Born in Hoofddorp, a small town 25 minutes away from Amsterdam, Mirco Pruyser is one of the leading players in world hockey. Always looking for the next goal, Pruyser has also a great view for the future! Self Pass got to know better the Dutch superstar and found out that goals is only one of the goals!
Words: Tiago Marques
Having the capacity of viewing something faster and clearer than the others can get you an advantage. You can gain space and time to your opponent or see something that other people can’t. Normally we call them visionaries. Mirco Pruyser is one of them. On his way to score a goal and also off the pitch… but first things first.
The Dutch forward started at Mixed Hockey Club De Reigers, in Hoofddorp. Close to Amsterdam, it made sense to play hockey from a young age as his brother and sister also played.
Proud to start at De Reigers, “a very small club that never played on the highest level, both senior and youth teams”, Mirco knew where he wanted to go from a young age: “When I was 14 I was asked to play for a regional team for young stars. This was not very common in the club. Only four or five people did that earlier”.
Then he got to Amsterdam. Both the city and the club. 25 minutes away from Hoofddorp, Mirco felt the change as a big step: “This was a very big step. In my first year I played in the first B-youth team (U16). We were very good and I played a lot. But then in the next year, the coach who brought me to Amsterdam was not very satisfied and placed me in the second team of the A-youth (U18). Normally, in The Netherlands, this is a sign that you will not make it to top hockey! You are on the second plan and no one is watching you anymore. But I was performing well and after eight months I deserved a place in the first team! This was a very tough year, but now I see that this has helped me a lot in my career until today! I always had the self-confidence and belief that I should have been in the first team and by working hard I earned that place back”.
As a forward, Mirco had to develop a killer instinct and his own way to be on the pitch: “I play as a very deep forward. This is difficult to explain, but, of course, I try to create a kind of positioning which helps me to score goals and be efficient in the «D» (circle). I think I play on intuition which makes it difficult for them to defend me because I am not doing the same things every game. I try to read situations and predict where the ball can come”. Well, he’s good on that as we all could realize already. Being unpredictable is one of the main characteristics from the Dutch international but that also comes with work and focus: “I always say: Expect the unexpected. If the ball is not with me, I always try to be ready for the moment that the ball may be unexpectedly is coming!”. The Amsterdam forward does not see himself as a «finished product», he still has a lot to develop: “I think that I can still improve on skills! I think the game is always adapting and changing, either because of the changes in the rules but physically as well. Receiving, passing and dribble skills are always improvable”.
Being at top hockey, Pruyser deals with the best and tries to develop with them. The 28-year-old player highlights the German Florian Fuchs as the best forward in the world nowadays: “I really like to watch him play. He is very fast and really efficient in scoring!”. On the opposite part of the field, Mirco Pruyser is a fan from Sander de Wijn: “He is reading the game so easily and tackles as the best”.
“Some people are addicted to nicotine or alcohol, I am addicted to the feeling of scoring goals!”
Being the best is always on his mind, at the same rate of goals: “Trying to score goals is an addiction for me. Some people are addicted to nicotine or alcohol, I am addicted to the feeling of scoring goals!”
The best goals are well defined on the two times European champion for The Nederlands: “The goal in the last summers EuroHockey final is the one that directly came to mind now! It was the 4-2. I became the top scorer of the EHC2017 with that goal and it was the relief of winning Gold! But technically the one against Bloemendaal (Rabo Hoofdklasse final) is still one of my favourites by hitting the crossbar, right post and going in. This was in the Dutch Finals and we won gold after this match”.
EHL is Pruyser’s next goal. He already won the best scorer prize, in 2011/2012, but that is not enough: “Two times we were very close but did not succeed. I think in the end our selection was not wide enough. Now we’re trying to have a better squad and be back in the EHL next year. This is definitely a goal”.
In the domestic league, all goes along with the forward’s ambition. Mirco Pruyser and his teammates won twice the Dutch League, outdoor, and three times indoor. “It was a great feeling. The playoff system in The Nerderlands is very nice, great matches are guaranteed. Becoming Dutch champion is very special!”.
“I was very happy that I finally made it (…). The level is so different to club hockey”
Achieving what the Amsterdam player achieved in his club tournaments, national and international was a big deal, but he always got the ambition to get into the national team. His first experience came in 2014, in India: “It was great but tough as well. I was very happy that I finally made it, but it was not my best performance. The level is so different to club hockey. I did not play any trial matches before the tournament and made my debut directly against Argentina. But I really enjoyed it”. It wasn’t the best way to get off, but a little after all went well with the gold in the Euro Nations Cup both in 2015 (London) and 2017 (The Netherlands) but one of them was more special than the other: “Winning at my homeland and my own club in a new built Stadium! I will never forget this ambiance and the atmosphere the people created there! It was great to be part of that tournament!”. Being the best scorer was «the cherry on the top», but apart from the Euro Nations Cup, there’s more to do with the Orange shirt on: “Not achieving our objective in the Olympic Games (Rio de Janeiro, 2016) was very frustrating. We were not performing as we could perform as a team. This frustrated me a lot. But it was also a good experience for the years after. Last year was a great year by winning the EuroCup and the third round of the HWL. We changed our game and played to our own strengths”. Despite the disappointment, Mirco was excited to be at Rio 2016: “It was really special! I still cannot believe that I am an Olympian now. I think this will come later!”.
“I am a very structured guy. I have always been serious about studying and doing things next to hockey!”
Mirco Pruyser really focuses on his hockey career, but he doesn’t forget that, sadly, that’s not all. Knowing that, he always took care of his academic career: “I am a very structured guy. I have always been serious about studying and doing things next to hockey!”. Economics came along at the Johan Cruyff University and there he could get together two of his loves: football and Ajax! “Johan Cruyff University has a program that makes it better for athletes that study and that’s why I got there. I’ve also worked for Johan Cruyff his foundation as well. As I mentioned before, this is a special study of top athletes!”
Football and Ajax didn’t influence Mirco on his studies, but still has a strong relation with the sport: “It is the first sport in Holland. Most people like it here! I have always played football on the streets in my youth”. Following football closely, Pruyser has the opinion that both sports can learn from each other: “Football can learn a lot of the defending skills of hockey players. I think we feel more urgency in some situations and sometimes we are more intelligent in defending”.
On a busy and demanding life, the Dutch forward still has time for BP Hockey College, a project he came along with his teammate Billy Baker: “Four years ago after graduating we started BP College. Baker Pruyser College. We are a hockey school where we focus on facilitating high quality and technical trainings. We learn, as children, to score goals and be efficient in dribbling, scoring and passing. We started small but nowadays we train more than 1000 children a year, have our own BP Office in the city centre of Amsterdam, a BP Car, two employees in the office. We organise Hockey Camps, Private, Team and Club Trainings and we have a special concept of 10 trainings: BP Hockey College. We are not only focused on strikers, but on all kinds of hockey players!”. Pruyser has no doubt that the project “is something special for my post-hockey life. We are growing every year and trying to build up a brand like Self-Pass”.
In BP Hockey College, Pruyser and Bakker have their own philosophy, based on what top players are used to do: “We aren’t the typical hockey trainers as people are used to. We wanted to create the openness of being reachable as international players for the youth. How great would it be that you can train with Messi or Ronaldo or with Lebron James!? We don’t compare ourselves with these names, but we are athletes that perform at the highest level in the world and we made it possible to train with us! We coach from our own experience. I know how to shoot a backhand and tell the children how I do that. Hopefully this will work for them as well. And I can say that it is working! Children who train with BP College are making progress and developing their skills in very short time!”. Working with kids is also amusing for both Bakker and Pruyser: “The best thing is to see that children are going home happy after seeing us. We sporadically got some offers to give trainings but now built a good business for ourselves”.
What would you do if you weren’t a hockey player? Or if hockey didn’t exist?
I think I would have worked in a corporate business. Now hockey forced me to be an entrepreneur, which satisfies me.
Indoor or outdoor? Why?
Outdoor! There is more space to make actions. But tough choice. I really like the speed of the indoor game. It is almost not comparable to outdoor hockey.
Who is your hockey idol?
I always liked Thilo Stralkowski a lot, the German striker! How strong and efficient he is in the «D» has helped me a lot by watching him play.
What do you think of hockey nowadays? You support the way the game has been changing and developing?
I really like the game. Hockey became slowly more physical and faster, especially by bringing in the self-pass ;-)!
What do you think is lacking hockey to get into even more audiences worldwide?
I don’t know. Tough question.
Do you think that social media are important for that? You recently got to 7.500 followers on instagram… and keep growing. Is that something important to you?
Yes, it can help. I think social media is helping us to show that hockey is a cool sport and not a girls sport. In The Netherlands, this is sometimes said.
What do you like the most about hockey?
The speed and quickness of the game!
What do you like less about hockey?
Sometimes the short corner is frustrating, but it is something that signs the sport.
Would you change something in hockey? If so, what would it be?
I think I would change the matchtime back to 2×35 minutes, instead of the 4×15 minutes. This was something typical for the sport. Football is neither changing the 2×45 minutes to 4 times 20 minutes for example. It has its own charm.
Do you have anything else to add? Any message that you want to send to yours and hockey’s fans worldwide?
Let’s keep on helping each other in letting our sport grow!