Peter Stuursma has sites set on winning, not excuses, at Hope College

Football   | Steve Vedder

Peter Stuursma has sites set on winning, not excuses, at Hope College

(Photo Courtesy: Hope College)


Holland - Peter Stuursma was headed from his middle school office to the gymnasium to watch a number of youngsters play basketball when he received the life-changing phone call.

Stuursma hadn't been looking for change and was, in fact, quite content with his role as middle school principal and East Grand Rapids football coach. The last thing on Stuursma's mind was a job change. But when Hope College administrators inquired if he was interested in the head football coaching position at that school his first inclination was to listen.

Stuursma, a former co-captain and defensive coordinator at Hope, wasn't seeking a new challenge but he was intrigued. He discussed the offer with his family and decided to commence the job hiring process which would leave him as just the seventh Flying Dutchmen football coach since 1920.

Stuursma, 45, said that if the offer had come from anywhere but Hope, he would still be at East Grand Rapids this fall, beginning his 17th season and trying to improve on a remarkable 162-34 record, 13 playoff appearances and seven state titles including five in a row from 2006-10.

"It just kind of happened," said Stuursma on a recent sunny morning from his office inside Hope College's DeVos Center. "I've always said East Grand Rapids gave us more than we gave it. This was a hard decision, but sometimes things happen for a reason."

Stuursma's decision to leave a program which had won 83 per cent of its games under him wasn't easy. But what comes next could be even tougher. Still, upon reflection, Stuursma believes that the same attributes which made him one of the winningest coaches in Grand Rapids area history, the ability to handle hefty expectations at East and his coaching background at the college level should be enough to spell success at Hope, a program which has had just three winning seasons since 2008.

In fact, you can make the case that Stuursma has been down this road before.

"I will always be who I am," he said. "One thing about me, though, is that I can't stand looking back and wondering. They offered me this and I have nothing to lose."

While some may wonder how difficult it will be for Stuursma to make the transition from high school to college, he isn’t concerned. For starters, he realizes that success at the college level begins with recruiting, one of his chief responsibilities during his time as an assistant at Hope. Tied to recruiting is recognizing that the type of player which was successful at the high school level will be different than what is needed from a college football player. Stuursma said the latter players need to be capable of playing an up-tempo pace and be more versatile than hig