Northwestern College officials announced today a change in the leadership for the school’s powerhouse women’s basketball program. Earl Woudstra, who led the Lady Raiders to this year’s NAIA Div. II national championship and four titles since 2001, will retire from coaching. He will be replaced by current assistant Chris Yaw.
Woudstra retires after 17 years as head coach
Woudstra became the team’s head coach in 1994 and led his teams to a 403-139 record. The Raiders won the national title in 2001, 2008, 2010 and 2011, and he was named national coach of the year each of those seasons. Northwestern has recorded the most wins of any team in the NAIA Div. II national tournament.
Northwestern qualified for 10 national tournaments under Woudstra’s tutelage. In addition to the national championships, the Raiders were runners-up in 2000 and advanced to the Final Four in 2006 and 2009. Under his direction, Northwestern won over 30 games five seasons and amassed 20 or more wins 11 times.
Woudstra had a 152-40 record in the very competitive Great Plains Athletic Conference (GPAC) and guided the Raiders to four GPAC regular-season championships and three postseason conference championships. In addition, Woudstra coached 25 NAIA All-Americans, three national players of the year and 30 Scholar-Athletes.
“It’s been a real joy to be involved with the young women in this program,” said Woudstra. “My family and I have had so many wonderful experiences with Northwestern basketball over the years, and I’m extremely grateful for the support I’ve received from people on campus and in the community.
“I’ve thought about retiring from coaching for the last couple of years, and it seems the timing for that is perfect now. The basketball program is at a really healthy place. I’ve definitely been blessed with the opportunity to work with Coach Yaw for the last seven years, and it’s really exciting to pass the baton and know I’m putting the program in good hands. In addition, with the development of our new sport management program, it’s time for me to go back to a larger role in the kinesiology department,” he said.
Northwestern’s president, Greg Christy, offered his congratulations and gratitude to Woudstra for a phenomenal coaching career. “Earl represents all that is good about intercollegiate athletics and Northwestern College,” says Christy. “The success of his teams on the court was only surpassed by the quality and depth of relationships he developed with his student-athletes and their families off the court. Earl is an exceptional coach, mentor and discipler of young people, and we appreciate all he, his wife, Karen, and their family have done for the women's basketball program at Northwestern.”
Barry Brandt, Northwestern’s athletic director, said Woudstra personified servant leadership. “He’s always been far more concerned about the personal development of his players and coaches than he has about himself or the sport of basketball. His Christian faith was at the core of everything he did; nothing was more important than seeing spiritual growth and understanding take place in his squads,” he said.
“Earl had the ability to deeply care about each of his team members and convey that to them,” continued Brandt. “He earned their trust because they knew he cared about them. That allowed him to demand very high levels of effort and performance. He’s very intense and passionate; his players accepted his intensity because they knew all he wanted was the best for them. The incredible success his teams had on the court was a direct reflection of who he is and how he did the things he did.”
A 1978 Northwestern alum, Woudstra also serves as the assistant athletic director and professor of kinesiology. He earned a doctorate in physical education from the University of Minnesota and a master’s degree in recreation education from the University of Iowa.
Woudstra and his wife, Karen, have four children and two grandchildren.
Yaw named new head coach
Chris Yaw has served as the top assistant for the Red Raider women’s basketball program for seven seasons. During his tenure, Northwestern was 200-41 with six trips to the national tournament, five appearances in the Final Four and three national championships. He was named the 2010 Red Raider Club Co-Coach of the Year. In charge of the team’s defensive play, Yaw has turned the Raiders into one of the top defensive teams in the conference.
“While we are sad to see Earl Woudstra’s coaching career come to a close, we are delighted to welcome Chris Yaw as our new head women’s basketball coach,” said President Christy. “Chris has been an integral part of the recent success of our program, and he will provide great leadership for our young women. Chris is an excellent teacher, coach and person of deep faith and character. We are eager to see Northwestern women’s basketball continue to flourish in every way under Chris’ leadership.”
Yaw, who will also have additional administrative duties in Northwestern’s athletic department, said he’s thrilled to assume the helm of the Lady Raider program. “The most exciting thing about becoming the new head coach is to take on the tradition that has consistently pursued excellence but taken a great humble approach as well.
“My greatest goal for the program is that it continues to model and uphold the mission of Northwestern, creating women of great character who would be courageous and intentional about being women of faith,” said Yaw. “Another goal is for all of us to continue to pursue excellence in academics and in our relationships with each other. Finally, we seek for the basketball program to continue to compete at a high level—specifically, to compete well in the GPAC. To compete well in the GPAC is probably going to allow us to compete well nationally.”
Athletic Director Barry Brandt said of Yaw, “Chris is a man of great faith, knowledge, passion and integrity, and he will be an outstanding leader and mentor for all the young women who will pass through this program. I am supremely confident that this program is in very good hands with Chris Yaw at the helm.”
A 1992 Northwestern graduate, letter winner and two-year starter for the men’s basketball team, Yaw served as co-captain of the NAIA national runner-up squad (along with Kris Korver, now Northwestern’s head men’s basketball coach) his senior year.
A math teacher at MOC-Floyd Valley Middle School, Yaw was previously the middle school principal in Spencer, Iowa. Prior to that, he served as the assistant women’s basketball coach at Wayne State College for one season. He also directed the 2001 MOC-Floyd Valley girls’ basketball team to a state berth and served as the head coach for four years.
Yaw and his wife, Donette, have three children: Rylee, Mitchell and Claire.
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