The rise of the Red Lions, the national team of Belgium in men’s hockey, in the world ranking is in itself a fascinating story. It triggered me to write several short columns already: Success has many fathers (in dutch only) – Confirmation is topsport – SWOT analysis of Belgian tophockey and many more… I think one of the elements I retain from this journey would be you can not rush things! You can not skip steps needed to make it to the next level. There are no shortcuts in topsport!
Today the Red Lions parted ways with the well known Dutch coach Marc Lammers. He was brought in little over a year ago to be their guide in making the next logical step, the step to the podium… After the young & talented Australian coach Commens, who together with his team got the Belgian team to believe they too could play hockey among the best, came another Australian coach. Batch had been the assistant coach to Commens and was the right guy to consolidate the progression made. When he took on another mission closer to home, the Belgians brought in the Dutch coach Marc Lammers who had the track record, be it in women’s hockey, to guide this team to the next level.
On home ground his team played a very good European championship and lost only in the final to these eternal Germans to get their first silver medal after a memorable bronze in 2007. However in the global tournaments he could not take them to the next level straight away. After their 5th place at the 2012 London Olympics under coach Batch, Lammers and his team came in 5th in the Champions Trophy in Melbourne, december 2012 – 5th again in the World League in New Delhi, january 2014 and…. you’ve guessed it 5th at the recent World Cup in The Hague, july 2014. Their consistent good results did move them up to the 4th spot in the most recent edition of the world ranking by the FIH. Their true ranking at this moment according to me as well… It also shows in a mature, global and Olympic sport you can not rush your way to the top. It takes time, hard work, more discipline and the desire to truly live for your sport and make it your first priority. You need all these elements and the hunger to do better to make the steps needed to progress, but above all you need perseverance and patience because success does not come overnight.
So anyone who thought this previously successful coach could speed things up was proven wrong this summer. It is a tough job and it seems Lammers has realised he did not have the drive anymore to be able to perform according to the outspoken ambition of all involved to get these Red Lions to the podium. So today he stepped down… The Belgian federation was quick to act and replace him with another Dutch coach, the young Jeroen Delmee, the current assistant coach to Lammers. Delmee used to be an extraordinary player until recently, only second to legend Teun de Nooijer in caps for his national team, but has no experience at the highest level as the number one coach. So all in all still a surprising choice by the Belgian federation… But maybe that is what they need, a compentent coach, still very much hungry for success to keep on making progress and strive for these medals. But in any case and with any coach the road to the top is not an easy one and it takes time. Let’s hope Delmee will be given the time needed to do well at the Rio Olympics. Maybe his Red Lions could surprise there and take a medal, but the focus should also be on the horizon beyond Rio 2016 because this story has only just begun… And it’s an interesting journey and story to follow.