A family posing for a picture on a baseball field.

Happy Opening Day! North Kingstown’s Tim Van Wormer comes full circle – John Cardullo

by John Cardullo, sportswriter

From a youngster growing up in the Edgewood section Cranston playing sports in the late 70s and early 80s, Van Wormer went on to establishing himself as a coach and mentor to athletes in North Kingstown. As the sprots seasons changed Van Wormer went from being one of the “Kids of Summer” as he played little league baseball for Edgewood South Elmwood and then rolled into the football season playing for the Edgewood Eagles.

When he was starting out in both sports, Van Wormer was smaller than most of the other kids playing on the team. Not one to shy away from a challenge, Van Wormer showed up to practice every day, he took his lumps and learned his lessons and never complained. He just continued playing and learning every day. “I was fortunate to have a great support system at home and great coaches who truly cared and invested themselves into making me a better athlete and player.” Van Wormer said. “Whether you were the star of the team or a third string player, the coaches always treated you the same and as one of those second or third string players, I always felt included by everyone!”

As he grew, his body began to fill out, from a smaller than the other kids, to equal, then in most cases, bigger than others, becoming a star baseball player and football player in his own right. He found himself moving with his mother to Narragansett, “In 1984 we moved down to Narragansett, and I played Quarterback for the Washington County Redskins and then moved onto the high school level, playing for Narragansett. I was looking forward to playing high school sports in Cranston and having a high school career alongside all the teammates who I grew up with and played alongside of all those years.”

Van Wormer made the adjustments and became a true Mariner, never one to back down from a challenge. Van Wormer was on track to be the Mariners Quarterback and baseball star, but then the fates had another twist for him. “I found myself heading back into Cranston as my mother decided to move again. I learned, unfortunately, about the residency rule that the Rhode Island Interscholastic League had in place, which essentially said that an athlete had to sit out a year when moving from one school district to another. This rule was to prevent athletes from leaving a lesser talented team for greener pastures of a team whose outlook was much brighter for success.”

“Sitting out the football season in 1986 cost me a State Championship with the Cranston East team that I began playing with when I was 8 years old and won football championships at every level that Pop Warner had to offer. Watching Cranston East winning the championship in 1986 was bittersweet! I watched all my friends celebrate, but I wasn’t truly part of the team.”

A few years after he left high school, Van Wormer enlisted in the Army. It was in the Army where he began playing competitive Flag Football and softball. “The Flag football games could get pretty “spirited” and we traveled all over the world to play different teams on different bases. Softball was a big part of our recreational competition as we filled in our time from being on and off duty. But I loved playing Flag football, and by the way, the “flag” part was just a term, the games really got physical.”

His softball career began as an extended “fill-in” to baseball, but the softball bug bit him hard. “I learned that softball although similar to baseball in many ways, was it’s own sport and the level of competition was as fierce. Hitting was a given in the game, but more often than not it was the team that was able to play the better defensive game that was walking away the winner!”

After he was discharged from the service and returned home, Van Wormer still managed to play some Flag football and competitive softball. “In softball my team was pretty good by we just couldn’t get over the hump and beat out the better teams of the time. The Players Softball Club (Players Corner Pub) and other teams like New England Lift and Stravarto’s were very good teams, but they were tough! We ended up having a lot of success of our own.”

It was during his time with a growing family, Van Wormer began to get involved in coaching. “I was blessed with having a string of excellent coaches during my youth and through my early adult life. I tapped into the lessons learned by those coaches and applied it to the way I coached.”

The mixture worked out for him immediately with both his youth football team, the North Kingstown Jaguars of the Rhode Island Pre-teen youth league, and the North Kingstown little league. Although his son was a player on both teams, Van Wormer didn’t fall into the trap that most parents who turn into their child’s coaches find themselves, making their kid the star of the team! “I learned from an early age that it is a team, and the star play from one year may be a support player the next. My focus was to help the player progress and become the best athlete that he could possibly become. That’s how I was coached, and I learned a lot from every coach that I had. All I did was to refilter and make their message to me, mine, as I passed it along to them. I hope when they become coaches, they do the same to their player!”

For Van Wormer the message must be getting through, his Jaguars football team has won several football championships and his baseball teams, has done equally as well. He is fortunate to be coaching his son in both sports. “He’s a good boy and a very good athlete. More of a natural athlete than I was at his age. I cannot wait to watch him play in the future, for him and his teammates, the sky is the limit!” Asked if he would like to coach at the next level, Van Wormer responds that “if an offer comes, I would have to seriously take time and think about it. The higher the level becomes, the more commitment there is.” One thing for certain is that the young boy who stepped onto the playing field, so unsure of himself, has become a mentor for future coaches in his own right. Like he says, “I had some amazing coaches to look up to and I hope my players now have as well.”


John Cardullo, sportswriter

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