Bermuda’s young field hockey players have been benefiting from coaches from the Netherlands who have worked with some of the best players and teams in the world.
Richard de Snaijer and Sake Hermans, from the Amsterdam-based SportWays camps and clinics, hosted a camp at the National Sports Centre last week, and the Dutchmen have impeccable coaching credentials.
Hermans, 31, is still playing in the second tier of Dutch hockey and has been coaching since he was 16 at leading clubs like Bloemendaal.
De Snaijer played in the Dutch top division, the Hoofdklass, for 12 years and has just joined Dragons in Belgium, who are European Hockey League regulars. Indeed, he coached Laren, of his native Netherlands, to the European club title in 2012, where he coached several Olympic and world champions, including Naomi van As, Willemijn Bos, Kim Lammers and Joyce Sombroek.
The pair have been encouraging the island’s young players to learn, have fun and to come out of their comfort zones.
“I’ve been involved in SportWays for a long time,” De Snaijer said. We started it in 2001. It’s not only the inspiring part we do for SportWays, but we want to help develop other countries, especially countries that are in need, that haven’t got directly the facilities. So we can help them develop something of their own as well.”
De Snaijer and Hermans also guided several young Bermuda players — including Selina Whitter, Chrysda Smith and Taylor Mullan — into coaching children and developing their own style at the same time.
“It’s not all one-way traffic,” De Snaijer explained. “But it’s interaction and making sure that we develop the coaches, so they can develop the kids.
“When you work with kids it’s important to recognise where the borders are. How can we make sure that they go outside their comfort zones? To have fun and create the learning part as well.
“We have two words: fun and learning. If you have fun, you learn a lot, but if you learn, you create fun. Culture things are important. The first day we are busy creating the environment with the coaches and the kids, ice-breaking. If we do that, then you make sure the atmosphere is always about fun and then learning.”
Hermans has been well impressed with the dedication of the island’s youngsters.
“The attitude is brilliant,” he said. “We have girls now who are playing under-21. They are training at night as well. They train for two hours in the morning, two hours in the afternoon and still come at night to train. They just want to play hockey the whole time.
“They want to learn so much and we see them improving so much. That’s really cool to see and they know a little bit of the Dutch way of training.
“I’m not saying it’s the correct way! But we give them pointers to improve and make it their own, because we’re not going to tell them: ‘this is the way it should be’. They have to create their own way of giving training.”
However, De Snaijer says there is nothing wrong with instilling a bit of Dutch arrogance into Bermuda’s young players.
“Sometimes they are too much in their shell,” he said. “They think too much in safety instead of taking risks. Like we have to do this from A to B to C to D. I think that safety is good to develop on a certain level, but to be in peak performance, we have to take risks. That is the main challenge here.
“It’s not about direct arrogance, but about positive arrogance, like: ‘Ah, look at me’! Be proud of what you can do. Be proud of your own qualities.
“Trying to go out of your comfort zone. It’s strange, it’s awkward, it’s shyness. Why am I in the middle? Why am I on the podium?
“It’s polite, helpful and careful, but if you want to be a top sport player, sometimes you don’t have to be friends, because I want to be in front! That mindset, sometimes, with top sport players, can help you grow a little bit further.”
And De Snaijer has plenty of experience coaching top players.
“It’s incredible,” he said of coaching Laren players to the European title.
“It’s not really coaching skill forms any more: it’s only coaching how to create a team, how to motivate a team and how to make sure that in the right moment, they are in peak performance.
“It’s more like the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. You are more busy with the behaviour of the human being than being busy with hockey, because they are top sport players.”
And they are set to return to Bermuda next year to continue to spread the SportWays gospel.
“It’s not always the hockey part, it’s also social-wise and tactical-wise,” De Snaijer said of their methods. “How do you use your time and space? It’s connecting. It’s communicating. Those are the most [important] things in development in every sport.
“We are developing these kids and next year there will be 50 or 60 kids and a few more coaches. And the coaches who are here now will be the coaches of the coaches next year! That’s how you build up your development programme.
“SportWays has been involved in these kind of clinics and programmes for 21 years. It started in Amsterdam, but look how big it is now.
“In Africa, we have about 3,000 kids involved with it. There are over 7,000 in Holland and Europe. We are even in Hong Kong, we are going to Austria. We did some things in Barcelona, in Ireland, in England, Germany. It’s a community that is family.”