A teacher and coach at Grand Rapids Central Christian, Mary was a pioneer in girls’ athletics and very instrumental in the establishment of several girls’ sports at our school. An excellent athlete in her own right, Mary played on the girls basketball team at Unity Christian High when that was the only sport offered for girls. She went on to play on the Calvin College womens basketball team for four seasons.
Mary coached girls basketball teams at Grand Rapids Central Christian for 16 seasons, with an average winning percentage just under 75%, with 161 wins and only 56 losses. In 1973, the first year that Michigan had a tournament for girls basketball, her team finished as runners-up in the state championship game. Her teams won 6 district and 2 regional championships, and 2 of her teams made it to the state semi-final game. Coach Afman had fellow Hall of Fame inductees Karen Langeland and Kathy DeBoer on two of her teams.
Coach Afman was truly a pioneer in developing girls athletics at Grand Rapids Christian and in the Grand Rapids community. She was instrumental in the beginnings of volleyball, swimming, softball, and girls track as formal sports in high school. Those beginnings were often in the form of “sports days” and triangular or quadrangular meets that later evolved into league play. Coach Afman was honored by the Grand Rapids Press in August of 2000 in an article in which she was cited for her leadership in the development of girls basketball in the state of Michigan.
“The Lord is the stronghold, the strength of my life.” Psalm 27:1
Kathy graduated Grand Rapids Christian and excelled in 4 sports in high school, winning 4 MVP awards in basketball, volleyball, and softball. Kathy also excelled in tennis, playing with the boys’ team on the #1 doubles team in the fall of 1972 and then playing #1 singles on the girls team in the spring of 1973.
Kathy went on to play basketball, volleyball, and tennis for two years at Calvin College before finishing her college playing career with two years of volleyball and basketball at Michigan State. Her college coach was fellow GR Christian Athletic Hall of Fame member, Karen Langeland. In 1978, Kathy was a nominee for the Wade Trophy, which honors the top female Division I college basketball player. After graduating, Kathy played two seasons in the Women’s Basketball League, the forerunner of today’s WNBA.
Kathy’s college coaching career was in volleyball, beginning at Ferris State University, where she was named the GLIAC Coach of the Year in 1981, ‘82, and ‘83. She then moved on to the University of Kentucky where she had a highly successful 10 seasons. Coach DeBoer was named National Coach of the Year in 1987. She also served as an advisor to the Women’s Olympic Volleyball team for the ‘96 Olympics in Atlanta.
In addition to her coaching accolades, Kathy has earned the Michigan State University Distinguished Alumna Award in 1989, the MSU Alumna Scholar-Athlete Award in 1999, was selected to the Ferris State University Sports Hall of Fame in 2003, and to the University of Kentucky Athletics Hall of Fame in 2009. She has written a book titled, “Gender and Competition: How Men and Women Approach Work and Play Differently”.
Kathy has set a standard for coaching and competing that combines the best of competition and sportsmanship and is a bright star in the world of collegiate athletics.
“This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalms 118:24
Bill Holwerda was a 1946 graduate of Grand Rapids South High, where he was a 3-sport star athlete. Included in his high school highlights were playing in front of over 17,000 fans at Houseman Field on Thanksgiving Day of 1945 against Catholic Central as his team’s top running back, and being an All-State hurdler in the spring. He went on to play both football and basketball at Hope College, serving as captain of both squads during his time there.
After graduation, Bill landed a teaching job at Caledonia High School. He immediately joined the coaching staffs of both football and basketball, and by his 3rd year was head coach of both sports. Eventually he decided that teaching was not what he wanted to do for the rest of his life, and he opened Holwerda-Snoap Sporting Goods in 1956.
In 1964 he was asked by the South Christian community to begin their new football program, the first Christian school in Michigan to have football. He coached at South Christian for 3 years before moving on to GR Central Christian to start their program, staying through the 1984 season. These are the 2 oldest Christian school football programs in the state, and Bill led each of them through their beginning steps.
While the goal each week was to win on the field, Coach Holwerda looked at a bigger picture. His goal, most important to him, was to positively impact young men’s lives through the sport of football. He would point to the Christ-led lives of the young (and now not so young) men whom he had the opportunity to coach–teachers, businessmen, fathers, husbands, church leaders, now all making contributions to Christ and community.
In the words of former Principal Jim Stapert, “Coach Holwerda exemplified characteristics that can simply be defined as fruits of the Spirit: patience, understanding, and wisdom. Coach Holwerda always connoted words like steady, solid, a true gentleman, and above all, Christian. Thanks, Coach Holwerda–you were special; you taught us a lot; you exemplified beautiful virtues; our lives are enriched because of you.”
“As for me, I will always have hope; I will praise you more and more. My mouth will tell of your righteous deeds, of your saving acts all day long….” Psalms 71: 14-15a
Karen Langeland graduated Grand Rapids Central Christian in the class of 1966. While at Central Christian, Karen excelled as a basketball, volleyball, and tennis player, winning the MVP award in each sport. Karen then went on to Calvin College where she played and excelled in basketball, tennis, field hockey, and volleyball.
Karen began an illustrious coaching career with three years at East Kentwood High School, and then moved on to Michigan State University where she became the women’s basketball coach, a position she held for 24 years. Karen was named the Big 10 Coach of the Year in 1988, District Coach of the Year in 1991, and her ’96-’97 team won the Big 10 title. During her career, Coach Langeland’s teams won 376 games, had four 20-win seasons, they played in the NCAA Tournament three times, and the NIT twice. Coach Langeland was twice chosen to coach Big Ten All-Star teams that each went 6-0 competing against top teams from England, Scotland, Denmark, and Germany.
After retiring from coaching, Karen became an Associate Athletic director at MSU. She was the director of the MSU summer camps program while also serving as liaison to the MSU booster clubs, as well as coordinating the MSU Hall of Fame induction ceremonies and related activities. During this time Karen also oversaw and supervised 10 Olympic sports. Karen retired from active participation in MSU athletics in 2012. MSU Athletic Director Mark Hollis noted Karen’s “…energy, her deep commitment to student-athletes, vision, and attention to detail.”
Karen’s career as an athlete, coach, and administrator are remarkable accomplishments as well as her trail-blazing leadership in the field of women’s athletics.
The Boys State Champion Basketball team of 1938 earned the first state championship in school history, with a regular-season record of 13 wins and 2 losses, then winning six consecutive games in the state tournament. The state finals game was played at the old Civic Auditorium in downtown Grand Rapids, where our Eagles defeated St. Michael’s High by the score of 25-12. A highlight of the championship celebration was the trophy presentation by none other than Dr. James Naismith, the creator of the game of basketball.
There is one remaining living member of the State Champion Eagles of 1938. Dr. John VandenBerg, was a guard on the team, and commented on the close relationships that the team members enjoyed during their season and long after high school. Many of the team members went on to long and successful careers, including Dr. VandenBerg who was a teacher and administrator at Calvin College for over 50 years.
The roster included the following players: Robert Bolt, Gene Broene, Ladd Broene, Eugene Brouwer, Claus Beukema (coach), Marv Bylsma, Clarence DeHaan, Rennie Dornbush (athletic director), Elson Harkema, Robert Hoekman, Bill Joling, James Koster (manager), Robert Reitsma, Henry Scholten, John VandenBerg, Louis VanderTill, Art VanTuinen.