Features Girls Basketball

Calm And Collected: Dan VanHekken leads the Lady Hawkeyes to his own beat

CHS Staff
Written by CHS Staff
Hamilton Coach Dan VanHekken surveys the action from the bench area.

by Shawn Scholten

Basketballs thumping in the distance as I walk towards the gym. The pounding is similar to a weekend dance party, with a deejay who lives a life similar to the hectic nature of  a deejay. Dan VanHekken is a deejay on weekends, Varsity girls basketball coach, physical education teacher at Hamilton High School, and most importantly a father and a husband.

Coach VanHekken lives quite the hectic life with a lot going on, and he always gives 100% in everything he is involved in, and with an incredible amount of passion and energy.

This is especially evident on a chilly Friday night in the wintertime. That is why I decided to set up to watch the varsity game behind the Hamilton girls bench. I made my focal point Coach VanHekken rather than the game itself; watching his reaction, and noting what’s happening on the court. Here is the Hamilton vs Zeeland West girls basketball game through the words, faces, actions and leadership of Coach Dan VanHekken.

7:42 1Q Riki Ediger passes the ball around the arc, while Coach VanHekken yells “Look in the post!” He continues to nod his head as AJ Ediger gets the ball while working on the block. Sitting this close to the bench, I was surprised at how vocal coach was with his players, and hearing the “inside stuff” not heard by the regular fan.

7:04 1Q Sally Merrill gets a steal and heads down the court with the ball, as Coach yells “Look! Go! Attack!” on a fast break. Sally passes the ball up to AJ as she bursts towards the rim, drawing a foul. This ends in two made free throws for the Hawkeyes.

Whether he is spinning tunes as a deejay or coaching the Lady Hawkeyes, Coach VanHekken always orchestrates movements with style.

6:30 1Q Coach VanHekken quietly smiles and nods as Riki Ediger gets a layup off of a quick possession. At this point it is still anybody’s game, with the Hawkeyes leading by only one possession.

2:05 1Q Coach walks down the bench towards AJ. “Go in and take out Sierra. Make some room in the post.” Coach wants to use AJ’s tall stature to get the ball in the post and open up opportunities for easy buckets.

0:22 1Q AJ Ediger nails a three pointer, and coach gives an enthusiastic fist pump, walks down to the end of the bench and says “Okay, get a stop now girls!”

AJ Ediger is an outstanding basketball player and has been recruited by division one colleges, and she brings so much to the team with her skill and knowledge of the game. This knowledge and skill lets her be a big leader on the team even as a Sophomore.

 8:00 2Q “HAWKS!” They break the huddle. Coach sets his whiteboard down and stands up confidently, and unafraid of the other team. I believe that as a coach, you should be able to be confident in your team’s ability. The players run out onto the court and match up to their opponents.

6:43 2Q Brittney Driesenga defends the hoop, as a West player drives towards her and puts up a shot, and there’s a whistle blown. Coach VanHekken yells “What? On her?” He looks like he’s about to say more but he doesn’t. From my viewpoint, it’s against his nature to argue with the officials.

3:37 2Q Zeeland West calls a timeout due to Hamilton pulling away, and going on a run. Sierra Schrotenboer jogs over to the bench and gives coach double high-fives, and he says “Nice!” This is meant to give some verbal encouragement, and is meant more as a ‘keep it up.’

Coach VanHekken draws up a play for the Lady Hawkeyes in the second quarter.

2:38 2Q Bria Schrotenboer hits a three pointer with the defender in her face, and the bench goes nuts. Coach VanHekken gives a quick fist pump as he jumps up from his seat. I personally enjoy when coaches get into the game, and that’s a big reason on why I enjoyed watching Coach VanHekken. He knows when to show his intensity, and when to dial it down.

0:52 2Q Coach is sitting on the bench as the half comes to a close. He and Kaari Dreyer joke around with each other, both laughing, and smiling back to each other. Coach VanHekken is known for his laid-back nature, and he brings that into his coaching style as well.

I believe that a coach should balance on the line of being laid-back and strict, and Coach VanHekken knows when to yell and when not to.

7:40 3Q Bria gets called for a foul, and coach throws his hands up in complaint. It isn’t like coach to complain much about calls so it was obvious that he didn’t agree with this call one bit.

Coach isn’t always as laid back as he seems, but I’ve never seen him take his anger and intensity too far.

6:42 3Q Riki Ediger brings the ball up the court, looking to increase the lead and distant themselves from Zeeland West. Coach yells “Come on Riki!” Coach seems to want to keep up the fast paced offense that they have been utilizing all game, and this is proved by him repeatedly encouraging the players to look up the court and rush the defense.

2:53 3Q As the lead for the Hawkeyes is quickly getting larger, the bench is getting more relaxed. Jokingly, Coach Palmer celebrates a three pointer by Allie Jennings with an air guitar, and everyone laughs. The air guitar is quite ironic and funny because of Coach VanHekken’s background as a deejay, and controls music just as he can control a basketball game.

0:30 3Q Allie Jennings shoots and scores another three pointer before the end of the third quarter. On the bench, Coach VanHekken says quietly “Nice shot,” and seems incredibly impressed. Coach then gets his clipboard ready for another huddle between quarters.

Coach Dan VanHekken pumps his fist as the Hawkeyes pull away from the Dux of Zeeland West.

6:00 4Q The Hawkeyes lead is growing, and Sally Merrill makes a jump shot from the corner, then the opposing Zeeland West Dux call a timeout. Coach jumps up from the bench saying “Let’s go! Let’s go! Let’s go!” He gets the team even more pumped up than they were because of his instantaneous burst of energy.

1:37 4Q Brittany Driesenga gets a steal and finishes with a nice, easy layup. Coach claps and points to Brittany while saying “Good job Brit.” Coach makes it a priority to give the players praise for a job well done. Giving high fives, thumbs up, and verbal praise. Coach shows praise for a good job as a physical education teacher as well.

0:00 4Q “Great game girls!” says coach congratulating the girls as the final buzzer rings. Final score ending up being a staggering 69-28. Coach VanHekken walks confidently down the line as everyone shakes hands. He and the other coach share a quick, respectful “good game coach,” and walk back to their respective benches.

Coach VanHekken has coached the girls to yet another win in the OK-Green Conference. The team goes through the season one game at a time, yet they’re ultimately focusing their scope in on their state tournament goals.  With last year’s season ending in the MHSAA Quarterfinals, it’s completely reasonable that this year’s scope is aimed at the final weekend of girls basketball in the state of Michigan.

I noticed multiple things that challenge what I thought about Coach VanHekken’s style. He was much more vocal than I thought he was, even in the fourth quarter. Coach can get upset but he definitely knows how to keep his cool and not make a scene. He is serious, yet he knows how to keep the stress to a minimum. He cares for his players dearly, and his team puts in the work and it shows.