David Bulow was a man who believed communication was of the highest order. Whether it was in life or on the pitch, being deliberate with words was something David was always conscious of.
So when he was asked about his attitude towards soccer as he took the mantle of the Richmond Kickers head coaching role in 2018, he was concise:
“It’s a game, and it’s fun.”
The smile that was always on David’s face was the indicator of his passion for the sport of soccer. For the entirety of his playing and coaching career, win, lose, or draw, ultimately, he was doing what he loved.
And he was having fun.
To know David as a player was to know a force of energy. A player that was going to be your brother in arms on the field. A player that was going to give everything for his club. A player that was going to uplift the community he represented. A player that was always going to score from the penalty spot.
To know David as a coach was to know an ultimate leader. A coach with a curiosity and enthusiasm for the game that always pushed him to learn and try something new. A coach that loved his players like they were his own children. A coach who respected and thrived on the responsibility of leading his team, and a coach who always reciprocated the love he received.
To know David as a man was to know the best of us. A man who treated everyone in his life like family, and a man whose love for his family was greater than any other thing in his life. A man with a wit and a sense of humor that would make you smile as broadly as he would. A man who was optimistic and always worked to be a little better than the day before. A man who loved to wear funky socks and cheer on the Arsenal.
As we were reminded in the days following the news that he was in the hospital, David Bulow meant so much to our community in Richmond and the greater soccer community.
An excerpt from the GoFundMe page created in David’s honor cannot be understated: “If he hasn’t personally put a smile on your face, you can’t be too far away from someone that has.”
Coach Bulow hugs Akira Fitzgerald / Photo courtesy Jessica Stone Hendricks
While David may not be here in person with us, he will always be on our minds and in our hearts. And chances are, if you’re here and David hasn’t personally put a smile on your face, you can be sure that you aren’t far away from someone that has.
Together, as a Kickers family, we came together to honor David. Aggregated below are anecdotes about David to show the kind of person he was on and off the pitch. It has been one of the great privileges of all of our lives to know David. We hope you enjoy these stories as much as we loved living through them.
David Bulow was my coach at U9. When I look back on that season as a current college player, I realize I had no idea how big his impact would be on so many of us. Of course, it was cool that a current Kickers pro player was our coach.
We were all so proud of that, and to see how he expressed his love for the game on the field as a player himself, he helped us all fall in love with the game. He looked like he was having so much fun playing. And he sure did it as a coach, too. His practices were always about the game, about playing. Our practices were always competitive, we played different types of games, and had tons of fun.
I was fortunate to cross paths with Bulow later on in life again, and I learned that he was just as positive and full of energy off the field, outside of soccer.
In my first season playing for the Kickers, as a 21-year-old kid, Dave had a huge impact on me. I was actually on loan at the time from DC United, and I remember being disappointed at being loaned out for a second season in a row. I went down to Richmond, having to find my way again, and fit into a new team.
Photo courtesy Jessica Stone Hendricks
I really dislike being the new guy, but I was lucky to have a group of guys like David Bulow, Matt Delicâte, Mike Callahan, and others to make things better. Our first away trip, all of those older guys were playing cards on the bus, and I somehow got brought in to play. I learned valuable lessons about being a pro and the relationships between veterans and the young guys, and as we continued to play cards throughout the night, I really got to know Dave and just how cool all of those guys were.
That night summed up their attitude and their impact on me as a young pro. Respect had to be earned but once you had it those guys were all in as your teammates, and Dave was at the forefront of that. We ended up winning the regular season that year, which was pretty sweet. That impact lasted all the way through my last professional season when Dave became my coach.
As my coach, Dave believed in me when nobody else did. He always found a way to shine light on the positives, and because of him I was able to finish my career in a way that I was proud of. For that, I am beyond grateful.
I first met Coach Bulow at the age of 13 when he coached me for Richmond United. I was fortunate enough to have him coach me five years later, at the age of 18, for the Richmond Strikers.
Coach Bulow has left a permanent positive impact on my heart, mind, and soul. He helped build me into a confident, creative, and passionate player as well as a person on and off the field. Bulow‘s true love of the game and his desire to get the best out of every player was always inspiring.
I will miss him and his huge smile. I’ve written his name in my cleats to always remind me to honor him by being the best player and man I can be and to do it with a smile.
I can remember Coach’s first day.
We had a test match against DC United up in their newly built Audi Field. What a setting for your first day on the job!
We met up in the Kickers office prior to departure to be introduced to him for the first time. I can remember the massive smile he had on his face as we each walked into the office one by one and the warm embrace he shared with each player. Right away, you could feel his passionate, positive, and caring nature.
After the game he told me, “I know you haven’t been that involved up until this point, but that’s all about to change. I think you could be a useful option for us.”
I hadn’t played a single minute of competitive football since my professional debut some two months prior to that. Was he being serious? Or was this just him being nice? Those words started to gain value when I began making the matchday squads and then, about a month after that, I earned my first professional start. On the eve of that first start, I was doing some work on my own after training. Coach came up to me and said, “Stop. Just stop. You know you’re starting tomorrow. You don’t need to be killing yourself the night before the game. Trust in your preparation up until this point. Just be yourself and you’ll do great.”
His belief in my ability is no doubt a huge reason why I am still in Richmond to this day. Without him, that might not have been possible.
I will always remember when I received my first phone call from David Bulow. My agent at the time told me to expect the call because they had been engaged in conversations prior and he thought that I should speak with Bulow myself to feel him out. At this point in my career, I was what they called “a grizzled vet,” so I knew the game when it came to speaking with interested managers and team execs.
I quickly prepared myself to rattle on about how interested I was in the club and how I was looking to prove to the world that my best days were still ahead of me. I had been fortunate enough to have been in some great teams earlier in my playing career and had individual successes already on the CV, but I was coming off what even now I would say, the worst year of my career, so there were plenty of doubts about my ability.
“Yo, my man! How you been?” was the first thing I heard after I took my last preparation sigh and clicked to answer the call. I was surprised at the casualness and friendliness of the tone as even though I knew Bulow, it was only as a player and not as the manager that he now was. Usually, as soon as players cross that line into management, it is like they forget what life was like as a player and go full responsible manager mode.
Kickers fans honor Coach Bulow during a match on May 8 / Photo courtesy Jessica Stone Hendricks
However, as the conversation moved forward, and I tried to lead him towards the talking points I had already mentally prepared, I realized that my guard was already down and we were laughing and talking about playing-life, old coaches, players we enjoyed watching and or playing against, and everything but the usual manager/player dry conversation. Initially, I was not interested in coming to Richmond, as I was not sure about a move from a Championship club to the brand new USL League One, but that changed over the course of our talk, as I could literally feel the excitement and passion he had for not only the club and his role in its future, but for the community, his family, and soccer overall.
That conversation summed up David for me. His passion and positivity were contagious. I left that call halfway a Kicker with the uphill battle of now convincing my family it was the move I needed to revitalize my career and happiness playing football.
He gave me not only an opportunity that many coaches were not willing to do at the time but taught me that loving what you do and bringing positive energy with you day in and out can leave a lasting impact on those around you regardless of the result on the pitch. We will all miss him as he had so much more to give to the world.
I remember like it was yesterday when I got that first phone call from Bulow. I was back home, with no prospects and getting mentally prepared to give up my soccer career. He sounded joyous and excited about the team he was putting together, and he wanted me to be a part of it.
I came to know that his joy and positive attitude was a part of who he was, and that explains why he was so deeply loved by the Richmond soccer community. I wish we could have spent more time together, I wish I could have done more for you.
May your soul rest in peace and may God bless your beautiful family, I will keep them in my prayers. I will always be grateful for the opportunity you gave me. Thank you, DB.
Coach was also a bit of a jokester.
The introduction of the fine wheel and fine court made for some great team memories. He always loved a good laugh.
Photo courtesy Jessica Stone Hendricks
One particular memory of his humor came at the expense of one of my younger teammates. The Washington Spirit were coming down to Richmond to play a preseason match against James Madison University at our stadium. Well, one of my teammates couldn’t stop talking about a certain Mallory Pugh.
Because the Spirit would be using our locker room, I think an “agreement” of some sort was struck between my teammate and Coach to get Pugh’s autograph. When we walked into training the following day there was a replica Washington Spirit jersey hanging up. When my teammate arrived, Coach presented the jersey to him.
He was ecstatic, a huge smile on his face, a little victory giggle to accompany it. However, the name on the back was written on athletic tape and it was spelled wrong, something like “Pue” or “Poo” if I remember correctly. It was a fake!
It took my teammate a little bit of time to realize he was being pranked, but when he did, he looked up to everyone laughing, especially Coach who nearly fell over from laughing so hard, pointing in his face, giving him a hard time. My teammate collapsed his head into his hands in embarrassment and despair.
Moments later, Coach brought out the real deal to him, an actual signed Pugh jersey. A warm embrace followed by the words, “I just couldn’t help myself, it was too tempting.” That coach had gone out of his way to arrange for the gift for my teammate tells you how much he cared about each of us as people.
I was at a weird crossroads in my career when I first met Coach at the first practice I attended. I was incredibly excited yet very nervous to start a new venture with my hometown club after working previously for a different team in the league. Funny enough, he somehow recognized me from the previous season when I was at City Stadium with “the enemy.”
He embraced me as we first exchanged words, and he said, “Welcome to the Richmond Kickers, you’re one of us, now.”
He then took me over to where all the guys were circled around, put me in the center of the circle, and introduced me to the team as I fumbled with a phone app to turn on all the guys’ health-tracking monitors.
I had never had an experience with a coach like that before, and, from that moment on, I knew I had an incredible new friend and mentor in my corner.
Despite that being a difficult season in the results section, Bulow always was there to uplift us. Whether it was flashing a smile, telling a joke, or even doing a deadpan bit to shake you out of a funk. He had a gravity to him that is difficult to explain but easy to feel. When you were in Bulow’s orbit, you didn’t want to leave.
After the final match of the season, Bulow came up to the City Stadium concourse and just hung out with everyone left in the stadium after the doors had closed to the public. I don’t remember a single thing from on the pitch that season being mentioned in the hours-long conversations that followed. Instead we reminisced about our lives and moments from before we were all Kickers. There was never a moment when Bulow wasn’t 100 percent engaged with the conversation. He loved us all, and we loved him back.
I would only be reunited one more time with Bulow after that night for a very special coming together. The Kickers family was growing by one more, and, of course, Bulow was there to help celebrate.
That’s the thing we can all take away from knowing Bulow, no matter what was going on in his own life, he was there for us. Regretfully, I never verbalized to Bulow how important he was to me, but I think he knew it anyway. I will always be grateful for the time I spent with him.
Bulow and I didn’t always agree on everything. But unlike all the other coaches I had as a pro player, he not only accepted our differing viewpoints, he invited them.
So many conversations about “asking questions” from the opponents by our movement and “communication, decision-making and execution” as a team. So many moments where I would ask him why we couldn’t do it this way or that way instead. And so much patience from him to explain that neither of us is right, but his view is how he wants the team to try to play. So many times he reminded us that “I can’t tell you what to do in that situation. You have to read the situation and decide, and our principles should help you.”
As much as we sometimes struggled as a team and didn’t have the results we wanted, I really enjoyed my season playing for Bulow. I wish I had that opportunity to talk to him again.
Richmond's reigning MVP and Golden Boot winner Emiliano Terzaghi holds up the number 10, Bulow's playing number, in tribute after scoring a goal. Photo courtesy Jessica Stone Hendricks
You don’t often get to have a former men’s pro coach as a U19 girls’ player, but in 2020-21 we did. We were all nervous about what it would be like when we started practices in the Fall. But as soon as we were done with the first session, we knew we couldn’t have expected any of this -- in the most positive way possible.
I couldn’t be more grateful that it was David Bulow who came and coached us. He was so different from any coach we had ever had before.
Yeah, there were the tactics, his insistence on communication being of the highest order, his insistence on confusing the opponent with our team level communication, and his insistence on how we could play beautiful football. There were also the moments when we saw how much he loved his family, how he interacted with them, how he talked about them all the time. There were the moments of talking about music, movies, tv-shows, life…
Coach had an endless curiosity on life, he genuinely cared about what was going on in our lives, and he always brought fun and energy to practice. I am a better person because he coached me, and I am heartbroken for his family -- for the whole world for the loss of such an amazing person.
One of the greatest memories I had of Bulow was how energetic and happy he always seemed no matter what. He always believed in me as a player. I remember he gave me a chance when no other coach would and he specifically asked me to wear the number 10 shirt because he wore it as a player in Richmond. To me, it was an honor for him to put so much trust in me and I honestly owe it to him to have my career back on track. He always believed in me and was an amazing person, father and husband. He always told me how we were both going to get to the top and play in the first division and that he was going to sign me once we both reached the top. I’m so sad that we couldn’t make that happen because I truly believed we could accomplish it. I will always be grateful and honored to have met Bulow.
I think one of the greatest things he taught me is the importance of family. He was so open with his own family by always bringing them around, and his wife Nelle was so amazing to my wife, even helping her get a job when we first moved to town. Bulow made everyone he interacted with and every member of his team feel like part of his family. One of the best parts of having Bulow as a coach was getting to know his two sons every week and see them grow. You could see his love for the game through his boys as they would come into the locker room and run through, say hello to everyone, and kick the ball around with all of our players. We were his extended family and the way he interacted with us and treated us as humans first made that very apparent. He loved the game so much, but he clearly loved his family more and that was really inspiring for me.
He was a coach who believed in me during a time of change within the club and I was so lucky and blessed that he saw me as a centerpiece to his team as it has helped me make Richmond my home. We shared a love for Arsenal that mostly brought disappointment and banter from everyone else within the club, but we at least suffered together! I can't say enough good things about Bulow and I will make sure to live my life with the infectious, positive attitude he brought to life every day.
When I think about David Bulow and all of the memories I shared with him while playing for him, one thing I can say is how genuine of a person he was. That trait in itself to me was one of the main reasons why I decided to play for him. I remember first speaking to him on the phone and right away I felt as though I had known him for years. I found myself speaking to him about my success, failures and goals on the pitch, then opening up and sharing personal life stories for over an hour to this complete stranger I had just spoken to for the first time. He had a special ability to be able to connect with people on more than just a surface level but on a personal level also. Crazy as it may sound after a ten-year career and on three different continents, he was the first head coach I had at the professional level to actually inquire about my personal life and invest in that.
David, to me, was one of those people that you couldn't not like, and, if you did, then you didn't know him. But when you did meet him, you'd feel bad for ever not liking him in the first place! Heck, you couldn't even be mad at him for longer than a day after a game because he'd come in on Monday morning with a huge smile and a joke that'd make you laugh. I know for a fact anyone that has played for him knows what I'm talking about. For me, he has left a lasting impact on my life in the short amount of time playing under him. I appreciate the faith, opportunities and positive light that I know he not only showed in my own life but the lives of others he touched as well.
Coach was always a great example of how you should act towards people. In airports, you could see him striking a friendly conversation with various people throughout our travels. His genuineness was there for all to see, and he cared about people and wanted to see them do well. He was a happy guy and wanted to lift the spirits of those around him. He was certainly a proponent of making the most of every day with those around you. You could see this message in how he interacted with his own kids. How much love he projected and shared with them. I feel blessed to have had the time with him. Many of the lessons and experiences I had with him will remain with me for the rest of my life. Thank you for everything Coach.