Familiar face to lead Brandywine athletics

NILES — In the last two decades, Coach David Sidenbender has amassed more than 400 wins for Brandywine baseball, more than 100 wins for Brandywine tennis, 10 total conference championships, five district championships and two regional championships.

Monday night, he added another title to his list of accolades: Brandywine athletic director.

Two days before longtime athletic director Vance Stratton’s retirement, Sidenbender, of Edwardsburg, was officially named the new leader of the Brandywine Athletic Department at the district’s board meeting Monday.

“I’m looking forward to working with the coaches and trying to help them be the best they can,” Sidenbender said in an interview Wednesday. “I just think Brandywine has a really good history of athletics. I think Vance has done a great job over the last 17 years cultivating that, and I want to continue building on that.”

In addition to coaching baseball and boys tennis, Sidenbender has coached varsity boys basketball, varsity golf and middle school girls basketball, all for Brandywine. After playing baseball at Southwestern Michigan College and Bethel College, Sidenbender went on to coach baseball at SMC before returning to school to earn a teaching degree. He began teaching history at Brandywine in 1999 and has done so ever since.

As he shifts his focus from teaching to leading the athletic department, Sidenbender said he will be focused on taking care of the facilities that were built or improved during Stratton’s tenure, including a new track and football field, auxiliary gym, tennis courts and softball field.

“The school’s done a great job of helping us over the years,” he said. “I want to finish that and keep it up. The hardest thing to do after you get [new facilities] is to try and maintain them and keep them like new.”

Less than 45 minutes before the official start of his retirement, Stratton said he thought his colleague would be a good fit for the position.

“He’s been here for many years, coached several sports … and so he is familiar with the coaching stuff,” Stratton said. “He’s familiar with the kids, the school, the community, which I think is a giant plus coming into the position. He’s extremely organized and a technical savvy person, which nowadays helps being in this job.”

For his part, Sidenbender said he thinks he was chosen because of his personality and long career with Brandywine.

“I think it had a lot to do with my longevity there,” he said. “I don’t really get too worked up. I’m pretty even keeled, and I usually think about things before I react to them. I think Vance has done that too. You don’t want to have those knee jerk reactions. You want to make sure you’re doing the right thing.”

He acknowledged that the promotion would require a significant time commitment, and was thankful to his family for their encouragement in the transition.

“I’m really grateful that my wife and my family are supportive in this decision. It’s not an easy one,” he said. “It’s something that changes your life. I was always super busy, and now, I’ll be ultra-busy.”

Sidenbender has two sons in college, and his youngest daughter recently transferred to Brandywine from Edwardsburg.

After surpassing his 400th win this spring, Sidenbender said he looked up and realized how close he was to his predecessor’s record wins. Chuck Hurdle, who Sidenbender volunteered for in 1999, finished his career coaching baseball with 461 wins.

“You coach so long and you look up and those milestones are right there,” he said.

As far as coaching goes, “boys tennis might be up in the air. It’s going to be tough here in the fall,” Sidenbender said. “In the spring, I’ll probably still be able to coach baseball, as long as I don’t go crazy. I didn’t want to give up baseball.”

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