Challenged and Changed

Change.

One of the phrases Dordt has used recently is “Be Challenged.  Be Changed.

We talk at great lengths with high school age students that the college years are transformative.  It’s when you move from teenager to young adult.  You’re away from home and you need to make decisions for yourself.

For a student-athlete they may have played for the same coach for four years.  They may have been groomed to play the same position for multiple years.  They may have been the main cog in the machinery that is a team and now they are on the periphery in terms of playing time.

When I talked to Claire Jansen about this ‘assignment’ I asked her if she had to deal with much change through her college life.  She smiled and briefly walked me through her time at Dordt and how she handled change.

As I think you’ll see, she’s been both challenged, and she’s changed, and, I think equipped now to move from campus into whatever her future holds.

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Transitions are something that everyone faces in life. They can define you, or you can rise above them. The women’s soccer team and I have experienced minor and significant changes in the past few years. We experienced a change in coaches, the way we do things (thanks Covid), and my role on the team. These are changes that we did not have to go through alone. Instead, we went through it together and came out stronger.

The first significant transition that I experienced on the team was a change in coaches.

In my first year on the team, the coach was Bill Elgersma, and I was expecting it to stay that way throughout my entire career. So you can believe it was a shock to the team and myself when Elgersma announced that he would be handing over the reins to someone new immediately after the fall season.

This meant that the team would start all over again with a new coach in the spring. This was frustrating because I was just a freshman and just learned who Elgersma was, how he coached, and what he likes to see on the field. You could even say that I was just beginning to feel comfortable and gaining some confidence again just to start all over. I was back at ground zero. I was fearful of what a new person would bring to the program.

Would I still have a spot on varsity?

What would preseason look like?

What kind of formation would the new coach want to run?

The questions were endless.

The team was very uncertain about how to feel about Elgersma stepping down. We knew and were familiar with him, which brought comfort. Still, if Elgersma was going to be replaced, we did have someone in mind who could fill the position that Elgersma was leaving behind. This person volunteered to help out with the team in Elgersma’s last season as a coach, Alex Durbin.

I felt a sense of comfort if Durbin was to get the job because then, at least, it was someone with a familiar face and knew our team. I knew who he was and liked to think I had some idea of what Durbin would bring to the program based on his contributions to coaching in the fall season. One thing was for sure if Durbin got the job, things would be different.

Elgersma and Durbin are two very different people.

That does not mean that one is better than the other, just that each coach brings something different to the table. Elgersma had many years of service to Dordt’s soccer program as a coach. In contrast, Durbin has experience playing Dordt’s soccer program. Along with that, Durbin is young and full  of life. It was refreshing to feel Durbin’s excitement and optimism for the program. Durbin’s excitement and passion for the program was and still is clearly evident.

There is one more crucial transition to note throughout this time.

The soccer program had a graduate assistant Andrew McMillan but known to the team as Mac. He was knowledgeable of the game, well-liked, and trusted by all players. He was so trusted because he had a great way of connecting and communicating with each person. Thankfully, we were able to have him for the transitions between coaches. He was able to be the constant for the team. He had a calming presence on the team through the transition and as a coach. He is missed dearly by all players who knew him and someone who left some pretty big shoes to fill.

This season on the field, I faced another transition… forward to midfield. This was not easy for me. My entire life, I played the 9, which is a striker. On top of that, I felt like I had finally learned how Elgersma and then Durbin wanted me to play forward. My confidence with my presence on the field was just beginning to reach where I wanted it to be. However, it always seems that once you get comfortable, a new challenge arises. This new challenge for me was playing in the midfield.

I was moved to a 10, which is an attacking mid. This means that I could keep my attacking mindset but had to add in some defense as well. This I knew would be a challenge for me because marking up is something I do not do well. Moving positions was definitely not easy; there were a few bumps throughout the year, but I would be lying if I said I did not like the challenge. The challenge of midfield would have been way more difficult if my fellow midfielders were not Sarah Miller and Katherine Kooiman. These are two very talented teammates that took me under their wing. Their poised and confident presence in the midfield made midfield seem like a much less intimidating position to play. I would be lying if I said I did not miss playing striker, but I am thankful for the growth and challenges of playing the 10.

The obvious challenge that the women’s soccer program faced for the last two seasons was navigating through Covid. The coaching change took place. Durbin was only about two months into coaching and hit with a challenge that no coach has had to face before. Everyone on Dordt’s campus was sent home, which meant spring training became virtual and our ability to have a fall season was questionable.

Thankfully, we could come back in August to start our new season, but barely anything was the same. Team functions were frowned upon due to the potential of spreading Covid, and if the team was together outside of soccer practice, we all had to wear face masks. Getting to know the freshman or even forming a bond was very difficult. On top of that, we had to practice and play with the understanding that our season could be called off at any time. Covid added numerous obstacles and frustrations, but the team never let it get the best of us. We continued to push through, know each other best we could, and were blessed with the ability to play an entire season.

All of the transitions that I faced as a women’s soccer team member were nothing compared to the changes taking place at home. I had a 28-year-old sister-in-law, Carlie Jansen, battling stage-four soft tissue synovial sarcoma. She was faced with obstacle after obstacle but never let those obstacles define her. Instead, she held firm to the words of 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

No matter the circumstances for Carlie, she always found a way to have joy and not just any joy but a radiant joy that infected those around her. In life, we are all given a choice; let our obstacles define us or rise above those obstacles. It is easy to become consumed with the negative things in life. Still, I challenge myself and everyone else to rejoice always, pray continually, and give thanks in all circumstances.

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