HOLLAND, Mich. -- The Peter Stuursma era is underway at Hope -- and the man who won seven state championships at East Grand Rapids High School is already making an impact, even if his players literally can't impact each other.
Division III schools can't practice in pads or even helmets in the spring -- but Stuursma's presence is leaving an impression.
"He's a funny guy," junior Jake VanderVeen said as the Dutchmen wrapped up spring practice on Thursday night. "I just love the stories he tells. That is something that he opens up with every day -- is a funny story that he has seen. You feel like he is almost a father figure to you like right away, and it's really cool to have him around."
"Coach Stuursma has come in here and changed the culture," senior Kirk Gibson said. "He's really made an emphasis to play every play as hard as we possibly can -- not taking a rep off -- and just continuing to get better each and every play."
Hope finished last season 2-8. You wouldn't know it with the enthusiasm they've tackled the spring with.
"Before coming in it was like 'Uh, I don`t know how we are going to do next year losing a lot of good guys,' but the way we are coming together right now, I`m real excited for the season," senior Tyler Kirchoff said.
And Stuursma is just as excited to be working with his new team.
"They want to learn. They want to get better," he said. "It's been really fun to see this team develop because, at the end of the day, it's also the culture that we have with our players -- the culture that our guys establish -- and it's been high energy and a lot fun to be around."
"We know that this is just a start. We know that this doesn't change anything for next year, as far as wins and losses, but it's a great start to set the foundation."
Hope opens the 2016 season on September 3rd in Holland against Monmouth College.