Video Spotlight - The Number 11

LANGLEY, British Columbia - Rudy Verhoeff didn’t even blink. Nor did he bat an eye.

When Trinity Western men’s volleyball coach Ben Josephson asked Verhoeff to change his number from 10 to 11 this summer, the Spartans middle, turned outside hitter, immediately responded with a beaming “of course.”

“It is the pinnacle of what Spartans are,” Josephson said about the No. 11 and what it represents for the TWU men’s volleyball team.

On July 19, 2003, shortly after returning from an Athletes in Action mission’s trip to Thailand, Spartans volleyball player Jason Senechal unexpectedly passed away while playing in a beach volleyball tournament.

The Spartans setter and serving specialist – who, in his two years at TWU from 2001 to 2003, never missed a serve coming off the bench – wore No. 11. And he did so with great distinction and was a model of what it means to be a Spartan.

“Jason was a guy who loved life,” said Josephson, who played with Senechal for two years. “He loved his team. He loved everything he did. They way he lived was a huge example to me as his teammate even though he was a younger athlete. He trained as hard as anyone you’ve ever met and I never saw a frown on that guy’s face. He was positive every day.

“And he died doing what he loved. He died playing volleyball. He died with his friends. And his example in our program is one we want to make sure everyone is aware of. We celebrate those types of people.”

Senechal’s No. 11 was retired in his memory shortly after his passing but in 2009, the Spartans coaching staff decided to bring the number back to the TWU court by giving it to the fourth or fifth-year player who best exemplifies the same characteristics that Senechal brought to his team.

Aaron Vandenbrink was the first player to wear the No. 11 since 2003 when, last year, he was given the honour of wearing the now unretired jersey. But since Vandenbrink’s retirement from university volleyball, the locker, emblazoned with the No. 11 and situated in the middle of the Spartans dressing room, needed a new resident.

And for the Spartans coaching staff, Verhoeff was an easy decision.

“Rudy is a great man of faith, a great man of character,” Josephson sad. “He plays with passion and he plays with energy. He cares about his teammates. And he cares about things much, much greater than our team. He’s a great leader for us and a great guy to wear number 11.”

Playing in his fourth year at TWU, Verhoeff is the team’s captain and on-court leader and was honoured to be asked to carry Senechal’s torch.

“It was pretty exciting and to be recognized as someone that has Jason’s qualities is special,” Verhoeff said “From what I’ve been told, he was just a very loving guy. He loved his teammates. He loved God. And he really wanted to encourage people and challenge people to grow in their relationship with God.”

Three days after Senechal passed away, his obituary said it best: “Jason left this world doing what he loved best, beach volleyball, to be with whom he loves best, Jesus Christ.”

And for Verhoeff, Senechal’s example is one he aspires to follow.

“I just love these guys,” Verhoeff said about his team. “They’re my brothers and my family. I’m just trying to encourage them and challenge them to walk closer with God because I’ve had guys in my past who have done that for me. If I could even closely resemble what people have done for me for these guys on the team, that would be awesome.

“This is not just any other number. This is for remembering Jason and honouring him through wearing his number with pride and representing who he was and what he did for our program.”

Last Updated: 2010-12-21
Author: Mark Janzen