Dave Blomquist: Cultivating Transformation on the Field

Dave Blomquist, MA, is living out his mission as the head coach of Azusa Pacific University’s men’s soccer team. Although his teams have had many triumphant seasons, including going undefeated during regular season play and being ranked No. 1 in all of NCAA Division II in 2019, Blomquist doesn’t measure success through traditional metrics. “I have no idea how many wins I have in my coaching career. As much as I love when our team wins, that’s not nearly as important to me,” he said. “Tell me how many players I’ve coached because that’s the number of opportunities I’ve had to help a young man grow, develop, and be transformed.”

Transformation is central to what Blomquist aims to achieve in his coaching. This happens in a number of ways. While he wants to help his players develop their soccer skills on the field, it’s the growth that occurs off the field that matters most. Most of Blomquist’s players will become professionals in a different field than the soccer pitch, so he advises them to focus on building integrity and character. “There’s a saying that it’s not what you know, it’s who you know,” he said. “There’s some truth to that, but I would add a third part: Most importantly, it’s who you are. I think that is going to give them the greatest success in whatever they do.”

Building athletes of character is rooted in Blomquist’s faith. He draws parallels between soccer and faith on a daily basis with his players. “There are so many lessons we can learn through the sport that we read about in the Bible,” he said. One of Blomquist’s favorite memories is watching a player who didn’t know God at all when he started at APU give his life to Christ before he graduated. His faith journey began on the soccer field and is now guiding his life.

“I really try to talk to the guys about the perspective we need to have about soccer and about life and eternity,” Blomquist said. “We all think soccer is really important, or else we wouldn’t devote so much time to it. But if we step back, we can see how soccer is such a small part of your life when you’re talking about vocation, family, and eternity.”

For Blomquist, his love for soccer began as a child. Born and raised in Branby, Conn., Blomquist played a number of sports growing up, but as he matured, baseball, basketball, and tennis fell by the wayside and he focused on soccer. After high school, he decided to attend Wheaton College, like many members of his family had previously. Although he wasn’t recruited, he walked on to the soccer team his freshman year. “I loved playing soccer in college. I have so many good memories from those days,” he said. After graduating, Blomquist briefly pursued a professional soccer career, playing for one season with the Chicago Stingers. “It was a cool experience to be a part of that type of environment at the next level, but after one year, I knew it wasn’t for me,” he said. “That’s when I started doing more coaching. That’s what got me up in the morning, what I was really passionate about and enjoyed.”

Coaching had a snowball effect for Blomquist; once he got started, he just wanted to spend more time doing it. Coaching opportunities took him from Chicago to Minneapolis, then to San Diego. He spent several years coaching at the high school level while pursuing his Master’s of Sports Psychology at San Diego State. Then one day he got a call from Phil Wolf, an old friend he had played with at Wheaton and on the Stingers. Wolf was the head coach of APU’s men’s soccer team at the time and needed an assistant coach. “I took some time to pray about it to see if it was the right next step in my life,” Blomquist said. “God told me to take the opportunity at APU. In hindsight, it was 100 percent the right decision. It led me to discover my mission and live it out each day.” Three years later, Wolf left to pursue a NCAA Division I coaching opportunity, and Blomquist took the reins as head coach.

The men’s soccer team has a motto unlike any other team at APU. The motto, takwaba, a Bemba word, stems from a mission trip the team went on to Zambia in 2005. On the trip, the team heard people worshiping, singing “Takwaba Uwaba Nga Yesu” (There’s No One Like Jesus), and saw the happiness the song brought them. “They brought the song back because they believe it enveloped APU soccer in that we want to have joy together in what we do,” Blomquist said.

“We want to have joy when we’re playing on the field, working out at the gym, just hanging out, or whatever we’re doing. Our joy is rooted in being a team and the love of Jesus.”

This togetherness aspect is what makes the team special. Blomquist is intentional about cultivating a strong community. He’ll have the players over to his house for barbecues and cornhole tournaments. They’ll grab meals together and go cheer on other APU sports teams together. “We really invest in each other’s lives outside of soccer. It’s important for guys to be there for each other when things aren’t going well,” he said. “They’re there for each other through the low moments, after tough losses and when guys are going through rough patches off the field. That’s where brotherhood kicks in and those relationships continue down the line long after graduation.”

Blomquist recalled going to a former player’s wedding a few years ago. He didn’t know who else was attending, but he was happy to see more than 20 APU soccer alumni there to celebrate their teammate. “This is the culture we created, guys who not only love playing and hanging out together, but who also want to see each other become better men and develop spiritually,” he said. “That’s transformation. That’s the impact I want to have as a coach.”