At the beginning of 2020 we started a short training camp with the ladies of India. After this we traveled to New Zealand to play 5 matches there, of which 4 against New Zealand and 1 against GB. After 16 months of leading the team alone, this was the first time that my new assistant Janneke Schopman was there.
It was a very good tour! We won against GB and also twice against New Zealand. Obviously you have to put everything in perspective, but those victories were important to us. It gives confidence that we can also win from the top 5 countries. When I was appointed almost 4 years ago we also had a tour to New Zealand, but the results were certainly not in our favor. The team has made really big steps in recent years!
After the New Zealand tour we had 1 week off to go back to full training for the next tour. Only then did everything change ...
We were about to leave for a short break but finally decided to stay at our SAI training complex. Everything was uncertain because of the emerging Corona virus. From that moment on we have spent a total of 4.5 months on the complex. We were not allowed to go outside the gates and were actually stuck. At that moment a virus also appeared in the chickens, so that we were unable to eat meat for 2 months (because chicken is the only thing that is eaten in India).
After being detained in our complex for 4.5 months, we were finally able to go home for 6 weeks in July. After those 6 weeks, another uninterrupted period of 4.5 months in India followed, during which we were not allowed to go outside the gates of the complex. Fortunately, we were able to train in those months, but of course you want to play matches outside the borders in preparation for the Olympic Games. We used this long period to play mutual matches, matches against the junior boys and also against the junior girls. We played these matches under great fatigue to make the difference smaller.
2020 …… A tough year, not only on a sporting level, but also on a personal level. A year in which I hardly saw my family and friends. But it was mainly because of the support of my wife that we got through this period.
People who know me know that I am a family man and that my family is the most important thing. We took on this challenge together and we are all still 100 percent behind it. The agreements that have been made; coming home regularly and then traveling again were of course completely insignificant due to Corona… And of course no one could have foreseen that.
It has also brought something. There have been long periods, especially in the first lockdown, where we were not even allowed to train. Then you spend the whole day in your apartment ... During this period I wanted to keep a rhythm and use my time as well as possible to go to bed with a satisfied feeling every night. This has resulted in the start of a new company. Together with 3 partners we have started a new adventure, I will come back to this later. But sport obviously plays a role and I use my coaching experience in a different way. The process of building a business gave me a lot of energy during that period.
In addition, I had the time to take a closer look at my presentation, building a high performance team, how to deal with setbacks and pushing boundaries for companies / teams. I have been here for 4 years now and in these years I have learned very valuable lessons and gained more experience. Experience in coaching a team in a country with a completely different culture where different rules, norms and values apply.
I also used the lockdown to write a book about my time in India. I never had the time for this and this was an ideal moment. In addition, it also helped me to reflect throughout the period.
Another great initiative. During this period I also hired the agency for PlayintheUS. We help Indian students who have the chance to win an Academic or a Sport scholarship in the USA. The facilities in the USA are of course incredible and it offers these athletes an opportunity to study in America with a scholarship. This of course saves a lot of money, but more importantly, the Indian athletes who travel to America and a scholarship get sports at a high level, which ultimately benefits India.
Finally, we have of course been busy with ONFIRE Hockey Support. The lockdown in the Netherlands meant that time and again we had to have a plan B, think out of the box and remain innovative. Time and again we try to look at how we can improve our schools, camps and clinics to challenge our participants even more. We are constantly looking for where there are more opportunities for ONFIRE Hockey Support. I must say that this process dragged me through in that period. What did I learn? In order not to become isolated, you have to take action, keep busy, keep rhythm. That ultimately gives you energy! It is very easy to sit down and think about what you CANNOT do in the lockdown .. But fortunately I always think in terms of opportunities, that makes me take action and that gives me energy.
I wish everyone a Merry Christmas! If there is one thing we have experienced this year is that you have to enjoy what you have!
On to a healthy and sporty 2021. A year in which we participate in the Olympic Games with India and which will also be my last year with these ladies. And the year in which I have been a coach for 20 years!