The GRCHS Baarman Award is designated for a student-athlete who has to overcome significant challenges to participate in athletics.
This year’s Baarman Award winner is Drew Vandlen. Thank you to our Varsity Tennis Coach Tim Morey for this nomination and to Drew’s dad, Tim Vandlen, our JV Tennis coach. You are both a gift to our community and kids
Drew played on the middle school team in 7th grade and on the JV team for the past 3 seasons before making the varsity team his senior year. He played as an alternate but earned his Varsity letter for starting in over 25% of matches for a team that was Regional Champions and finished 4th at the Division 3 State Finals. Coach Morey says, “I have known Drew and his family since 7th grade and if there is a young person who has love for a sport, it is Drew and tennis.”
Drew has overcome massive challenges to play tennis as an Eagle. He has cerebral palsy which limits use of his right side including his arm, hand and leg. He also underwent surgery in the winter of 2018 to reconstruct his foot as a result of nerve damage from a stroke. Drew had open-heart surgery and a stroke before the age of one. A life of seizures, brain injury due to the stroke, leg surgery to even out his leg length and an arm tendon transfer surgery. This is not an exhaustive list by any means, and Drew overcomes obstacles daily many of us would consider debilitating, and he does it with a smile and no excuses.
His father, Tim, tells the story of how one day in 6th grade when he and Drew were practicing groundstrokes at the courts: Drew saw another kid serving. Drew asked his dad if he could teach him but his dad thought he needed to wait for that complex skill. When they got home, Drew went outside and began playing against the garage. He taught himself how to toss the ball with the same arm he served. (Try it sometime, it’s quite difficult!) To no one’s surprise, the garage and siding on the house are full of dents and cracks which somehow manage to look it look more beautiful.
Drew competes with a tenacity and ferocity that comes from within. It’s not a product of coaching, but a gift from Christ. He is a disciple of Christ and Drew honors Christ with his work ethic, attitude, and an exemplary life. Grand Rapids Christian Schools, the tennis program and all of Drew’s peers are blessed to have him during their time at Christian.
Drew removes all of our excuses for not giving our best. We look forward to how his gifts will benefit everyone as he takes the next steps after high school. Thanks for representing GR Christian as a student-athlete, JV assistant coach to our girls tennis team, and as a witness for Christ through your effort and perseverance.