by Damien Alarcon
photography by Jaime Ortega
The characteristic his players and their parents like most about Dave Zylstra is his laid back, mellow style of coaching. He does not yell, scream or push his players to the extreme. A compulsive obsession to win is not what drives Zylstra to coach basketball and baseball for 11 years, all while running a business and taking care of his family.
“At first I was stunned. I was expecting a coach who pushes the kids with more aggressiveness,” said a parent, Harold Ussery. “But after a while, I saw how the kids had more fun and were learning a lot. He is a good coach.” Ussery’s daughter, Devon, 11, was a part of Zylstra’s basketball team through the City of La Verne Parks and Recreation program.
Zylstra, a 41-year-old La Verne resident, says winning is not the most important thing that keeps him interested in the sports in which he is involved. What he loves most about coaching is “seeing kids improve and growing as individuals. Not even so much that they are great players, but just to see them improve and build their love of the game.”
“I can really see that easily in basketball. I get more satisfaction, even than from winning, to see a little kid develop over the years,” he says.
Aside from dedicating volunteer work through the city’s Parks and Recreation program on a year-round basis, Zylstra also runs his own nursery, West Covina Nurseries. Do not let the name fool you. The business, which was owned by his parents, was originally located in West Covina but moved to La Verne in 1988 after Zylstra purchased the company from them.
Since then, Zylstra has built two other yards in La Verne. His brother, Doug, runs his own yard in Santa Barbara, while his sister, Diane, owns one in Arroyo Grande, near San Luis Obispo. All nurseries are under the same name. “We all work under a partnership,” explains Zylstra.
Carrying a major duty of running a successful company, Zylstra says his enjoyment of coaching has placed another priority in his life. He has been coaching sports — whether it be baseball, basketball or even soccer — for 11 years. He gained this desire to help children grow and progress in sports while growing up. Throughout his younger years living in Glendora, Zylstra was involved in a plethora of sports including basketball, baseball, track and tennis. Throughout his years at Edgewood High School in Covina, Zylstra began to focus more on his two favorite sports, baseball and basketball.
“Adults took an interest in me growing up in different sports, and I would just like to try to give back for what they did for me,” he says.
After high school, he attended the University of Redlands and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in business in 1980. At Redlands, he played two years of basketball. Studying abroad was Zylstra’s most memorable college experience, where he traveled through 12 different countries across Europe including Austria, Germany, Greece and Switzerland.
A couple of years after graduation, Zylstra married his longtime companion, Maxine Monahan, when he was 22 years old. Maxine knew Dave since she was 8, when he was the best friend of her brother, Kevin. They are parents of six children: Ryan, 16; Whitney, 14; Brock, 12; Tanner, 9; Madison, 6 and Logan, 1.
Dave and Maxine do not push sports upon their children, however. Zylstra learned from his first son, Ryan, that parents should not do that.
“With your first son you really try to get him into everything and you go overboard. Fortunately, [Ryan] found his niche, and he loves golf. I think all my kids have either found or will find their niche in what they like,” he says. Ryan is a junior at Bonita High School and is a member of the golf team.
“Dave is a very committed and loving man,” Maxine says. “He wants everyone to succeed, but not just that. He is concerned about the welfare of the kids he coaches and always asks them how are things going in their lives.”
Maxine supports Zylstra’s teams with regular game attendance and, more often than not, serves as a “team mom,” serving treats, typing schedules and making the banner for each team. Dave credits Maxine, for her help and support.
“What makes things work is that I enjoy sports. If I didn’t, things would be a lot harder,” she says. “We enjoy what we are doing as long as [our children] are making the grades.”
“My wife has been real supportive in my life and does a lot of the running around and should not get cut out of the limelight. She allows me to go on doing what I am doing. She works a little at the nursery, but mainly stays home and is a house mom,” Zylstra says.
Zylstra and his family are also very much involved with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. He heads the young men’s program of the church, where they perform community service projects, bicycle rides to Mexico and sporting events. He also helps church teens who are in the Eagle Scout program and sets up community service activities for them.
Other organizations in which Zylstra has active roles are the Youth Little League Board and the Youth Sports Council. In the Youth Little League Board, Zylstra served as treasurer and does maintenance for the baseball field, located at Palota Park in La Verne. He is also a former member of the American Youth Soccer Organization (AYSO). He has some soccer experience in the past, but never grew an interest in the sport.
“I coached soccer before, but then after a while, the kids got to know more than me,” Zylstra says. “If you grow up playing certain sports than you get more comfortable teaching kids those games.”
Zylstra’s favorite sports are basketball and baseball, and he finds enjoyment in playing and coaching. His best coaching experience occurred two years ago when the La Verne All-Star basketball squad defeated the Pasadena team in the San Gabriel Valley Championship. It was the first time that La Verne had beaten Pasadena. Andre Bossieux (’84), a former University of La Verne basketball player, was an assistant coach of that squad.
Bossieux is not the only ULV player with which Zylstra is familiar. Juniors Kevin and Greg Gustafson, current members of the ULV basketball team, are Zylstra’s nephews.
“He is a great guy who has always been good to his kids,” said Kevin, a three-time First Team All-Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) selection. “It is fun just to be around Dave because he is a fun guy, like he will play basketball and video games with us. He is not like a lot of older guys who get tired and don’t want to do anything, he is real active.”
Zylstra says, “I enjoy my work and I enjoy the youth programs. None of it is a job for me.”