A blonde and a brunette… go to camp

A blonde and a brunette go to camp… and have two stories to tell.

This past week, both of us were at hockey camps. One of us, a counselor. The other, the oldest camper in the tent.


Who: the blonde

What: a 20 year old camper

When: 6 long days

Where: a tent at Amsterdam Hockey and Bandy Club

Why: to get out of her comfort zone and into her goal keeping equipment

The Real Reason Why: because Martijn (our coach) said so

Not only was I the oldest camper in my tent, I was the oldest camper by about three years. When planning our 5 week training trip, I was the given the option of attending or coaching camp. I decided (with the encouragement of my coach) to take this week to train, knowing that I would have the opportunity to be a staff member during our last week in Amsterdam. I knew that it would be a challenge to assimilate, but I like to take every chance I get to be in my equipment. Especially with such experienced trainers and impressive “toppers,” including Olympic Gold Medalist, Joyce Sombroek (the goal keeper of the Dutch National Team.)

Despite having camped in a tent, and having attended hockey camps, putting the two together was a completely new trial of its own. Not that I don’t like the smell of soggy hockey gear, or the presence of insects, but I much prefer the days on the field to nights in the tent.

However, when held in comparison with US hockey camps, lodging wasn’t the only difference. I was immersed in the laid-back Dutch culture. There was something unique about training at such high level in such a relaxed environment. The camp was just as much about fun as it was about hockey. While embracing my role as a camper, I realized that the reason this camp is so different than anything in the US, was that the other campers were not preoccupied with the stress and competitiveness of college recruiting. They were simply there to learn and have a good time. Despite the aspirations and goals of my fellow campers, this week was about being students of the game. Everyone was more concerned about the acquisition of a new skill rather than being hindered by the pressure to perform perfectly. This environment required me to go with the flow, and experience a learning process where athletes of all ages are expected to rise to the occasion. Whether that means reaching for a save or getting up to dance to the Techno Chicken.

This blonde has spent the past 4 years coaching at camps, yet stepping back into a campers shoes gave me the perspective I needed to understand that there isn’t just one way to train a young athlete.


Who: the brunette

What: a runner/ trainer

When: 7 days of on the job training

Where: Hurley Hockey Club

Why: to get out of her comfort zone and into her staff t-shirt

The Real Reason Why: because Martijn (our coach) said so

Within two hours of being dropped off at camp, I had sent a message to Emily that contained the following: “I’m going to be the first person to die from being awkward.” Little did I know that I was about to have one of the best and most memorable weeks of my life. Coming in as a “runner,” (which is basically someone that assists with set up and equipment,) and ending up taking on the responsibility of a trainer, was a challenge in and of itself. Not to mention, I had to socialize, whilst completely submerged in another culture. Being a staff member gave me a behind the scenes look to not only the logistics and hard work that goes into building a camp, but also the fun and social aspect of Sportways and Dutch culture. Being a camp counselor taught me the importance of time management, the art of coaching, and how to do a “flip flap flop.” (If you know, you know. If you don’t, I can show you sometime.) One of the biggest culture shocks for me was the nonchalant attitude taken towards most issues that came up. Coming from a society obsessed with efficiency, I was taken aback by the plethora of time given for most tasks. While there was an outline for each day and the camp as a whole, there was a certain Dutch flexibility that allowed for necessary adjustments to be made based on any and all circumstances. I will never forget the way one of my fellow “staffers” reacted to my curiosity about this subject. He said that “There is no such thing as a problem, there are only situations. And situations can be handled.” Another change was the lively social culture that hockey in the Netherlands is famous for. Every night was as fun for the staff as the day was for the kids.


Add yours →

  1. Danique Reidsma July 29, 2015 — 8:07 am

    Em! How cool to read this blog about Sportways, I know some staffers shared it on Facebook & that’s how I found out about this! I hope you enjoyed Sportways (in Antwerpen and Amsterdam) as much as I did & I wish you all the best in your carreer as a goalie! Love, Danique (the cowarldy staffer who was too afraid to do a somersault during the demo)


  2. Very cool blog, hope you guys have an amazing time during your remaining week and a half! I’m curious to which you enjoyed more, staff or participant! Have fun!


  3. Hey Em, awesome to read your blog and so glad I found it 🙂 Didn’t get to say goodbye to you on Saturday but I hope your remaining weeks in Amsterdam are good and I would love to hear your experience as a trainer 😉 Hopefully chat soon,
    Leigh (or Lyn but preferably Leigh)

    Liked by 1 person

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