Sports Spotlight: Bishop Heelan brings back Koolstra culture after a year away


SIOUX CITY, Iowa (KCAU) — “It’s kind of in my blood. I’ve been a coach for over 20-some years and just have that passion, have that love for it.”

After 12 years and two state championships with Bishop Heelan, Darron Koolstra made the tough choice in August of 2020 to step away from the game to pursue employment outside of sports.

“It was a hard day walking out of here,” said Koolstra. “I got a lot of text messages and I stayed in contact with the players throughout last year’s season, and they were in great hands with coach Wright and the assistant coaches that they had.”

But while Koolstra spent the 2020-21 season in the stands, he continued to keep in touch with players, while following the team during all of last season. And his desire to return began to grow. So when the former head coach, Jay Wright, left the role to become a co-athletic director of the school, Koolstra jumped at the opening.

“Coming back it was, you know, walking into this gym and walking into this facility it was just like it was supposed to be that way,” remembered Koolstra.

In their first game of the season, the Crusaders defeated top ranked and reigning 3A state champions Unity Christian, reigniting the Koolstra culture.

“One of the first things we talked about was, on the first day of practice, was buy-in,” said Koolstra. “And I think they have to buy in to their coaches, they have to buy in to the program. Just seeing that at Unity I felt they did buy in.”

“He’s very passionate, especially for us girls,” said Bishop Heelan junior guard Kenley Meis. “When he came back he told us it was for us. And he’s here to win, he’s not here to mess around.”

So now Koolstra has watched the program from both sides, as a fan and coach. And in the short time he’s been back, he prefers the latter.

“It’s pretty much a no-brainer to come back and coach these kids because it’s rewarding,” said Darron.

“It feels good to have him back,” said Meis. “Most of us were here the last state championship we won, so we know we can really trust them, and we know that they’re doing what’s right for us.”

“They Know what we’re expecting, and I think they’re a little hungry for it,” said Koolstra. “They didn’t get to Wells Fargo [Arena] last year, and that’s always our goal, to end our season at Wells Fargo Arena. And it’s no different this year.”

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