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Wheelchair Not a Barrier to Two State Championships

April 25, 2016 01:44 PM

Dan Bolhouse, Varsity Boy’s and Girl’s Tennis Coach at Forest Hills Central High School (Grand Rapids, Mich.) talks to his players about overcoming barriers and being the best they can be. 

“Everyone has challenging times in sports, and in life,” he said.  “It’s how we react and move forward which defines us as a person and a player.”  Coach Bolhouse considers this an important message because he speaks from experience. 

Bolhouse began playing tennis around the age of 13, continuing to play through his sophomore year in college.  It was not until the age of 28, after an injury that left him in a wheelchair, did he begin playing again.  He then discovered Wheelchair Tennis and continued to play for 10 years.

Although he is a Wheelchair Tennis player, Bolhouse says that he didn’t have any fears about coaching an able-bodied team.  He encourages his players to ask him questions about his Wheelchair Tennis experience, but he’s not sure how much it influences his coaching style.  In fact, he says he rarely uses his chair when coaching, instead using self-feeding drills much of the time.

“From my vantage point, coaching from a chair is exactly the same as coaching an able-bodied person,” Bolhouse said.  “Every disabled or able-bodied person has the ability to impact another player or person in a positive manner.”

In addition to teaching tennis skills, Bolhouse focuses on teaching these type of life-lessons.  He also says he loves coaching and considers it a continual learning process.

“I learn new ideas and concepts daily and work to improve as a coach everyday!  I know I have strengths and weaknesses, and my goal is to always be able to reach every player and assist them in being successful.”

Bolhouse began coaching after a friend asked if he’d be interested in coaching the Junior Varsity boy’s team.  He took the position and now coaches both the boy’s and girl’s varsity teams.  He obviously has been successful, helping lead the boy’s varsity team to two state championships (2014 and 2015).

Bolhouse describes his coaching style as “calm and collected.”  Although extremely competitive, he strives to be a “calming influence” around his players.

“My goal is to be a positive influence on my players. I demand a lot from my players, on and off the court, and my goal is to make each player a better person,” he said.  “The best part of coaching your tennis players is the opportunity to help them achieve their goals and dreams.  It’s a special moment to help them win a State Championship, and luckily I’ve had that opportunity!”