Field Advantage for AD, Tim Ritsema

1270991261e92b45cadffeb0d92fe70aa2494837Tim Ritsema, our new Senior High Athletic Director, may be wrapping up his second full week on the Jenison High School campus but he is no stranger to these halls. A Hope College and Grand Valley State University grad, Tim actually started his career with us and is happy to be suiting up in Wildcat green again.

During that early decade, Tim was teaching PE, coaching Track and Cross Country; he also spent two years as the Jenison Junior High Athletic Director. Most recently, Zeeland East had the pleasure of Tim as their Athletic Director for 14 years. Those that worked closest with him during that time, describe him as one that will be remembered as the role model he is – as a father and a fan of athletics; while understanding and achieving a healthy balance.

Walking onto the track at Wildcat Stadium for the first time in 14 years was a surreal experience for Tim. He fondly reflects on former athletes and memorable contests, but it’s ultimately about the relationships. Not only with coaches and other staff, but the kids. Tim has such a heart for the student athlete and says he can’t imagine doing anything different. He will definitely acknowledge that “wins are fun, of course, but trophies fade.” His real inspiration comes from connecting with student athletes 5-10 years later. Finding out they are doing great things with their lives; “that just jazzes me up, and I am not ready to be done with that.” He recalls numerous valuable lessons in his upbringing when adults took an interest and invested in his life. He feels that being present and involved in students’ lives is what drives him daily

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Time has obviously passed and some things have changed (some of my former students are even coaching here now!) but I feel so at home and one thing remains, Jenison has strong programs and an outstanding reputation in so many areas; I intend to build on that momentum with new and fresh ideas. I am so excited to be back and I look forward to applying my years of experience gained at Zeeland.

Tim Ritsema, Jenison High School Athletic Director.

It is an honor to be able to offer a quality athletic experience that functions as an extension of our fantastic educational and fine arts programs – and that we have Tim back on our home turf! Let me officially say “Welcome (home) Tim!”, the Jenison families are blessed to have you lead our student athletes, teaching them character, commitment, a true sense of sportsmanship and an appreciation for that healthy balance.

We’ve Got Bowling Royalty at Jenison High!

Brother and sister team, Nick and Lauren Slagter come by their incredible bowling talent naturally. They also come from longtime bowling royalty. Their grandmother and dad are both in the Grand Rapids Bowling Hall of Fame!

Their dad [who has a 230 average and has bowled 25 perfect games!] and their maternal aunt coach the Jenison Bowling Team. Their family bowls together in a league on Thursday nights and while their mom grew up in a bowling strong family, their dad found his passion for bowling when he met their mom.

In bowling competition, similar to Olympic gymnastics, athletes compete at both team and individual levels. This past bowling season, both the girls and boys teams won the OK Black conference. Nick finished in 14th for individuals, losing to the eventual second place winner. Lauren may have lost to the eventual winner in the semifinals, but she made it farther than any other bowler in the history of JPS! The girls team qualified 1st in states and made it to the semifinals, which is also the farthest that any bowling team has ever made it in the history of Jenison!

Next year both Lauren and Nick are looking forward to keeping the teams intact, as there are no current seniors moving on. “It’ll be the same team, with more experience. We’ll be better equipped for next year and it’ll be a lot of fun.” They want to give special recognition to their teammates: Sarena Overbeek, Anna Bartz, Dustin Smith, and Tyler Miller.

Nick tries to take it in stride when he gets grief from his friends about bowling not being a real sport. He knows it’s a mental game more than anything else. “It takes precision accuracy and just two or three shots can put your team ahead.” Lauren likes to cite her fifth grade paper, “Bowling is a Sport” for evidence when this argument arises.

The siblings may be busy with their bowling schedules, but they make time for other sports as well. Nick also plays on the Jenison baseball team and while he knows they are “two very different sports, but the pressure is all the same; they build off one another and make me better as an athlete.” Lauren plays softball and adds, “You have to take your momentum from your bowling season and bring it into other sports and we have to bring that success and confidence into softball and baseball.”

As a junior, Nick is thinking about college and hoping for scholarships to allow him to bowl at the collegiate level. Lauren is a sophomore and acknowledges that she “has time” but it has crossed her mind to play softball as well as bowl when she gets to college. She wants to give a shout out to her family for always being a strong shoulder to cry on when it comes to school, sports, life, and school. “We’re stuck with each other, but we’re competitive and have fun.” Nick wants to make sure that his fifth grade teacher, Mr Diekman knows he made an impact on Nick’s life. “He’s taught me more than just school, he’s taught me about life – to stay positive – and I really appreciate that.”

Athletic Director Kevin VanDuyn knows JPS is lucky to have these two: “It is quite something to have the top bowler in the conference, by average, from both our boys and girls team.  What is more amazing is to have the top bowler from each be a brother and sister.  Congratulations to Nick for finishing the year with a conference leading 212 average and his sister Lauren with a 190 average.  The best news is they both come back next year!”

Lauren and Nick want everyone to know that bowling is really accessible for adults and kids alike. Lauren says, “You can bowl once or twice a week and get really good so it’s easy for kids to pick it up.” Nick adds, “Make sure you stay positive through the ups and downs because eventually you will come out on top.” [And that’s just good advice no matter what you’re doing!]

Congratulations, Nick and Lauren! Your talent and accomplishments not only make us proud but we can’t wait for next year’s season! Go Wildcats!

“Meet the Teams Night” a Great Introduction to our Student Athletes

With temperatures comfortably hinting at fall, Dr. Brandon Graham and JPS Athletic Director Todd Kolster opened Jenison Stadium last week to introduce the student athletes that make up the fall sports teams. In their second annual “Meet the Teams Night,” the community filled the bleachers to hear Mr. Kolster describe his vision for a new era of athletics in Jenison.

“I’m excited to be here. I’m honored to be here. We have a lot of work to do in a short period of time, but we’re going to get it done. We have what it takes to be successful.”

He continued by outlining the importance of expectations when it comes to achieving great things.

“Expectations are critical. Without expectations there are a lot of people wondering, what are we doing?…where are we going? We’re going to work hard for you to understand where we’re going from a communication perspective.”

“The kids I got to work with this summer are gifted. Competition is so critical in today’s world. For example, when you’re job searching, it’s generally you and one other person lined up for a job, a military position, entrance into a trade school. In those positions you can draw from your years of competition in athletics. What we want to convey to these kids is that there are no short cuts when it comes to working hard!”

Coach Schalk & 2012 Girls Cross Country Team

The night continued with comments from JPS Athletics Boosters’ President Matt McKinnon, who extended an invitation for any interested parents to join the boosters for their monthly meetings:

Every 2nd Monday Evening;

7 pm in the High School’s Triple Conference Room 

The work of the boosters is critical when you consider that 90% of the general athletic budget goes to pay coaches’ salaries. That means there is very little budget money left for uniforms and equipment. Any money generated by the boosters enables teams to purchase and pay for the necessary “extras” throughout the season.

Coach Scripsema & 2012 Girls Swimming + Diving

Mr. Kolster reminded parents that an accurate schedule for all athletics can be found at schedulestar.com. His last words for the stadium redefine success for JPS teams:

“I want to be clear: our work is not just about state titles, conference titles, or winning championships. It’s about being the best that we can possibly be — it’s using the outstanding facilities we’ve built and tapping into the talent we already have. We have a tremendous school district that’s only getting better and better.”

2012 Jenison Football Team

6 Reasons We Appreciate The Jenison Athletic Boosters

I’ll be honest: narrowing down my appreciation list to only six was more difficult than I had first imagined. The reality is, our athletic boosters are the scaffolding to our athletic programs, adding a bit more support and helping us all reach a lot higher.

Merely expressing our appreciation doesn’t quite capture the level of our gratitude, however we owe them thanks and are eager to honor their work. So this past weekend we invited them to the high school for a pizza dinner to celebrate them. It was a small gesture, but a heartfelt one.

6 Reasons We Appreciate our Boosters:

1.  Our boosters coordinate and staff all of our concession stands. Working together to seek out volunteers, our boosters schedule helpers at all events, stock items for sale, organize the displays, and greet our guests with a smile. If you love popcorn at the game, you have these folks to thank!

2. The boosters also encourage our teams by hanging up signs to root them on to victory. We appreciate their positivity and their willingness to support our athletes!

3. Each team has a “team mom” (one of our boosters) who also plans the team dinners at the ends of each season. This mom helps the team wrap up the season with a celebration that showcases the wonderful memories made together.

4. Our athletic boosters also put out a monthly report to our coaches and join them in recognizing an “Athlete of the Month” for each sport. Each student recognized receives a T-shirt from the boosters along with a certificate of their accomplishment. These small nods to our students are so meaningful and would not be possible without the caring help of our parents on this committee.

Booster President, Matt McKinnon

5. The boosters are an integral part of fundraising dollars to supplement our athletic budget. Last year alone the group raised $60,000 for our school athletics. What a gift!

6. But of course the thing we love most about our boosters is that they serve because they love Jenison kids and want them to have a fantastic athletic experience. John Koziatek shared, “It’s not so much about what we do — we do it for the kids. The reason we do what we do is because we want them to have the best opportunities possible.”

This group of friends has in many ways become more like family. Steve Meyer says that they’ve all “grown up together,” adding, “Some of these kids we’ve known since they were little and we’ve known the parents just as long. It’s really neat.”

That bond was evident Friday night as our group was honored at halftime of the boys varsity basketball game. They demonstrate a servant leadership that puts joy on display and keeps the kids at the center of everything.

We thank them for their tireless efforts on behalf of Jenison athletes!

Celebrating MHSAA and NHS Students at Jenison

JHS National Honor Society Students (not all present)

This week I’m excited to highlight some of the phenomenal young people we’re privileged to have walking the halls of Jenison High School: members of our National Honor Society and two MHSAA Scholar Athlete Award winners!

I’ll turn my attention first to our NHS students. I sometimes forget the rigorous requirements in place for students wishing to becoming a member of the National Honor Society. First, only students earning a 3.65 GPA or better are invited to apply for membership. Then, NHS advisors consider each application (hundreds, actually) blindly, narrowing down the field to an elite group possessing outstanding qualifications in the areas of academics, character, service, and leadership.

With annual projects ranging from Thanksgiving baskets to Toys for Tots to a winter blood drive, principal Brandon Graham couldn’t be more proud of this special group of kids.

“They’re characters who have character,” he joked in his office. “Honestly, these students are some of Jenison’s finest.”

We join him in saluting NHS!

We also want to salute the winners of Michigan’s highly coveted MHSAA Scholar-Athlete Award. In our entire state, just 32 of these awards are handed out and Jenison is lucky enough to have two recipients!

Mr. Josh Hoogendoorn

Miss Alexis Stanton

Josh Hoogendoorn is a senior at JHS with aspirations to go on to MSU for accounting.

In the meantime, however, Josh is an All-State powerlifter who dead lifted 385 pounds as a JV lifter.

Did I mention that he only weighed 132 pounds when he accomplished that?

Powerlifting competitions are made up of three lifts: the bench press, the squat, and the dead lift. Josh’s specialty is the latter.

And while he’s not ready to publicly share his goals for his next meet, he quietly shared that he was able to deadlift 460 pounds in the gym during practice.

When he’s not practicing in the weight room, you can find Josh leading the Wildcats as captain of the football team, playing varsity baseball, and working year-round to maintain the high academic standards that got him this recognition.

Congratulations, Josh!

Alexis Stanton is also a senior athlete who divides her time between basketball, cross country, and track.

With dreams of becoming a pediatrician, she is currently weighing her college options between UCLA, Columbia, UNC, and U of M.

She notes, humbly, that she is in a bit of disbelief over her latest accolades. “I’m not the best player on the team,” she says. “I’m a good team player—I’m balanced. I think they like to choose students who are involved both in and out of school.”

Alexis is a member of the National Honor Society and, like Josh, consistently strives for excellence in the classroom.

Congrats, Alexis!

All of these students demonstrate leadership, integrity, and the pursuit of their personal best in all scholastic and extra-curricular arenas.

We are so proud of their effort and the way they represent Jenison Public Schools! Bravo!