It was an emergency solution, well over half a year ago. Jeroen Schoenmakers stepped into the gap that arose at Kampong after the dismissal of Fleur van de Kieft. He crawled out of the competition basement with the Utrecht team and enforcement is now a fact. With that, the mission has succeeded in another turbulent season in the Dom city.
The average Italian football league team wears out fewer coaches on average than Kampong’s women. Schoenmakers was already the fifth in three years on the hotseat in the Utrecht dug-out. He joined in October, at a time when Kampong was tenth. No less than five points less than the number nine.
So there was a threat of an inky black season for the blue and white formation, which had just struck such a blow on the transfer market. With Lidewij Welten, Delfina Merino, Laura Barrios and Maddie Fitzpatrick, internationally refined players were attracted. Of those three, only one was on the field against Pinoké (4-4) on Sunday: Merino, whose parents had come over specially from Argentina. Welten and Barrios were injured, Fitzpatrick returned to Australia quite suddenly in March .
‘That safe place seemed very far away in October’, Schoenmakers sighs. ‘Of course we are happy, relieved and proud that we are ultimately in the middle bracket. In the left row even, at the moment. But I am especially happy that this group has shown in recent months that they have much more quality in them than they first showed. That’s really not up to me as a coach. I’m just facilitating. And I’m not just happy either. I had hoped we would be more stable. Fewer goals and corners conceded. That didn’t work for me either. We score a lot, but we are still a vulnerable team defensively.’
Fokke stays where De Waard and De Goede went
But a team that can continue to build, led by Kai de Jager. Indeed, coach number six soon in three and a half years. He will soon have to do without Vanessa Blockmans (back to Belgium) and Barrios (back to Spain). There is another question mark behind Merino’s name. Sofie Stomps (UHC Hamburg) and Sosha Benninga (Amsterdam) are the first acquisitions in a summer, which should be a bit quieter than before.
Kampong may have already struck the biggest blow on the transfer market at the end of April, by capturing rising star Luna Fokke for longer. In recent years, most players left Utrecht as soon as they caught sight of the Orange squad. The list is almost inexhaustible: from Eva de Goede to Xan de Waard and from Laurien Leurink to Marijn Veen. All trained by Kampong, all left for the top four.
‘Finally we seem to be breaking that trend,’ says clubman Schoenmakers, who experienced all those up-and-coming stars as a youth trainer. ‘The whole big league was after Luna. The fact that she is staying, indicates that she believes that something beautiful can also arise in Kampong. And it also shows that she’s having a good time. Thank goodness the fun and enthusiasm has completely returned to this team. They had sometimes forgotten how much fun hockey is, also because of the pressure. I always bring my eldest son Pepijn with me. He is six and also plays for Kampong, with the Benjamins. That feeling, that fun of a child who comes to the club with a bit in and shin guards on. Fortunately I saw that again with ladies 1.’
The family and the racing bike
Speaking of his family. The Shoemakers will see the biggest man in the house more often in the coming months. ‘Suddenly I was home a lot less often. My wife and I have two sons, the other – Joep – is three years old. I was much less able to put them to bed at night. I am grateful to my wife for allowing me to do this. She arranged it at home. Knew I wanted it badly and the club needed help.’ Laughing: ‘She also played at Kampong – in ladies 14 – herself, which was also useful in this case.’
Schoenmakers does not yet know exactly what his Sunday will look like after the summer. ‘I was asked for MOP Veteranen B. Yes, as a player. Also a nice challenge, haha. But maybe I will also walk around at the big league games. Before joining Kampong, I commented on a few matches for Viaplay. Anyway, I liked that. I’d like to do that again from time to time.’
Moreover, another challenge awaits him. ‘In addition, I have gained five kilos during the past year. Yes, coaching is an unhealthy profession, haha. It was mainly because I barely had time to exercise myself. Normally I’m on my road bike at least three times a week. Not much of that was left now. So in addition to family life, it is also time to do something yourself. I already have the first round in my head. About the Utrechtse Heuvelrug. Doorn, Maarn and then the Amerongse Berg. Something different than an away game to Pinoké or HDM.’