Dan Bolhouse: Rolling Onto the Court

2010 Dow Corning Tennis Classic, Midland, MI

Keith DeLong

2010 Dow Corning Tennis Classic, Midland, MI

Maggie Eldred, Staff Writer

As head varsity tennis coach, Dan Bolhouse is a common name around the halls of FHC. With his sarcastic comments and his endless enthusiasm, he is tough to miss. Another thing that makes him hard to miss is his wheelchair.

After graduating high school, Bolhouse became an avid snowmobiler. But in February of 1999 he had an accident.

I was driving too fast and I didn’t complete a turn, which caused me to launch over a snowbank where I collided with a tree traveling at around 75-80mph. When I collided with the tree my spine compressed and my 7th vertebrae exploded, causing me to become a complete T-7 paraplegic,” Bolhouse said.

But Bolhouse beat the odds and made sure that the traumatic experience was not a career-ending one.

“Honestly, I had very low odds that I would ever play tennis after my injury,” Bolhouse said. “I stopped playing tennis after my sophomore year at Hope and I rarely played tennis in the years following college. I stayed active playing basketball, hockey, golf, and softball and that left little time to play tennis.”

A few years after his injury he was invited to play wheelchair tennis. In the beginning he didn’t push himself and he went through the motions. After taking some time to ponder the thought he decided it was time to work harder or stop playing tennis for good.

“At this time I had a great conversation with my parents and I purchased my first tennis chair, as well as made a list of my goals and how I would accomplish them,” Bolhouse stated.

After traveling the country on the “wheelchair circuit,” Bolhouse enrolled into some Able-Bodied leagues or AB leagues for short. Tennis is a sport where both AB and wheelchair players can play as partners. The only difference is that wheelchair players can have two bounces, instead of only one.

“Hitting shots is similar but the mobility portion is very different,” Bolhouse said. “Wheelchair players have no lateral movement where [able bodied] players can move side to side easily.  Playing in a chair requires us to move in different patterns in order to put ourselves in position to execute the proper technique. I was forced to change my movement patterns and this took several years to improve and was the biggest challenge for me.”

After the years of playing and traveling for tournaments around the country, Bolhouse was approached by a close friend and asked about coaching. He was then given the opportunity to go to Midland, Michigan and learn to coach. Bolhouse spent six months in Midland from the fall of 2010 to spring 2011 training and apprehending his coaching style. Once he completed his training in Midland, he moved back to Grand Rapids and accepted a coaching job at Orchard Hills, East Hills, and Michigan Athletic club until they closed in early 2014.

After the clubs closed, a co-worker took the varsity coaching job here at FHC and offered the JV spot to Bolhouse.

Junior Katie Knister has been playing tennis for years and when she met Dan there was an immediate connection.

“I’ve known Dan for a while, so I definitely enjoyed having him as a coach,” Katie said. “He is always there to help and knows how to help us with what we need.”

Katie began playing tennis for the school her freshman year and having Bolhouse as a coach has substantially improved her skills.

“It is different playing with [Dan], but it definitely helps me more, he hits where it can help me,” Katie said. “[Dan] is always making sure that I am doing my best and putting in full effort for anything I am doing during the season.”

Another student who has been playing for Bolhouse in the more recent years is sophomore Amy Wang. Although Amy has only been playing for Bolhouse for a year, there was a connection and she hopes to be on varsity playing for him again this year.

“[Bolhouse] has individual coaching sessions with people,” Amy said. “Sometimes he has groups of four practicing and I really like him as my coach.”

After only coaching at FHC for 4 years, Bolhouse has made a lasting impression on the students and athletes of FHC.

“Before I started coaching at FHC, I never realized how amazing it feels to help others reach their dreams,” Bolhouse said.