April 18, 2013
Tjeerdsma right back at home
By David Boyce
On a rainy Wednesday afternoon, Northwest Missouri State new athletic director Mel Tjeerdsma looks right at home in his office.
Those spring showers that bring May flowers also create more work for college athletic directors. They are busy rescheduling for their spring athletic teams.
It is not a burden for Tjeerdsma. He enjoys all the work that comes with being the athletic director at Northwest. It’s why he came out of retirement.
“I was in a situation where I didn’t have to work,” Tjeerdsma said. “I felt like I am not ready to not work. I need a routine, a purpose every day. I felt like I have a lot to contribute.”
Coming out of retirement was simple for him. Tjeerdsma still has a burning desire to help others and feel relevant.
His office doors are open to all as was the case Wednesday. Just outside his front door sits athletic office manager Michele Steinmeyer, who greets everybody with a smile.
Outside Tjeerdsma’s back door is the office of Scott Nielson, associate athletic director of development and external affairs. He is always smiling.
These are happy times for Northwest.
Tjeerdsma credits Wren Baker, who left to take a job in the University of Memphis athletic department, for putting together such a strong staff at Northwest.
“Lori (Hopkins), Scott, Mark (Clements) and Nate (Davis) have done a great job of moving forward with everything,” Tjeerdsma said.
“We are going to put in a new scoreboard. We are in the process of getting bids. That takes a lot of work.
“As coach, you take so much for granted when these things happen like the scoreboard. You want to make sure all the pieces fit. It really is a lot more complex than people realize.”
One thing is certain: Tjeerdsma will meet with everybody necessary, pay close attention to every detail to ensure the scoreboard is a point of pride for the Northwest community.
At the same time, Tjeerdsma will be available for coaches.
“He does a good job of going out of his way to talk to everyone and being genuinely engaged in their programs,” men’s basketball coach Ben McCollum said. “That is a tough quality to have and he has that. I think he got that from his years of coaching. I don’t know there are many athletic directors that can do that at the level he does.”
Throughout his life, Tjeerdsma believed he is right where he is supposed to be. God has a plan for him and he is following it.
He missed being involved with coaches and student-athletes. Tjeerdsma still had plenty to offer. He looked at a couple of coaching jobs and decided against them.
“I didn’t know what was going to happen,” he said. “Everything fell into place. I have always been a person who believes I am where I am supposed to be. The Lord really controls my life. There is just no doubt in my mind.
“We sold our house the day we listed it and we bought a house here.”
If Tjeerdsma needed any other sign that Northwest is where he is supposed to be now, he received it by selling the house in one day. Sometimes it takes people months to sell a house when moving to another city.
Tjeerdsma has accomplished plenty in his 44 years of coaching football. He still wants to work. He truly appreciates getting this opportunity to be athletic director.
“For a while, I was doing something I didn’t like,” he said. “There are a lot of people in this world who work their whole life doing something they don’t like. It made me appreciate how blessed I’ve been for 44 years to be able to go to work every day and be excited about going to work and it wasn’t work.”
One of Tjeerdsma’s God-given gifts is his ability to find a positive in any situation.
When asked about his duties as athletic director might be to one day fire a coach, he talked about hiring coaches because Northwest has talented young coaches who might get jobs at other places.
“I made it through 44 years of coaching without ever firing anybody,” he said. “I hope I don’t run into that situation and I don’t anticipate it. I’m sure there are going to be opportunities to hire because we have good, young coaches. This is the real world. Coaches get opportunities and coaches move on. It will be real interesting.”
McCollum said Tjeerdsma is someone who young coaches will seek for advice.
“I think it is exciting for a lot of the young coaches,” Tjeerdsma said. “He has been through a lot. He understands how to establish a winning program so we can come to him for advice.
“Also, externally, fundraising, I think he brings a figurehead that everybody can relate to and hopefully it will translate into some funds and hopefully more buildings and more scholarships and better programs.”
Sometimes it is a difficult transition when a university has to hire a new athletic director during a school year.
The transition from Baker to Tjeerdsma has been smooth.
“It is just a little strange when you get a new athletic director,” McCollum said. “You finally get used to one and then you have another.
“I think the familiarity with Coach T is going to help considerably. He knows everyone here. He has already done a great job of establishing relationships and communicating with the coaches. I am sure he is doing that with the booster.”
It was Tjeerdsma’s choice to get started right away instead of waiting until after the school year concluded. It gave him four weeks to know the student-athletes and the coaches before the semester ended.
“I felt like it was really important to get here before school was out and be a part of the completion of our spring sports,” he said. “Weather has complicated things. But those are good experiences for me.”
And that is classic Mel Tjeerdsma. Rainy days are not going to get him down. For him, there are no bad days when working on a college campus.
“You are dealing with something all the time,” he said. “Hopefully, through all this, I will have an opportunity to help some people whether it’s student-athletes, coaches or our fans. You hope you can impact them in some way.”
For more information, please contact:
Media Relations Department, Northwest Athletics
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