Who gets to play hockey with ladies who have the Olympic rings tattooed on their arms? Two Wageningen students do.
Every week since September, they’ve been playing premier league hockey with the first Ladies team at Wageningen Hockey Club.
It is a foggy weekday evening and Nicole van Jarsveld is bent over a notebook and a course book in the almost empty canteen at Wageningen Mixed Hockey Club (WMHC). While some of her teammates are looking at a video of their last match with the coach, the third-year student of Soil, Water & Atmosphere is snatching a moment to go through her lecture notes. She does not have to watch this time. Her teammate Karlijn van der Linden (MSc Management, Economics & Consumer Studies) is watching, though. ‘There is a gap there,’ points out coach Arnoud Boersma with some urgency, as he rewinding to make his point. It is hard work this year for Ladies 1. Last season, much to everyone’s surprise, the modest provincial club was promoted to the premier league of the hockey world. Since then they have been playing the top teams nationally. And that is quite a different ball game, as they have noticed. To date they have only managed to scrape two points. In spite of their hard work, they have lost most of their matches. But Karlijn and Nicole are no less positive for that. ‘We need a bit of time to get up to the level of the premier league.’
NAOMI VAN AS
It still doesn’t feel quite real to the two students, to have made it into the premier league. With their promotion this spring – ‘a real team effort’ says top scorer Karlijn – the girls wrote club history. ‘We even got to draw in Wageningen’s commemoration album,’ laughs Nicole with some pride. However, their achievement only began to sink in at the beginning of September when they went out onto the field for the first match in the premier league, nowhere less than the Wagener stadium in Amstelveen, the home of the national eleven, which they had only ever visited as spectators. Not that their knees were knocking, but people were cracking more jokes than usual. ‘This is what we have fought so hard for,’ is how Karlijn describes the fee- ling that afternoon. ‘What is more, we could play in a relaxed way, we didn’t have to win.’ Nicole calls it a healthy level of tension. ‘And after the warming up, that was gone.’ Since then the two students have been playing against an international almost every week. Maartje Paumen, Naomi van As, Kim Lammers, Ellen Hoog: they have met them all. On Sunday 2 November, the young Australian international Anna Flanagan of MOP in Vught was added to this illustrious list. After the match, dozens of children clambered over the barriers to get a signature and a pho- tos of this pretty girl with Olympic rings tattooed on her left forearm as a souvenir of the Games of 2012. Jealous? Not at all; it is nice to play against famous names, both girls agree. If only because even more spectators attend their home matches than just before their promotion. Nicole: ‘That works like a twelfth player. Sometimes there are 600 spectators, some of them coming all the way from the eastern Netherlands. At first I could pick out my parents along the line, but I can’t anymore.’
The girls have been working hard to improve. During the week the team now trains five times instead of four, and then there are the matches at the weekend as well. Training has got more intensive too. ‘Our ball tempo has gone up because of that,’ says defender Nicole. ‘Last year we could dominate the match and concentrate on the attack; now it is more defensive. You need to stay sharp, there isn’t much room for recovering from mistakes. But we are giving it everything we’ve got and I have every confidence that we shall get more points.’ After a relaxed warming-up, which included cartwheels this time just for fun, they do indeed go hard at it in a practice match. When the ball hits a goalpost, the sound echoes off the Hoevensteijn flat. Nicole had to drop an afternoon course because of the heavier training schedule, because she needed more rest. But apart from that, not much has changed this season. The girls have needed good planning for years so as to combine their studies with their sport. There is still no team minibus, so there is still a roster for driving to away matches. They still have to raise sponsorship money themselves, through the Friends of Ladies 1, as well as organize clinics and parties for the youth members. And after the match, there are quite often 16 red shirts and 16 white skirts hanging out to dry at Karlijn’s house. ‘No idea what my housemates think of that, actually.’
Photo: Anja van Jaarsveld