A squad of U15 and U16 girls set off on a new and exciting hockey venture to Holland for the first four days of Half Term. We arrived in Amsterdam at 11:30am and drove straight to HC Alecto. The hosting teams who provided us with lunch and a gift of local biscuits warmly welcomed us. After lunch, both teams started their matches. HC Alecto asked to play two 40-minute halves for each game, which would be a new experience for us and would test our endurance.
The U16s faced a tough first match from a very organised opposition, however started to move the ball with more determination and play to their full ability towards the end. It was clear to see that the Dutch hockey players had been playing at a high level from a young age. The girls we spoke to said they had been playing at their local club from the age of six. The U15 team took part in a small triangular and were moving the ball nicely, connecting their defence well and were able to draw one of their games 1-1, which was hugely exciting. Exhausted, but pleased with our teams and efforts, we went to the hostel in the near town of Noordwijk for a well-earned supper. After a 5.15am get up, we were all ready for an early night.
On Sunday, we started the day with a two-hour Pro-coaching session at HC Noordwijk with two senior men's players, Jaimy and Lex; they had music pumping which really woke us up. We looked at some basic stick skills, moving the ball in the D and focused on our body position and the way we hold our sticks from a Dutch perspective. We finished with a full pitch game with the addition of Jaimy, Lex, Miss Bloomer and Miss Brivio-Stone to our teams, which was great fun. These skills we worked on were useful not only for our upcoming match against the Strawberries, but also to transfer into our game play back at home. After the session, we drove to HC Bloemendaal to watch some high-level club men’s’ and women’s’ matches; the women played Kampong and the men played Pinoke. Both these matches were streamed live on local television and it was clear to see that hockey was a huge part of their culture. Everyone had gathered in the clubhouse before the games to see family, have some food and drink beers and hot chocolate. The atmosphere was fantastic and we made the error of sitting underneath the jets of the water-based pitch just before the game began. The women’s game was amazing to watch especially as one of the players was Olympic gold medalist Sophie Bray from the England squad. The men’s match was also very fast and exciting and reinforced what we had been taught by Jaimy and Lex that morning.
On Monday we enjoyed another coaching session with Pim Wijzenbeek in which we improved our speed and the way we made decisions about our positioning on the pitch. Pim really knew his stuff, he travels around Holland coaching different teams and we were very lucky to have him for a session. After working hard, we had lunch at the Pancake bakery in Amsterdam, which we all enjoyed, and it was the perfect way to get ready for our last match. We travelled to KHC Strawberries for both teams' final game, again having a very warm welcome from various members of their club. The U15s played very well, coming close to a goal and the 16s managed to get a wonderful goal. The U15s were also lucky to be given the opportunity to train with all the local players in a hockey festival being run by the senior women’s team. There were some really fun new drills and the girls enjoyed getting to know some of their opposition and sharing in hockey tips.
On the last day we had a look around a hockey warehouse near Amsterdam called Hockey Republic, which was full of new gear and great hockey sticks, the most popular purchase being brightly coloured hockey socks with windmills on. We then travelled to Dam Square in Amsterdam for some shopping, sight seeing and a canal cruise for those who wanted to see the city from the water. Amsterdam was a beautiful city, which we all loved. We would like to thank Mrs Firth, Miss Bloomer and Miss Brivio-Stone for taking us on the hockey tour and allowing us to see a new, exciting side to playing hockey. Well done to all the players who came along, representing St Mary’s so well and making it such a success.
Tegen (UV Form)