Tim Schoonveld is in his eleventh year as Hope College’s athletic director, but 2019 is a little different than the past ten years. Previously, Hope has always had co-athletic directors. Now, Schoonveld has taken on a new role as the only athletic director, and his job has shifted quite a bit. I sat down with him to learn a little bit about his career here at Hope, and I left with a sense of connection with Hope athletics.
Starting out in his career, Schoonveld worked as a coach and then teacher before obtaining a position as assistant principal and athletic director at Holland Christian. “To be honest I would say the stars aligned, but I would really say the Lord was shining down on me,” said Schoonveld when describing his journey to becoming the athletic director here at Hope. He didn’t fit the traditional mold that Hope was looking for, but he had a strong faith, which was more important than anything he could have put on paper. “It’s all of those weird things that I think God has a way of laughing at us when we do,” said Schoonveld as he explained his various tasks as a new athletic director at Hope.
“I feel like I had some really great people cheering me on and supporting me,” said Schoonveld. He then went on to tell me how blessed he has been in his time here and how the students and faculty have been so good to him. That is not to say there were no bumps along the way. For the first three years here, Schoonveld had a hard time getting into the swing of things, but it was his wonderful support system that kept him going. “I just feel really blessed to be at a place where you have the opportunity to touch and transform people’s lives, and I think that in many respects that is kind of the mission of the college,” said Schoonveld. Throughout our conversation, Schoonveld put a lot of emphasis on the transformational aspects of athletics but also college in general, aiming to help students grow in their time here.
“Our mission would kind of be academic success, competitive excellence and transformational experiences,” explained Schoonveld. From his view, Hope athletics are different in the “transformational experiences” aspect of that list. All colleges strive for academic success and competitive excellence, but Hope is one of the few that provides opportunities for students to expand their worldview through participation in transformational experiences. “We’re trying to win, we’re trying to do well, we’re trying to get you a job, but we’re really trying to transform your life, so when God takes you wherever he’s taking you, you’re going to go out and influence and impact other people,” said Schoonveld.
From his view, most students come into college fairly self-absorbed and this is the place where they find out that the world requires investment in other people. Fulfillment will not come from chasing money or fame but rather from investing in others and making a difference, and that is what a transformed life looks like.
“It is super inspiring to see people achieve at the highest levels, whether that is academically, athletically or in fine arts” said Schoonveld. He shared his ideas on “cool people” and how he is inspired by young people with big ambitions. “Students need wise mentors to kind of steer them along, but old people need young, energetic, optimistic students because I think that breathes life back into us,” said Schoonveld. The relationship between staff and students is a very important aspect in the lives of both parties, and it really helps to reinforce the idea of students transforming during their time at Hope.
“It’s fun and interesting, and every day is pretty different” explains Schoonveld. He is intrigued by the variety that his career brings, but he warns students against this field of work if their main purpose is to make a job out of watching sports. “I start work at 7:30 a.m. and I get home at 8 at night. I’m only at a sporting event for like an hour and a half. So I’m around sports, but I’m not really at sporting events all the time” said Schoonveld. Fundraising, putting up facilities, budgets and “the heart stuff” are all important aspects of his job.
With his crazy schedule, Schoonveld relies on the support of his family to be able to keep us with such a busy career. “In athletics it’s almost impossible to do what we do and have the schedule we have if your spouse isn’t supportive,” said Schoonveld. He explained how amazing his wife is, and he shares his love for athletics with her. His children are also involved in sports, so they are all supportive of the work that he puts in every single day. “My wife is amazing and awesome, and I think clearly we’re trying to lead with faith,” said Schoonveld.
“The most critical component for success in anything, even beyond just a student athlete, is to see a bigger perspective on your life… the easier answer is to find Jesus,” said Schoonveld. This ties back to his main statement about transformational experiences and how students grow through their time here.
Before leaving his office, Schoonveld insisted on praying with and for me. The children’s artwork scattered on the board behind his desk and the Bible sitting with a marked page was a clear indicator to me that he is interested in more than just winning and losing; he truly wants to better himself and others. If you ever get the chance to chat with Schoonveld, I would highly recommend it. His wisdom and kind character shows through even in a work meeting; and you’ll be sure to leave the conversation inspired to take on the world, starting with a quick prayer in his office.