David Grossman, veteran award-winning journalist, sits down with the coaches of the defending Yates Cup champions, in this four-part series
WATERLOO, Ont. (August 10, 2017)- David Grossman, veteran award-winning journalst, takes us inside the mind of Laurier football’s Defensive Coordinator, Ron Vanmoerkerke.
Once a very shy kid, who grew up on a farm in southwestern Ontario, Ron Van Moerkerke is the same individual who is well known for having a remarkable and powerful impact on people.
Van Moerkerke is not in the business of self-gratitude. In fact, it’s quite the contrary.
When he’s not teaching geography to youngsters in the Waterloo Region District School Board, Van Moerkerke’s classroom becomes the football field at Wilfrid Laurier University – a place where he uses his strong skills and wisdom as Associate Head Coach and Defensive Coordinator for the Golden Hawks football team.
To gain some perspective on his very effective way of communicating, whether it’s right from wrong or shutting down opposing teams, is to watch him in action – be it on the gridiron, in a class or through a conversation in a corridor.
A high-spirited, confident and jovial kind of individual, Van Moerkerke also possesses the amazing ability to clearly and effectively convey his message.
“I have a specific role at Laurier – and it’s to deal with the players who come to me for advice, energy and looking to get better at what they do,” he said. “I always make sure the players know that I care about them and that it carries over to things that are work and school-related.”
A Provincial Volunteer Coaching award winner and also the longest-serving defensive coordinator in Ontario university football, Van Moerkerke has earned the respect of his peers. His award is the reward he gets from seeing players learn, adapt and carry out their roles.
“I hope what people see in me is a mentorship of sorts, shown from a teaching and love of the (football),” said the native of Tillsonburg and member of that community’s Sports Hall of Fame.
Always cool and in control, Van Moerkerke has an insatiable demand on his players.
“Sport is a great transforming agency – one that will have an effect on an individual’s life,” he said. “Winning comes every day, and not just in football. I see my job as making sure young people are in a position to understand things – and then make plays.”
His interest in football may have come back in Grade 10 while watching his older brother play the game. Then, when Van Moerkerke had enough watching and chose to play in high school, he had to deal with another challenge: his mother refusing to watch for fear that he might get hurt.
In 1989, Van Moerkerke achieved another milestone when he was chosen the Most Valuable Player on Tillsonburg High School’s team and also a league all-star. He would take football another step, after graduation it was on to study, and play, at Laurier.
“I have been involved with football for a long time and continue to admire the creativity and ingenuity that teams use to try score,” said Van Moerkereke, tasked with the key job of stopping offensive squads from piling up points on Laurier. “Every year, it gets more complex and it makes things harder – but it’s a challenge that I am waiting for.”
While Van Moerkerke sets high expectations for himself, he can also spot progress in players.
“At Laurier, we all try our hardest to learn,” he said. “We’re not always perfect. Some times there are failures and they are addressed. I have made mistakes and I am accountable for them, and players are also accountable. There is also lots of trust and people who know me, know I refuse to quit helping youngsters reach their goals.”