PRE OLYMPICS – Floortje Engels – Plenty In Reserve.

Posted in Dutch Hockey on July 23rd, 2012 by John Coxon

Dutch International keeper Floortje Engels flying in her Amsterdam colours.

Goal keepers are amazing and have a unique skill set and instinctive mindset. They tend to retire from international duty through choice when either it is no longer fun to play at the highest level or when they know they have past their peak or they have new priorities and , not wanting to commit and sacrifice any more where the pressures of the modern game are so intense and all consuming. They tend to know and admit when it  is time to let go. Dutch keeper Floortje Engels  has been asked to step aside in a number of recent crucial internationals for relative newcomer Joyce Sombroek but is not ready or willing to retire, and still hungers to play in orange.Undeterred , she has continued to work and train hard with the team and earned her place to go to London. She was bitterly disappointed to be included as a “p” accredited reserve but as we say has plenty in reserve, a wealth of experience and hoping for her chance to prove the point at the Riverbank.

In comparison, as is common, rivals Argentina take two keepers but where they differ with the other teams and Holland ,  both are in  the starting sixteen and that was to a large extent through force of circumstance.

Argentina’s Belen Succi, chose to give up a successful international keeping career without warning, in Olympic year, for motherhood and an alternative lifestyle.

Uniquely , in a country where playing for the national team is the dream of so many , probably more so than in any other country in the world, Argentina’s then most experienced  best keeper , Belen Succi, shocked her team and coach Retegui in Olympic year embracing dreadlocks and a Rasta no frills life style with her boyfriend and announcing she was happily pregnant and didn’t want to play any more.  That shocked me in some ways but then again so did it when, in 2010   at the Champions Trophy,  a relative novice, undoubtedly a  talented but inexperienced newcomer, was given the key role at Floortje’s expense and for the moment continues to be the national coach’s first choice.

(Argentina’s coach,   Carlos Retegui, unlike Max,  did not have the luxury of a seasoned  internationally experienced keeper as back up for his Olympic squad and the inconvenient departure of Belen meant he had to  call upon two fine but internationally inexperienced keepers  Laura Del Colle ( who did a great job in London during the pre-Olympic Invitational Investec Cup ) and Flor Mutio.  Unusually Flor is not “p” accredited ( reserve) but in the main 16 , the pair are from the same area, are  good friends, mutually supportive and despite a two year age difference, because they both lack international experience, both are just happy to be playing for the team  and for them, who is  picked as first choice is not apparently a big  issue. Of course it is tougher emotionally when you ,as an experienced international , have previous unblemished track record on the international stage,  lose the number one shirt to a new player and accept it with as much grace as Floortje has done.

Argentina’s Lau Del Colle in at the deep end and getting an unexpected Christmas present following the shock departure of her country’s most experienced keeper in Olympic year.

Whilst you would expect a national coach to always be scouting for new blood, including  keepers, you would normally expect that to involve recruiting younger talent with potential and bringing them into pre-selection squads on a kind of apprenticeship basis ready to slot in and get a game or two at friendlies and Four  Nations tests and then , eventually, to be experienced enough to fill the big kickers when keeper one decides they have had enough and retire. You do not expect new younger talent to come in , and go  route one, past  a more experienced player  and then for the “deposed” player to want to remain in the team. Even if that new keeper flourishes in  that role , as Joyce Sombroek  has no doubt done, you have to feel for Floortje  and wonder where she gets the strength and courage to persevere.

You cannot as an outsider and observer  know  the reasoning behind coach selection decisions as for example the mystery behind Argentina dropping one of their best players ever, Sole Garcia, but the coaches word for us and the players is and must be final. I also believe  that prophecies in such cases and decisions  are self-fulfilling and if you give new  people the opportunity they have always dreamed of, they simply will raise their game another notch and prove you right unless you get it horribly wrong. I have the utmost respect and affection for Carlos Retegui and Max Caldas as coaches and people and yet  , from the touchline, it appeared to me that Floortje  still had a lot to give on the international scene, an awesome presence ,and  had not lost form or desire and was still an effective force at her club. By keeping her on the books, encouraging and supporting Floortje  and keeping her in reserve for the prestigious Olympics, to his credit, Max acknowledges she still has a role to play at top level if she wants it and I am sure Floortje still does. As they go into London there is little to chose between the two great Dutch keepers and my guess is Carlos Retegui would love to have either player to call upon.

Dutch national coach Max Caldas- a role that requires some hard selection decisions with no room for sentiment.

I have no doubt that Joyce Sombroek is a great keeper with a great future ahead of her with the national team – particularly in goals where experience is the great improver but my guess is that she would be the first to admit that  Floortje is also a great  keeper. We look at their situation going into London but  each of them knows the score , does not have an eye on the other, accepts what is and will go out to do their job when called upon.  Of course if one goes out having been picked first often of late and in the run up, that gives them confidence  and it could  well affect the confidence of  player kept in reserve’s  and it takes a very special person not be to deflated by that. Floortje is special. She may  still feel  sad to be reserve  but  is to Floortje’s  great credit that she remains focused on her own game, has  stuck it  out and without any bitterness. She is happy to go to London with the team and part of the team and has much to offer on and off the pitch no doubt.

Floortje, a solid, dependable and vital part of the Amsterdam defence for so long and yet her contract was not renewed for the coming hoofdklaase season.

Floortje Engels, one of Holland’s outstanding keepers in the history of their  game had to take a back seat   to talented  newcomer Joyce Sombroek  back in 2010 at the Champions Trophy . Joyce’s arrival on the international scene was meteoric ,  with a fast tracking  to the national team having  been rapidly elevated to Hoofdklaase from lower league obscurity  and with only a few games under her belt of top hockey at home she got the call from Orange.  Understandably Floortje  did not seem her normal happy self in Nottingham  and who could  blame  her but then again I sensed too that all was not well with the whole team and little surprise they crashed in the final to a very happy group of sisters in blue and white under Carlos Retegui.

Floortje seemed understandably downcast as reserve in Nottingham at the 2010 Champions Trophy and unhappily could only watch as the Dutch crashed to Argentina and later in the World Cup in Rosario. A change of national coach did not elevate her back to top spot but to her credit she is still committed to her team and with them for the Olympics.

Ironically it was an Argentinian  who put the fire and fun back into Orange hockey –the  current Dutch national coach, Max Caldas, tri-lingual at least , in English , Spanish and Dutch. Max is a  former Argentine international player who is now a family man and totally settled in Holland. Max  knows Floortje well as he was coach of Amsterdam Dames for some time and also was assistant national coach to Marc Lammers . Max  had later moved from Amsterdam Dames  to be Bloemendaal Heren  coach and was then elevated to national coach,  as he deserved ,  following the undignified, I thought  crudely managed, departure of Herman Kruis.

Happy Days. Floortje, far left, with her Amsterdam Dames team mates in Madrid, 2007 then coached by Max Caldas.

It is one of the  cruelties of the modern game that as demands on players get ever tougher, experienced players , so greatly valued in terms of the stability and continuity they bring to a team , face constant pressure from emerging  talent and all remain under constant assessment. In the Orange kit no one is indispensable and no one takes their selection  for granted.    There is a new professionalism in top teams, players accept that there is no room for sentiment , accept where the bar now is and what happens when you can’t hit it consistently.  The circumstances which saw the removal of Herman Kruis as national coach of Holland were not particularly dignified  but a country used to gold found it hard to accept two major defeats to a team, Argentina ,  which had become a more effective  unit and it came as little surprise when Max  was given the job of putting the missing golden  sparkle back in the team.  Floortje remained part of his plans as he worked with the team.  Joyce kept her position as  first keeper ,but we hear, he gave  Floortje achievable targets and specific mentoring wanting her to  “raise her game” to bridge the small gap in standard that Joyce was, for him, displaying. Floortje as ever took that guidance on board with typical sporting good grace and , as always  put  her back into the challenge. she earned the right to be in the London team the hard way. She is self motivated, not into comparing herself against any other  keeper or competing with them because she gives it one hundred percent and you can’t ask more.  She was  to be reserve keeper again at the Beijing Olympics and yet , even then she did not, to her immense credit , throw her toys out of the pram and quit.

As if that wasn’t tough enough to handle an unforeseen  body blow was going to come very recently  closer to home. Floortje’s stirling commitment and  success in nets for Amsterdam appeared to amount to nothing when Alyson Annan  ( ironically the ex wife of Max Caldas and former  Australian Hockey Olympian)  was promoted to  take over the Dames  from Patrick Baker.  Floortje wasn’t in her plans and she must have been devastate as she regarded the club as her natural home from home. Annan had been at the club for some time, was  assistant  coach of the men since 2009 , working on the youth side of the club and coach of the Dutch girl’s A team.  Annan and the club recently opted for an inexperienced and very young new keeper which has to raise eyebrows.  It  just begs the question of what actually transpired that led to Floortje leaving.   The sadness I felt for Floortje was lessened when it was announced she  had been welcomed with open arms  by  the top club in her home town Utrecht, Kampong , and they gave her a  contract to play for them next season and , I am sure with a view to impacting  on their league ranking and also probably coaching there.

Floortje, second in, top left, pictured at the recent Pre-Olympic Investec London Cup which Holland won comfortably with her watching in reserve.

When Max announced his Olympic pick, Floortje was not in the sixteen but “p” accredited, that is again, included as reserve keeper. She might have been forgiven for just saying “ No thanks , I’m out of here”,and retiring from international hockey but , ever the true sport, she didn’t take the easy way out and remains loyal to her country’s team and stuck it out.

How has Floortje coped with these harsh knock backs?   Surely it has been so very hard to take?  In a typically candid  interview recently, Floortje, ever honest with herself , freely admitted to being initially bitterly disappointed to be “benched” again and having to re-assess her future.    “Of course you are mega-disappointed, it just hurts. Yes, I cried and  even smashed a beer bottle one night out of sheer frustration”, she confessed.  “The disappointment hit quickly and raised  the big question “Do I really want to keep going?” It was, she admitted,  something that took  a lot of  soul searching for a week or so , occupying all her thoughts day and night.  The choice to stop or continue for the national team for  Floortje  was  a nightmare. She continued “I was faced with an impossible choice: either accept being reserve or quit”. “Ultimately I feel so connected with the people in the team  and the process that I accepted the position and the possibility of the whole  Olympic experience once again was the deciding factor” Floortje committed  to stick with it . She feels she has a fifty fifty chance in London and that there is no real ability gap between her and Joyce and she is all set for London, with a sense of calm and excited anticipation.

Floortje has been with the national team a number of years and chose to stay with them and enjoy the Olympic experience with them one more time even if she has to do that as reserve.

I have watched Floortje in action , always with great affection and admiration as a person and keeper as an international and  saw her several times keeping for her club Amsterdam, always outstanding and  including when they played in my own region at Bowdon 2009 in the FIH European Cup Winners Cup where again she impressed.  When I watched the Hoofdklasse play offs 2oo9,   in the woods near Amsterdam,  it went to penalty shoot outs after extra time  against what is now Joyce’s club, Laren.  Floortje was heroine of the hour  and broke Laren hearts saving, if I recall correctly, twice.

International and club team mates, Ellen Hoog gives Floortje a rapturous hug to celebrate her second remarkable penalty shoot out  save that took Amsterdam to victory in the Hoofdklasse playoffs 2009.

Floortje continues to have to  field some outrageously insensitive  questions from  the media in relation to being reserve behind Joyce  like the tabloid killer “Is she hoping Joyce will get and injury so she can play?”  Floortje is totally ethical and sporting  and such an idea would never have entered her head and yet she is , as far as I am concerned,   totally justified to dub such a questions as  “ shitty!  ” Floortje wants to be a part of the Olympic  team , the group she loves,  and  that kind of vicious thought is just so  far from who she actually is and as she says , if she ever thought like that,  she would have no place in the team. Her focus is on her own game and being the best she can be.

At her home club , Amsterdam , Floortje has  been  overlooked to make way for an emerging largely untested teen talent teen  which on the face of it is pretty much rubbish pay back for the long and flawless service she has given  that club she had been devoted to. Regardless of the new broom  thing, incoming coach  looking to make their mark,  you can’t help but wonder if there was more to it and for sure Floortje is wise enough and professional  enough to leave it there and move on.  I’ll bite my lip on that one  and simply say how great it is Max wants her in London and for Kampong to have faith in and take on  such a great and experienced player who can also coach and inspire their younger players  and typical that her studies , which she can now complete more easily as it is in her home town,   are hockey related and point to her  professional long term commitment to development work and player and youngster’s health and well being in the future.

Floortje still remains a valued and loyal member of the Dutch national team and it is her call to decide if she wants to retire after London 2012.

With regard to Max’s choice of first keeper for the Olympics  Floortje is typically philosophical and accepting of it , sees it as subjective ,  and accepts he has the power to elect the one he thinks is the best and is cool with that.  she still reckons it is on the cards she will take the field – 50-50. It is inevitable that international teams move on, change personnel  and players retire but at the end of an international career people like Floortje, when they do decide they don’t want the additional pressure  any more ,  take with them outstanding personal qualities which almost always see the ex international player a champion in whatever they turn to. After the Olympics  Floortje will make her own mind up what she wants to do in terms of any future with the national team but is also committed to Kampong and relishing  new challenges and I wish her the very best there.

Olympics 2012 Dutch hockey international Ellen Hoog- Stirred not Shaken

Posted in Dutch Hockey, women in sport on July 18th, 2012 by John Coxon

click on image for enlarged  view

Hockey forward Ellen Hoog is preparing  for this her  second Olympics in London having already won gold in Beijing with the national team but her inclusion in the squad was not always a given if we look back to last year . Due to a perceived dip in form the 26 year old suddenly found she had not made the selection for  the Champions Trophy in Rosario Argentina and having known the magic of the Olympics at Beijing ,the thought of not making London would, for her,  have been a disaster . (She had actually failed to get selected back in 2004  for Athens but then, she admitted , that was not so hard to take because she was still in her late teens .)

Max back in 2006 , Ellen right of him- in Madrid as assistant national coach for the world Cup but also he was Ellen’s club coach at Amsterdam for some time.

Max Caldas , ex Argentine international senior , whom she knows very well from the days when he was head coach at her club Amsterdam , typically,  did not crush her by dismissing her outright. He offered her hope the very next day after the bitter blow of her exclusion when he  had a long conversation with her. He  told her what she had to do to get back to the standard he wanted from all the national players and she took that on , worked hard and thus this last month has been the “best one of her life”  being back on track for Gold. Not many players have the strength of character to make such a comeback and few have. Ellen is a very honest person and did not therefore choose to point the finger at the coach or look for other excuses for her being dropped but accepted the criticism was justified, accepted that she was out of shape and , looking back, she admitted it was good for her to be “shaken awake” and given a wake up call. Ellen addressed the issues with her game bit by bit , combining more with other players  for example, and Caldas mentored her back to form.

Ellen, back in form, rehydrating after helping the Dutch win the final at the recent pre- Olympic test- London Cup.

Max allowed her to train with the team again after Rosario but she could feel her shortcomings more intensely because she felt they were obvious but Max was as ever supportive and gave her the confidence to stay positive, persevere and would also praise her for what she had been doing well. (We should note that he did a similar thing with Flootje Engels  when relative newcomer Joyce Sombroek was suddenly his preferred first choice keeper with the result that Floortje  was given targets she was able to meet and is therefore  included in the squad as  reserve keeper . Before the flight to London Ellen was apparently chillaxing with her friend and national team mate Naomi van As ( and roommate at the Olympic village ) and doing last minute shopping and planning something for Naomi’s 29th birthday ( Thursday 26th July) . Multi-capped  Ellen is not expecting to be overwhelmed by the enormous pressure that comes to bear on players at the world’s biggest sporting event  she just thinks of it as “delicious” and with regard to if they face  a partisan crowd, which is very likely in London,  for her that motivates her to  try even harder. Thus she is especially bullish about the prospect of facing the in form  hosts Great Britain on their home turf . The final days in the run up  to the Game will  see a couple of test games which will no doubt prove  Ellen has made the grade to returning to effective form after being shaken and not stirred by Max Caldas last year.

Olympic factoids. “Hoog” in Dutch translates as tall, high or long. The Dutch, based on world height averages are among the tallest people in the world  – Ellen is 5 foot five inches

(Source: content includes a digest from my translation from the original Dutch report from Spits/Jan Balk reported on the independent dutch hockey aficionado website

Hoofdklassehockey.nl )

Field Hockey is just one of the subjects I focus on in my journalism professionally and in fact as here, in my free time to support the game and its community.  I pride myself  on creative originality and do not cut and paste other people’s work. My content is based on visits to games at all levels , photographing and talking to players and keeping up to date from various media  sources  including  from my own translations of   numerous reports only available in the native language of some teams. The assimilation of facts and detail from a variety of sources into coherent copy in good, clear  English is something that comes naturally to me so contact me if you require those services. I have also been hired  by various clients, including non native English speakers , to proof read, to edit and  redraft  and rework for example text based be content to help enhance their media presence .  Why not also  follow me on Twitter or “like” and join me on  my Facebook page.

 

Contact me

Business Website : johncoxonphotography.com

Co-Editor /journalist (honorary)  Women Sport Report

Business Facebook  : john coxon.com    Personal Facebook  john coxon

 

(find me also on Linkedin )

Member of EPUK ( Editorial Photographers UK)

Alternative E mail : johne.coxon@ntlworld.com

Mobile Phone or text  24/7  365 :  + 44 (0) 7989 300 104

LAN : (+44)  (0)161 950 1817 (Manchester)

Skype  johnecoxon

Twitter:  @johncoxonmedia

Business Address : 14 Pott Street, Salford, (G.M.) M27 6FR

CRB enhanced disclosure ( counter signatory England Hockey) August 2010

Translate »