When Tom VanderBor came to Quincy to teach at Quincy Notre Dame in the fall of 1991, he planned to coach in his spare time. He coached Little League teams in Portage, Mich., and hoped to do the same here when baseball season rolled around in the spring of 1992.
But basketball? He wasn’t expecting that.
“I remember talking to Ray (Heilmann, the principal of the school at the time) about finding a baseball team to coach, and he said to contact Brian Hill at the YMCA,” VanderBor said. “I contacted Brian, and he said, ‘I’ve got a team for you.’ I eventually helped Brian run some drafts for baseball and basketball teams.
“Maybe it was the next summer, he said, ‘I need you to draft a basketball team.’ I thought, OK, I can do that. After the draft, I said, ‘Brian, who’s going to coach the team?’ He said, ‘Oh, you are.’ So I coached basketball. One of the players was D.J. Venvertloh. When he went into the fifth grade (in 1994), his dad, Dale, was in charge of the ACES program, and he asked me to coach. I said I didn’t think I wanted to do that. Dale said, ‘Do you know more than a fifth grader?’ I said, ‘Well, yeah.’ He said, ‘You're hired.’ And that was the start.”
VanderBor has been a coach or the coordinator of the ACES and Crusaders youth basketball feeder programs for 29 years. His work with elementary school students has made a critical and invaluable impact on the QND basketball program in general and on the lives of hundreds of young athletes in particular.
“Since I'm a teacher, it kind of keeps me in touch with kids,” he said. “Even when I stopped teaching for 10 years, I still wanted to be in touch with the youth. I mean, I'm almost 60 years old, and it kind of makes me feel young. I still have young men — or older men — who I coached or taught 25 years ago, and I still talk to them. You form relationships with people. A lot of the friends I have are parents of kids who I coached, and I’ve maintained those friendships. It makes me feel young … most days.”
VanderBor coached one of his most successful teams last year. He guided the 7th grade Crusaders to a third-place finish in the Illinois Elementary School Association Class 3A state tournament. However, he says he typically doesn’t remember specific games.
“I coached a lot of all-star teams in baseball at the Y, and those were great experiences for the coaches and the kids,” he said. “Last year was a great memory — not because we got third but because everybody got along so well. The kids liked each other. The kids liked the coaches, and the coaches liked the kids. Another group I’ll always remember was the seniors who got third in the (IHSA Class A state tournament) in 2004. I had them for four years, from fifth to eighth grade. Man, did we have some fun times. A lot of those kids are still good friends of mine.”
VanderBor is coaching the 7th grade Crusaders again this season. He also has become a familiar voice as the public address announcer for QND athletic contests on the school campus. When he’s not coaching and announcing, he teaches at St. Peter School.
"First, I want to thank the QND Hall of Fame Committee for awarding me this honor and including me in this talent-laden Hall of Fame Class of 2023. Being able to do what I love to do AND getting honored for it is a true win-win situation for me. Never would I have imagined back in 1994 as a teacher at QND, that 29 years later, I would still be coaching youth basketball for the feeder programs of QND and be the Public Address announcer for three boys’ sports. In no way could all this be possible without the support, assistance, and friendship of so many people. First, thanks to Dale Venvertloh for making me get out of my comfort zone and begin my basketball coaching journey. Next, thanks to all the QND Boys coaches, especially Scott Douglas and Kevin Meyer, for their coaching wisdom and basketball knowledge.
A show of gratitude must go to every man and woman who has coached ACES and Crusaders, making these programs the best in the area. Additionally, I would not have lasted long coaching without the great co-coaches I’ve had over the years, especially Scott Westhaus, Bob Sheffield, and David Adam. To Bill Connell and Eric Orne: Thanks for trusting me with the microphone to be the in-game voice of so many memorable moments.
Finally, the biggest thanks must go to each and every player whom I have had the privilege to coach or announce in the past 29 years. Thank you for your dedication, your hard work, your trust, your laughter, and most of all, your friendship. The relationships that have formed in the past 29 years are invaluable to me, and I can’t thank you enough- this honor belongs to each one of you as well."