The unmindful Max!

Hockey - Olympics: Day 11
(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

The Argentinian Max Caldas, coach of the Netherlands men’s team, has opened a debate in the last days about how the profile of the highest Dutch League (hoofdklasse) affected the preparation and performance of the National Team at the international scene namely during the last Olympics in Rio. He is being critical towards the competition format and foreigner’s presence.

The discussion about the impact of foreign players and coaches, either negative or positive, is an old one. Nevertheless, I would like to add my opinion regarding the recent words of Max Caldas (2016):
“…with less teams in the hoofdklasse, there are less foreigners needed, as for this moment we are improving our opponents. Peillat was Olympic champion and topscorer with Argentina, 2 years ago he joined the Dutch club HGC where developed his penalty corner shooting…”. – unfortunate words from such a great coach in an attempt to justify a not so brilliant performance?

I am also a foreign coach in Dutch hockey. I work at the senior and youth level in the country for 5 years. Approximately 10 years ago, the Argentinian coach Zeke Paulon told me in a casual chat about his period at the Dutch club Leiden, told me how he loved the experience, the opportunity, and in his own words: “Bernardo, if you like Hockey, you should play or coach in the Netherlands, even if it’s only for 1 day. It is the Meccah of hockey!”. Fortunately, I had that opportunity. Dutch Hockey or in a better phrasing, Dutch Hockey people gave me the chance to develop myself professionally and personally. I return that ‘investment’ every single day by sharing my game knowledge and passion to (Dutch) children. Fair trade…

My story is just one example among several foreign players and coaches that had the desire to work and ‘live’ hockey at a higher level. Thankfully, the Dutch hockey gave us that opportunity, just like to Max, or for instance Alyson Annan, originally from Australia and currently national women’s coach of Netherlands…
The statement that the Dutch are strengthening their ‘enemies’ seems to me a very unreasonable logic and even a slightly discriminatory speech, that in nothing corresponds with the fair and open nature of the Dutch Hockey.

What is the contribution and impact of players like Vincent Vannasch, Thomas Briels, Tom Boon, David Harte, Justin Reid-Ross not to mention Santi Freixa, Christopher Zeller, Jamie Dwyer, etc. etc. in the recent story of Dutch hockey?
Some of those surely challenged and contributed to Max’s development, in order to become the world class and competent coach he is nowadays…
The best competition in the world wants to have the best professionals in the world, is there any better way to inspire and develop?

Talking about Peillat; how would, for instance, Jorrit Croon (the upcoming Dutch talent that went to Rio) develop himself if on the one hand, Peillat with his outstanding corner, or on the other hand, Phil Burrows from New Zealand with his international experience and ethics, wouldn’t help HGC to perform as a top team until the very end of last season?

Germany and Argentina, two countries that end up above The Netherlands, with the exception of Gonzallo Peillat, didn’t had any of their players performing in the hoofdklasse in the 2 years previous to the Rio Olympics. The Argentinian players were spread in different countries of Europe and in Argentinian clubs. Ideal preparation conditions?

(Photo credit should read MANAN VATSYAYANA/AFP/Getty Images)

Should the Dutch coaches, Michel van den Heuvel (Belgian coaching staff), Roeland Oltmans (head coach of India) or Janneke Schopman (assistant coach of USA women) be prohibited of sharing their excellent competencies among other nations? I don’t think so…

KNHB (Dutch Hockey Association) is the leading hockey federation worldwide, not only due to their best practices but obviously because they are the nation with the biggest number of active hockey players. Included in the KNHB vision is the positive responsibility of ensuring Hockey as a global sport.
Max Caldas (a foreigner himself and one of the most important ambassadors of the Orange Hockey) affirms something that is at least contradictory to his own situation, background and somehow to the position of the KNHB regarding the expansion of the game and knowledge sharing. (check link)

Hockey - Olympics: Day 11
(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Can the internal competition improve? Definitely!
Can the culture within the ambitious club be more high performance driven? Definitely!
Can the aspiration of being a professional coach/player be seen as proper life opportunity and not a ‘minor’ job? Definitely!
Are the financial, human resources and facilities there? Definitely!
Are there other tactical, decision making, fitness analysis to be made before ‘blaming’ the strongest internal competition in the world? Definitely!

Netherlands Hockey has amazing persons inside and outside the field in every single area. With their diversity and openness, I hope they keep on inspiring a lot of well-intentioned foreigners to develop their personal and professional competences in this great country, while contributing to cement the position of The Netherlands as the ‘Meccah of Hockey’.

Bernardo Fernandes


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