Dutch big league coaches fear frost and injuries: ‘Time is tight’

The surprising news that the big league teams will most likely be allowed to resume group training and competition from 17 December has been received with enthusiasm by the top hockey players.

But the coaches are tempering expectations and are sceptical whether league matches will be played in January. ‘To prevent injuries, we have to be able to train for quite a few consecutive weeks.’

Many trainers and coaches of Hoofdklass teams were on the field on Tuesday evening when their phone suddenly kept beeping an hour after Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s press conference. 

The message on the website of the National Government that 5,000 top Dutch athletes will be allowed to train and play as usual from 17 December was immediately the talk of the town within the Hoofdklasse clubs that fall under this scheme.

A day after that message, Paul van Ass, trainer-coach at HGC, is still content with the news. Yet he also immediately sees an enormous challenge to get his players fit at the start and to keep them intact afterwards. ‘If we can actually start on 17 December and we have the first round of play on 31 January, as is now unofficially said, that will be six weeks of preparation. That may seem like a lot, but physiologically it is far too little. Due to the long time in which we have not been able to train and play normally, we would need at least double the time to really get fit. Those six weeks are just enough to handle competition tax. But then there should not be a week of frost in between, during which we cannot train normally, ‘says Van Ass.

I predict that the game level will be super variable in the beginning, with many surprising results.

Paul van Ass, coach of HGC

The coach fears injuries and already warns that the hockey fan cannot immediately enjoy top hockey. ‘We’re really not going to reach the top level in the big league. For that, we first have to get back into the rhythm. That will take weeks, if not months. I predict that the game level will be super variable in the beginning, with many surprising results. That makes it funny in itself. That is if you are on the right side of the score. ‘

Immediately after the lockdown in October, Van Ass slowed down considerably with his team. Only in recent weeks, he has started training in groups of four players. ‘I don’t like that anymore, and it makes little sense if you are not allowed to enter into duels’, says the coach, who and his team are in fourth place after the seven games played in the Tulp Dutch Major League.

Two kilos too heavy

Almere is camped at the very bottom with still zero points. That was one of the reasons for Bart van der Wolf, who, together with Arjan Jolie, is in charge in Flevoland, not to slow down despite the training lockdown. Since then, they have been training the squad twice a week on the field (‘finishing and running’), twice a week there is fitness training on the program, and in addition, the players individually follow a strength training program. ‘The players don’t really like it. But we are not in the luxurious position that a large part of our selection has been able to continue training at Orange, Jong-Oranje or as potential. If we want to get involved, we have to be fit. Otherwise, we start two kilos too heavy and after a quarter already with our tongue on our shoes in the first match, ‘fears Van der Wolf.

The Almere coach has already completed the training program for the coming weeks. ‘We will start the seventeenth right away and even train on Christmas Eve. Then they have a day off between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, but the next group training is already planned for 3 January. ‘

Coaches Bart van der Wolf and Arjan Jolie van Almere. 
Photo: Koen Suyk

For the following weeks, the program is, just like the other big league-clubs, as appears from a tour, filled with training sessions and exhibition games. That looks good. In theory then. Each and every one of the coaches fear the practice, in which the frost could make spraying the fields, let alone playing and training, impossible. Robbert-Jan de Vos, trainer of the HGC ladies, says: ‘We trained in the hall this week. That was a good thing, because it was not safe outside on the field. We now have no idea how that will go in January. ‘

Diverting from water-based fields to sand fields is not an option for the coaches. De Vos: ‘You do the big league too short with that.’

Uncertainty about the weather complicates planning. As a result, the coaches say in unison; it is very difficult to indicate when the players and players are fit enough to play games responsibly. De Vos: ‘We cannot immediately train fully. Just like with the preparation in the summer for this season, we have to build up slowly to let the muscles, attachments and especially tendons get used to the load. To prevent injuries, we have to be able to train for weeks on end and play four or five exhibition games. ‘


Many coaches hope that there will be clarity about the game schedule soon so that they can provide clarity to their foreign players, who have almost all returned to their home country due to the lockdown. The gentlemen of HGC train, for example, Maico Casella and Augustin Bugallo in Argentina, Kenta Tanaka in Japan and Devindar Walmiki in India. Van Ass: ‘They can train better there than here. But as soon as we have clarity about the date, we will bring them here. ‘

South African Ryan Julius is currently still training at 30 degrees in his home country. Photo: Koen Suyk

This also applies to Van der Wolf. From his roster, Jamie Wallace is in Canada, Daniel Berrigo in Chile and Ryan Julius is currently playing hockey at 30 degrees in South Africa. ‘We said,’ Notice, when it starts, I want you to come back. ‘

Despite all the reservations and obstacles, Van der Wolf also believes that the sport of hockey should seize this opportunity with both hands. “I think it’s great that we get this opportunity and look forward to the first training sessions and matches.”


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