Defender Way--Year Three

Defender Way--Year Three

By: Danny Mooers; Assistant Sports Information Director

Change never guarantees simplicity. It requires attention to detail and a willingness to adapt. When Dordt College transitioned to Dordt University, many were curious as to what was next. Would the school change its vision? What does it mean for all of the history attached to the previous name?

The logo changed along with the signage across campus, but little else was affected. In terms of rebranding, this was a smooth transition.

For Dordt athletics, the teams received new uniforms and the DeWitt was redone, but the new culture was already well on its way. The rebranding is acting as a catalyst to push Dordt athletics to the next level.

Dordt Director of Athletics Ross Douma is entering his third year in the position and his vision has been the same since day one: to further the Kingdom through athletic excellence.  Douma attached the name “Defender Way” to his vision to solidify it into the heart of Dordt Athletics. 

The four points:

-We are committed to the Great Commission and cultural mandate.

-We are committed to equipping student-athletes to be servant leaders.

-We are committed to the academic development of all student-athletes.

-We are committed to the pursuit of championships.

“When we examine athletics, even amongst Christian colleges, there is apprehension to bring the athletic department and the institution close together,” Douma says. “At Dordt, we want the athletic department to mirror the vision of the institution and that’s what the Defender Way does.”

On top of mirroring the vision of the school, Douma is seeking consistency in the performances of all the teams. Each team has seen its own success in Dordt’s 54 year history, but it often comes in spurts.

Many look back fondly on the several National Tournament appearances in the early 2010’s from men’s basketball. Women’s volleyball is in the midst of it’s best years in program history. The men’s soccer team had a dominant run in the early ‘90’s. Women’s cross country has seen steady improvement over the past five years and are consistently hovering around the top-10 in the country. Women’s basketball reached its first ever National Tournament last year.

Overall, teams are improving, but consistent success is now a priority. The Defender Way gives a more uniformed approach into what is expected. To get to the next level, coaches must be intentional.

“It’s more than simply being a good person who loves the Lord and loves athletes,” Douma says. “In addition to loving the Lord and loving students, our coaches must administer a comprehensive program that challenges their athletes and teams to reach their potential..”

As Dordt University moves forward, Douma hopes to see the teams become more of an asset to Sioux Center and surrounding communities. Being a resource for coaches, no matter what level, is a new facet of the department that Douma hopes to see developed. The exact logistics of it all are being created, but ideas like these are in motion in hopes of meeting point one of the Defender Way.

“In order to reach our potential as an athletic program, we need to continue making strides internally,” Douma says. “I think we’re doing a nice job of that and can begin moving forward with our relationships and goals away from campus. In the last four to six months, we’ve had some great opportunities presented that we’re looking forward to pursuing.”

Sports camps are another major focus for Dordt. Only ten years ago, Dordt was hosting approximately fifty athletes per camp. This past year, 1,700 kids attended the various camps Dordt offered.

Now Dordt coaches are looking for ways to take those experiences beyond Dordt’s campus. The men’s basketball program is looking in to hosting free camps in cities around the Midwest for kids who can’t afford to travel. The emphasis would still be on bringing the light of Christ to those different locations and learn basketball in the process.

The “Fifth Quarter” hosted by head football coach Joel Penner is seeing an uptick in popularity. It’s an opportunity for fans to hear about the game, but more importantly a chance to listen to the life lessons that football presents.

There are still things on the horizon that have yet to be conquered by Dordt athletics. No team has yet to go on an international mission trips; something Douma wants to happen as soon as possible.

“At many institutions the verbiage you’ll hear is ‘behave yourself, do well in class and at a Christian institution you may hear go to church on Sunday,” Douma says. “When our athletes come in as 18-year-old’s and by the time they graduate as a 22-year-old we want them to be molded as a Christians and kingdom citizens. We want them to tap out their experience as a student athlete.”

This is a tall task. Many teams can provide a strong culture or Christian experience, but not succeed on the playing surface. Douma is focused on giving athletes a chance to have both. These changes aren’t going to happen overnight and as tempting as it is to adapt to the rest of culture, Douma has the top three points in the Defender Way there for a reason.

Dordt is one of two teams within the Great Plains Athletic Conference (GPAC) to not play on Sundays. Recruits need to be well-rounded and not solely focused on athletics. Again, lining up with the vision of the institution is the focus.

There are three main challenges that come with trying to build Dordt Athletics: staffing, scholarships and facilities.

With the rest of the Great Plains Athletic Conference increasing scholarships and improving facilities, Dordt has to keep up in order to be competitive.

“We want to be very successful, but it’s not going to come with an increase in tuition and off the backs of Dordt students,” Douma says. “The majority of changes within athletics are done through private donations and the Defender Gold Club plays a significant role in that regard.” 

In the past few years, Dordt has built an athletes only weight room that gives all student athletes a chance to have their own space without worrying about it being full from community members or other students. The soccer complex had a press box and bleachers erected to give fans a more enjoyable experience. More facility improvements are on the horizon.

“It’s the actions of many little things taking place that will build Dordt athletics,” Douma says. “The 550 student athletes at Dordt need to be walking billboards showcasing what it means to be a Christian athlete. Outside of politics and entertainment, few things are as tainted as athletics. How can we redeem that? We do it with the people we graduate each year who understand there is a different and better way to play athletics than the cultural norms that are currently in place.”