Being a father to a player of the Dutch national team you can imagine I had a good weekend out in London. gold-medalA year ago,after the WC, I wrote “Silver sucks“. This gold is great! However,  it’s but a stepping stone to the ultimate goal… Gold in Rio! At least that is just my take on it as a (privileged and obviously partial) observer in the journey of this generation in the Dutch national team. But the same goes for the other teams at this European Cup. I am sure the Germans will take away some very valuable lessons from this EC, as do the English and especially the Belgians. The last big event and price before the Games next year has been useful for all concerned I’m sure…

The Dutch needed to experience and learn how it felt to win has been said by their coach. The German coach indicated his team would take home more valuable lessons from this 1-6 defeat then from an easy 4-0 win… The Irish confirm to their federation and probably themselves they really have a good team, better than their actual ranking.  The English will most likely be focussed on the unexpected win from their women’s team but their mens also recognise there is still some fine-tuning to be done before the next Games.

The Belgians finished fifth with both men and women. For the women this was a good or normal result. Their rise to the top still has a long way to go and for them it will all start by increasing the level in the Honour Division, because that should be the foundation for a stronger national team. The biggest question for them will be if the Belgian clubs are willing to do what it takes to raise the bar…

For the Red Lions , a.k.a. the Belgian men, the fifth spot left a bad feeling because they were aiming for gold. However their coaching staff will have learned more lessons as well from this tournament in the approach to Rio… More then when they would have won I think…

We look back upon a special European Cup… One year before the next Games, played at the iconic Olympic venue from 3 years earlier. I’m sure walking around there brought back a lot of memories for all lucky enough to have taken part in these incredible London 2012 Games. It was wonderful to see and experience the remarkable volunteer spirit of the English is still alive and kicking… Special because the final showcased some amazing hockey and my team & son won their first major gold medal ;)

However not only coaches and players should take home the lessons learned on the pitch here… The FIH and other regional and national federations need to take a good hard look at the future of our game.

On a FIH scale of things my biggest fears are the FIH will not stop after their theft of 10 minutes of our game… thief10minutesYes I still feel robbed of 10 minutes of hockey since the introduction of 4x 15″ instead of the old 2x 35″ ! The FIH can claim all they want the actual playing time is more or less the same because of the time stoppage during penalty corners and after goals. But for supporters it is all about perception and we the supporters feel, whichever way you turn it, we have been robbed of 10 minutes of hockey. The coaches and players will also confirm it is a factor to the benefit of the weaker teams and I’m sure all with a topsport background will agree you should always focus on lifting the level of those weaker rather then clipping the wings of those stronger… hockey5nanjingMy biggest fear however is it will not stop here and the FIH will, pressured by the IOC (for financial and logistical reasons rather then sport), push our game towards the Hockey 5’s concept, introduced already at the last youth olympics. This would be the biggest mistake ever according to me! I’m all for change, but not when it changes the core of your game…

On a national, continental and global scale I think the federations involved should still work harder towards a better synchronised calendar. For us in western Europe the national club competition is the foundation of our game but the way it is played today, the concept of the Dutch Hoofdklasse, the Belgian Honour Division and German Bundesliga for example is in dire need of an integrated overhaul and new look on things taking into account all competitions influencing each other. Busy-CalendarThe World League needs to be changed, keeping the possibility for lower ranked countries to take on experience and rise in the ranks but it should take up a lot less space in the calendar… At this moment each country might be rethinking its own competition but this is something that would need an integrated top-down approach with guidelines from the FIH for continental and national federations. Not pushing it’s own calendar of course but taking into account the basics and foundation of our game which have different needs in different continents…

I see a lot of challenges ahead of us to change our game without losing it’s origin and foundation.