CSL Daily

April 30, 2016

#CSLinEurope: Kolner Dom & Bundesliga


Graduate students and faculty are currently abroad, participating in our annual European Model of Sport class. This year, the trip is making stops in The Netherlands and Germany. Our students are providing a first-hand account of their experiences and observations.

by Taleah Scott & Alison Zacharias

On Saturday, April 30th we spent our second day in the city of Cologne. We woke up and traveled all the way into the heart of the city which was a time-consuming two blocks unnamed (3)away. Cologne is the fourth largest city in Germany and is home to the Kölner Dom Cathedral located in the city center.  This cathedral stands at a height of five hundred and fifteen feet at the highest spire point and has been standing since the 13th century. We had the opportunity to take an all access tour of the cathedral and were able to learn about the Gothic architecture and unique features of the Dom. This cathedral is unique in one aspect as it is home to the remains and relics of the Three Kings from Catholic scripture which is a coincidence as I was one of the Three Kings in my high school nativity play. Another important note about the Three Kings are that there is a discrepancy whether the remains were stolen from Milan, Italy but knowing our tour guide, the people of Cologne would never do such a thing.


We had some free time to explore the city and likely accomplished the feat of eating the most bratwurst in a single sitting. On Saturday evening we set off to BayArena to watch the soccer match between the Leverkusen hometown team versus Hertha BSC of Berlin. This was an important match because it would secure Leverkusen’s place in the Champion’s League next season. We really got to see how different soccer is abroad. unnamed (1)Aside from the game itself, it was the atmosphere that got our attention. I have never seen so many people cheer that loudly and for that long for their team. Each section was deafening with organized cheers, songs and yelling from all of the fans. It was this that really created the atmosphere that would allow anyone to enjoy a game of ‘football.’ The Germans energy may have been due to the low price of 16 oz. beers for the price of 3 euros that they proudly hoist when their team took the pitch.  Leverkusen got an early great goal- we knew that it would be a great game! The game was 2-1 at half time and tensions were building from both teams and their fans. The last ten minutes were intense and crucial and we were all on the edge of our seats waiting to see another goal or even a fight break out. Ultimately, the game was fiercely fought by both sides but Leverkusen ended the game with a 2-1 win against Hertha. The experience that we had at this football game was incredible and really showed a new way to watch and enjoy sport. The football community in Europe creates such an incredible atmosphere that I can see a source of pride and comradery at every game.

unnamed unnamed (2)



April 30, 2016

#CSLinEurope: The PSV Experience

Screen Shot 2016-04-29 at 11.52.09 AM

Graduate students and faculty are currently abroad, participating in our annual European Model of Sport class. This year, the trip is making stops in The Netherlands and Germany. Our students are providing a first-hand account of their experiences and observations.

by Sherlanda Buskey & Wes Chappell

This morning we had an amazing opportunity to tour the Phillips Stadium in Eindhoven, Netherland. The Phillips Stadium, also known as PSV Stadium, was established in 1913. With a maximum capacity of 35,000 seats within the stadium, it is also home to 27,500 IMG_2712season ticket holders. It has room for 1,825 visitor’s within the visitor section, with sharp fences that divide the home-team fans and the away-team fans so that confrontation can be avoided and violence can be absent during the soccer match. As we looked onto the field from the stands and even had the opportunity to stand on the field, we were amazed at how well kept the grass was. The field that PSV uses is a mixture of both artificial turf and real grass. An interesting fact about the field is that the facility uses monitors on the field that  measure the grass, which then signals the operations department when it needs to be cut.

Not only is the stadium state of the art, but the soccer team is successful as well. With 22 national championships under their belt, PSV hopes to make that number 23 during the upcoming year. The environment within the stadium is family-oriented, as the club looks to keep their loyal customers happy and create a generational love for the club itself. With 60% of the supporters being owners of the stadium, it is important to understand how impactful their opinions are of how the stadium is kept or changed overtime. Their voices matter!


Like any big organization for soccer, Phillips Stadium had a beautiful Sponsor Area. In the Sponsor Area was V.I.P. seating and a restaurant with authentic Spanish food to be served. During this time in the Sponsor Area, the tour guide explained how the board of directors for the PSV Stadium always makes his way to meet and greet everyone in this area before the game. This shows how important they view the connections made with sponsors and potential sponsors in order to help sustain their club to a high standard.

As we made our way through the stadium, we traveled through the PSV Stadium museum. Within this museum, it took everyone on a journey through the history of PSV soccer and their successes along the way. Within the museum there were trophies in cases, signed jerseys by famous players, and even videos of games played that really helped create the brand for the Phillips Stadium!


Moving on, we then had the opportunity to learn more about Eindhoven through a lecture from Mr. Peter Kentie. Through his passion for design and technology, Mr. Kenti talked about how the Phillips Stadium impacted the surrounding communities in Eindhoven positively, creating more jobs and boosting their economy. The Eindhoven Mentality consists of 7 key elements: space, transformation, pioneers, collectivity, inventors, bipolar creativity, and trust in a better future. Through these elements it was understood that Eindhoven wanted to create a solid identity for themselves and have a brand that their people could connect with. With Eindhoven being recognized as the smartest region in the world in 2011,  they are now aiming for a leading position as a creative innovations region in Europe and a top ten position globally in the year 2020! With that being said, they definitely set their standards high.


Without the use of slogans, Eindenhoven is always trying to find unique ways to build their brand to meet the needs of the population that they serve. With things such as the dutch design week, glow light festival, dutch technology week, this gives the city the chance to catch the attention of its people, showing how important technology is and the impact that innovation can have on the community, country, and even the world as a whole. Furthermore, In the words of Mr. Peter Kentie, “One experience creates more impact than a thousand words. Dare to experiment, knowing the direction and not knowing the outcome.”  

After touring the Philips Stadion, which is rather “no frills” compared to the extravagant Amsterdam Arena, and listening to the eccentric Peter Kentie of EHV365, we learned IMG_2722about the fan strategy of PSV Eindhoven’s football club from Hans Poppelaars. Hans is the CRM and database marketer at PSV. Hans explained how PSV is an extremely successful club domestically and in Europe, despite the financial gap they face when compared to Europe’s biggest clubs (i.e. Real Madrid). The club’s success has helped establish a large and loyal fan base within the Netherlands. Hans showed us how they use social media to expand their fan base, converting TV viewers to followers on social media, then building their database, and eventually converting these fans to fully invested members of the club (i.e. season ticket holders). I think PSV’s fan strategy and use of social media lives up to the city of Eindhoven’s reputation as a forward thinking hub for technology and design. They have accounts across all social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snap Chat), and are very engaging with their fans across these platforms, whether it’s directly responding to fan’s questions and concerns, or providing a “behind the scenes” look at the team by allowing players to take over the club’s Snap Chat account for a day. I thought the most interesting strategy that Poppelaar mentioned as a method for building their fan database was offering “enter-to-win” competitions for rare tickets or opportunities to travel with the team to major European tournaments. The key to maintaining a loyal fan base in today’s technology age is staying constantly connected and engaged through various media platforms, and I think PSV Eindhoven is ahead of the curve in achieving this goal when in comparison to the rest of the teams in the Eredivisie (Netherland’s first division).

After the lectures, we ate in the stadium café, “De Verlenging”, before boarding the bus to Cologne, Germany to watch a team handball match between Ferndorf and Saarlouis. During the bus ride, our enthusiastic bus driver, Willem, announced that “the bar is open,” because our tour guide, Sjoerd, had stocked up the refrigerator with local beers to enjoy before the match. We eventually arrived to the home gym of Ferndorf, which was barely half of the size of my high school gym. However, the atmosphere was electric. There was a sold out crowd, cheering and waving flags in the home team’s red and white colors, and a drum corp constantly driving a rhythm to lead chants throughout the match. I’ve watched brief bits of handball matches during the Olympics on TV, and played the game for fun during PE class in high school, but I didn’t expect the match to be this exciting in person. It had to be one of the most intense sporting events in a small venue that I’ve ever attended. Sjoerd told us beforehand that both teams were competing to avoid relegation to the lower 3rd division, so the stakes were very high. The match was extremely physical; there were several fouls, penalty shots, high flying goals, and acrobatic saves. What I appreciated most, was that despite the physicality during the game, you never saw any heated exchanges between opposing players until the last few minutes of the match. I feel like you rarely witness this level of sportsmanship during football and basketball games in the US. In the end Ferndorf pulled out a two goal victory, and celebrated their escape from relegation ecstatically on the court afterward with their singing fans. My favorite part of the experience, aside from the atmosphere, was being around a group of sports-obsessed colleagues who spent the entire game trying to learn the rules, understand tactics, and admire the athleticism of athletes in a sport that most of us knew next-to-nothing about before walking into the gymnasium. It was truly unforgettable for my first international live sporting experience. Now, it’s time to relax and catch up on some sleep before our tour of Kölner Dom and trip to Leverkusen for an intense Bundesliga soccer match tomorrow!

April 29, 2016

#CSLinEurope : Behind the scenes at PEC Zwolle & Dutch Olympic Training Center

Graduate students and faculty are currently abroad, participating in our annual European Model of Sport class. This year, the trip is making stops in The Netherlands and Germany. Our students are providing a first-hand account of their experiences and observations.

by Virginia Pham & Kyle Clark

This morning, we checked out of the Campanile Hotel in Zwolle and headed to the PEC Zwolle facility. Fun fact: it is pronounced “peck” Zwolle, and not “P – E – C” Zwolle, like I had been saying for quite some time now. PEC Zwolle is the only professional football club in Zwolle, and competes in the Dutch Premiere League.

Gerard Nijkamp, the technical director of PEC Zwolle, spoke with us about the growth of the club and how it works with the community and other clubs. Having worked with various clubs in his career, he was able to tell us about the differences between working for a club with a lot of money and working for a club with not as much money. In this case, PEC Zwolle is a successful club, but will never be on the same financial levels as European Premiere League Teams. For example, in 2014, PEC Zwolle’s revenues were around 11 million Euro, and FC Barcelona’s revenue was around 519 million Euro. Even within the Dutch Premiere League, PEC Zwolle is behind PSV (63 million Euro) and Ajax (104 million Euro). Because of these revenue differences, PEC Zwolle focuses on other areas of the sport, rather than trying to bring in a huge revenue.

PEC Zwolle memorabilia 2

Nijkamp showed us the three goals of Dutch professional football:

1) Level Playing Field: the KNVB (the Dutch football association) has an established licensing system for coaches. The staff should be supportive in all aspects – including the organizational / adminstration staff, the financial framework, etc.

2) Talent Management: develop Dutch youth players. Have players play because they love the game. Have special programs for each level, and different coaches and staff for the different age groups.

3) Corporate Social Responsibility: bond with local clubs and businesses in the region.

PEC Zwolle has created its strategic pillar, which looks like this:

  1. Performance
  2. Image
  3. Business

Because PEC Zwolle is not focused on being a top revenue-generating club, the performance and image are more important.

As far as improving performance, that goes with Talent Management. The “Junior” talent pool starts from U10 and goes all the way to U19. The goal is to have 60% of the junior talent pool to transfer to the “Senior” talent pool, which includes the U21 team and the Senior national team.

As far as Image goes, PEC Zwolle has stuck with these core values:

Open: have disciplined, professional leadership. Social media is used to keep the fans engaged, and is used to show fans “behind the scenes” information about the club.

Involved: loval government and education, as well as growing women’s football.

Inspiring: Have an attractive game plan, and a platform for amateur clubs.

Entrepreneurial: Involve local entrepreneurs in the local region in Zwolle and surrounding cities.

PEC Zwolle understands it will not get as many large sponsors, nor will it get huge TV deals. Therefore, it wants to keep local businesses as involved as possible in sponsorships and partnerships.

It was interesting to hear the partnerships that PEC Zwolle has developed with other clubs. Real Madrid has been a business partner, helping PEC Zwolle in growing its merchandise

Lindsay and Gerardsales. Real Madrid has a great U6/U7 program where the young children get involved with the club at an early age, and PEC Zwolle is trying to model a similar program. Juventus has players on PEC Zwolle; U16/U17 players will come down to the PEC Zwolle system, since Juventus knows that PEC Zwolle has high quality coaches. Another partner is Supersport United in Cape Town; that club helps to foster underprivilged children; some of that club’s players have been on loan to PEC Zwolle in the past.

As far as community involvement goes, PEC Zwolle recognizes that women’s football is the fastest growing sport in the country. It has been putting resources into growing women’s football, though it knows it will take a long time before Dutch soccer could be at a level such as USA or Japanese women’s soccer.

We were once again reminded of the differences between American and European sport when we spoke with Thomas van der Staak, the Director of Sports and Exercise for the Center for Sports and Education. van der Staak showed us the Landstede School, an elite school for top-tier student-athletes. Landstede has a partnership with PEC Zwolle, and it is conveniently located next to PEC Zwolle’s facilities. At this school, students are placed through a rigorous training and education system, and only the best of the best can survive the sport and academics. Appoximately 500 students attend this school, and play sports such as judo, gymnastics, squash, swimming, water polo, horseback riding, field hockey, golf, basketball, volleyball, and table tennis. It is interesting to see how these schools operate – in America, we are so focused on splitting academics and athletics, yet when we get to college in America, students are expected to be able to handle both! At schools like Landstede, students are rigorously studying and playing their sport from a young age.

We also got to see the Landstede Sportcentrum, where some of those students train and where Zwolle’s professional basketball and professional volleyball teams practice and play. It was a great facility, located very near the Landstede school. You can see a lot of our pictures on this blog.


This afternoon, we traveled to Papendal to visit the Papeendal Olympic Training Facility for the Olympic and world championship competing athletes. This was one of five training facilities in the Netherlands. This facility, unlike the others in the country, involved multiple sports where the other facilities were specialized-focused. Similar to the culture regarding sports, athletes are required to live at the establishment in order to properly train for their respective sport. Their schedules consisted of breakfast in the mornings followed by training for about two hours, lunch then classes, another training session, and dinner. We arrived at the center and first received a tour of the multiple facilities and fields the campus possessed. We toured the track field, BMX course, archery field, gymnasium for basketball and volleyball, gymnasium for track & field, dining area, multiple weightlifting rooms, and the science lab.

For the lecture, we heard form Dr. Ina Janssen, a Sports Biomechanist for the Sportcentrum. She started out with a saying that related to their mission, “You can’t improve what you can’t measure”. Her job consisted of elite athlete testing, product testing, product development, prototype testing, and practical test facilities to assist the athletes for better athletic performance and injury prevention. For athlete testing, Dr. Janssen presented a practical situation that often occurs. A coach of for track & field wanted to know if a seven-step technique for hurdles helps a certain athlete perform better than using the typical eight-step count. By conducting analysis and tests, Dr. Janssen was able to provide the coach that proved statistically it would be better for the individual to perform the eight-step technique because on average, the eight-step technique allows the athlete to perform the jump at quicker rate.

Kyle testing OptoJump

Another interactive activity was she had us three of us (Scooter, Alex Milton, and I) perform athletic test to display results of what she looks for to help improve performance and improve technique. Milton was asked to the best of his ability to bike as fast and hard as possible for 30 seconds. This test was done to see whether Milton was a power athlete or endurance athlete by looking at his power excursion and speed. Scooter was asked to do as many vertical jumps as possible within a given time to determine his jump speed, quickness, hang time, and vertical. I was asked to do a single vertical jump utilizing two techniques, one with my hands on my hips and one with my hands reaching as high as possible. These were great activities to participate in because it displayed the sorts of analysis Dr. Janssen conducts to help the elite athletes. Working within the S.T.E.M. in Sports group for the S.E.E.D. events, this portion of the day was interesting. This industry is growing as we heard first-hand this afternoon. One consistent theme we have heard from our lectures and tours thus far is the idea of “innovation” and this presentation was just another example of the growth and desire for innovative tactics the help improve the performance of an athlete or the performance of an organization.

Check out our CSL Facebook page for a few short videos from today’s training session at Papendal



April 28, 2016

#CSLinEurope : King’s Day

image3 (1)

Graduate students and faculty are currently abroad, participating in our annual European Model of Sport class. This year, the trip is making stops in The Netherlands and Germany. Our students are providing a first-hand account of their experiences and observations.


by Alex Ritter and Lindsay McBride

Wednesday was our first “free day”.  Although we arrived on Monday, some of us were still shaking off the effects of jet lag.  Our lectures and tours have been a blast, but we were definitely excited for a relaxing day….or so we thought.

Today was King’s Day or Koningsdag here in the Netherlands. After over 100 years of Queens, King Whillem-Alexander was coronated in 2013.  The holiday was moved to April 27th, the new king’s birthday.  The royal family visits a different city in the country every year.  This year it was Zwolle, the same city where we were staying. During the day, Dutch citizens wear orange to honor the Dutch Royal Family, or the House of Orange-Nassau. During the day there are open markets, outdoor concerts and plenty of activities for families. We stood in line and waited to greet the king. He walked by and got a standing ovation from his loyal citizens, as well as some traveling Americans.

image1 (1)

Masses of food trucks, stages, and vendors lined the streets.  Around every corner was another band or DJ and a sea of orange dancing and singing in front of each. As we walked around we saw plenty of activities including a station called Sportsplein with outdoor volleyball and basketball set up for the city.

We spent most of the day listening music from various bands on different stages.  There was a style and artist for everyone throughout the city.  We particularly enjoyed the american music cover bands.  After a long day of food, drinks, and dancing we made our way to the Restaurant La Stalla.  It was recommended by our tour guide the day before and it didn’t disappoint us.  Some of the best Pizza Pollo and Carbonara we ever had.  Stuffed and tired we headed back to our hotel for a surprising yet satisfying “early” bed time.

IMG_2593 IMG_2592 IMG_2591 (1)

image2 (1)



April 27, 2016

Alumni Insight: Anthony Henderson

Each week, one of our accomplished alumni will share some thoughts and feedback on working in the sport industry by answering questions asked by our current graduate students.  

A graduate of the CSL in 2004, Anthony Henderson currently serves as Anthony-Henderson
the Director of Athletics Development at The University of Akron. He’s responsible for advancing fundraising efforts through philanthropic major gifts and developing key relationships with prospects and donors rated with a giving capacity of $25,000 or more. He has a specific focus of working day to day with the sports of football, men’s & women’s basketball, and men’s soccer on their fundraising initiatives. Additionally, he develops supporting communications and marketing materials, oversees special events aimed at increasing donor participation and supervises the Annual Fund and Athletics Development Graduate Assistant / Student Intern programs. This Q&A was conducted by Greg Moon.


Greg Moon: Why did you enroll at the CSL?

Anthony Henderson: Graduating from Hampton University with a degree in Marketing and being a former student athlete, I assumed it would be easy to get involved in the sports industry.  I sent resumes and cover letters to every professional sports team that exists when it came time for me to graduate and enter the workforce.  Not only did I not receive any job offers, I don’t even remember receiving any response from any of them.  The only thing I received is the typical form letter everyone receives thanking you for your interest.  Needless to say, the need to earn a living superseded my desire to work in sports so I returned to Richmond and worked in the insurance industry for two years.  It was in that second year that I saw an article in the newspaper highlighting Michael Curry (then head coach of the Detroit Pistons) and his graduation from the VCU SportCenter (as it was named at that time).  Seeing that article ignited the initiative to take another shot at my sports career.  So after doing my research, taking all of the required test, and being accepted (provisionally I might add) my journey in the CSL began.  I only add that I was provisionally accepted, because that is the thing I am most appreciative of.  My GPA coming out of Hampton wasn’t the greatest.  I was a good student, but could have applied myself more.  Leslie Sander Winston and Mike Ellis saw more than a GPA in me and for that I am forever grateful.  I would not be where I am today if it were not for them.


GM:What advice can you offer getting that first job?

AH: This industry of sports and entertainment is very small.  Do your best at all times.  Whether you are volunteering, interning or just participating in class group projects.  You never know who is watching.  People take notice of what you do and how you carry yourself in certain situations and those same people could end up being the advocate that is key to you landing your first job.  Also to go along with putting your best foot forward, networking is essential.  Networking in my opinion is not who you know, but who knows you.  Make sure people know who you are and what you want to do.  Most jobs in this business are never posted, it is a matter of someone picking up the phone and asking someone they trust if they know anyone who will be a good fit for their open position.  Be the person who comes to the top of their mind by effectively networking.


GM: How do you achieve work/life balance?

TH: I don’t know if there is a such thing as work life balance.  There is nothing more important to me than my family and I have been fortunate enough to work in organizations that have that same core value.  Since my calendar is so hectic, I make sure any events that involve my son are scheduled first.  I only miss his events if it is absolutely unavoidable (mandatory home games, traveling with a team, community events I must attend, etc.).  After that I look at my wife’s calendar to see where I can help her as she is just as busy as I am, if not more, being an Elementary School Administrator.  When those things are taken care of then I can think about me.  Those are the moments I will schedule a round of golf or just take time to do nothing and watch sports.  The one thing I need to do a better job of is scheduling consistent times during the week to take care of myself physically.  I have taken steps to get better in that area, because as I get older that becomes more and more important.


GM:Who is the best leader you have worked for and why?

AH: The best leader I have worked by far is Courtney Moore (Ware).  Courtney was my first boss in the sports industry and she laid the foundation for a lot of how I carry myself and manage today.  Working at Disney, especially in the Marketing Department, it goes without saying that things have to be done a certain way.  It is non-negotiable.  From word nomenclature, to colors, to characters there is not wiggle room to how the place that Mickey built is to be portrayed.  With that being said, Courtney allowed me and my intern partner Ryan to learn how to do operate in such a rigid structure in our own way which helped show me there were many different ways to work and get the same result.  She was also a very nurturing leader in the fact she wanted to know us as people, not just people who worked for her.   This was really apparent to me two specific times while I was working there.  When I lost my grandfather in October after only being there for two months and had to return home for short time and when my internship was complete as she allowed me to stay for two months after my internship was supposed to end as I was searching for employment.  That helped me see that people will work harder for you when they know you care about them.


GM: What was your favorite moment from your time at the CSL?

AH: I have a lot of favorite moments from my time at the CSL.  From the team building activities (ropes course, scavenger hunt, etc.) to playing and winning every rec sports activity we signed up for, I would have to say my all-time favorite moment was our trip for the European Model of Sport.  For me it was my first time out of the country, so to spend time in Germany, the Netherlands and Amsterdam was amazing for me.  Also the comradery we were able to build as a class I think still keeps a lot of us bonded to this day.  Having worked at a few universities now, I will say that experience by far distinguishes the CSL from other programs across the country.

April 27, 2016

#CSLinEurope : Touring Amsterdam Arena & “Dutch Holy Ground”

Screen Shot 2016-04-27 at 11.54.27 AM

Graduate students and faculty are currently abroad, participating in our annual European Model of Sport class. This year, the trip is making stops in The Netherlands and Germany. Our students are providing a first-hand account of their experiences and observations.


by Alex Milton and Corey Pegram

This morning our class had two lectures. Both were held at Amsterdam Arena. The first lecture was lead by Reinout Huisman, who works specifically for Amsterdam Arena International.  He was able to paint a picture of what this great arena represents to the city.

The arena was first built in 1996, and it was the first multi-purpose stadium in Europe. It is home to Amsterdam’s professional soccer team, Ajax. At the time it was built, the surrounding area was not in good shape. However, the arena was a catalyst in reviving the grounds. Today, many office buildings are located there as well as a new transportation system. The arena has also expanded to several other smaller buildings, allowing Amsterdam Arena to host three events at the same time.


Mr. Huisman showed us this amazing video of how they can  host a soccer game and then transform the field to hold a concert all within a day or two. The amount of detail and effort that goes into making this happen really blew my mind. Something else that caught my attention was how innovative this company was trying to be. The arena is doing everything it can be green.  They currently have a zero carbon foot print. In addition, Amsterdam Arena is partnered with companies all over the world. The company is constantly trying to be cutting edge through technology or through the reach of their global partners. They are also now reaching out the public to get their ideas on how to improve the fan experience. In fact, Mr. Huisman made our class run through the exercise. Each group had to come up with ways to improve the stadium for the many different events they host.


Our second lecture was with Jesper Jobse. Mr. Jobse runs an organization called Passion and Play. He uses the sport of basketball to teach less fortunate kids life skills. The topic of sport for social change is a concept that we discussed in Dr. Dwyer sociology’s class.

After a brief explanation of what Mr. Jobse does, he asked us to identify our favorite sport and how we could teach life skills from it. It was really interesting to hear how each person in the class would try to educate a group of kids a specific life lesson. Each student was able to use their sport to teach younger children important life lessons.


The last thing we did was take a tour of Amsterdam Arena. We were given access, few people ever get. We toured the locker room, the press area and even got to walk on to the field.

After an awesome morning at Amsterdam Arena, our afternoon session took us to Heerenveen. There, we visited Thialf, an elite training and development facility for ice speed skating. Described as “Dutch Holy Ground,” Thialf is the center hub for the most successful sport in Dutch Olympics history.

Ice speed skating accounts for 25% of all Dutch Olympic medals, and in the 2014 Sochi games, the Netherlands won 24 speed skating medals. Even more impressive is that all 24 of those medalists trained or spent time at Thialf. Facility Director Eelco Derks spoke to us about the history of this facility and how it is facilitating the development of both individual competitors and our society as a whole.


And before we go any further, it’s probably important to describe how popular the sport of ice speed skating actually is in the Netherlands. Derks said, “It’s almost like baseball in the United States.” And when I asked our tour guide if he grew up speed skating, he said, “Well yeah, everyone does.” So it’s a part of the Dutch sport culture.

Thialf furthers this culture by providing youth programming to new and every-day skaters, while also providing top-level training to skaters who are trying to make a career out of the sport.  This is the group that Thialf is most known for serving, as the organization can date its roots all the way back to 1890 when they held the first European speed skating competitions on natural ice close to where the current facility stands. After years of organizing these speed skating events on natural ice, a building was built in 1967, a roof was added in 1987, and now, Thialf is a frequent host of the European Championships, which attract around 30,000 people to the facility.

More changes to help Thialf are in the works, too, as the facility is currently going through a $50 million renovation that will make the building an even better host to elite athletes and fans. One of the more interesting parts of the day was hearing about why the renovation is taking place, and Derks gave us three reasons:

  • Improving sustainability
  • Solving logistical problems
  • Improving the fan experience

Derks explained how each of these reasons and needs aligns with their mission of providing the best speed skating training in the world and improving/giving back to society through the sport.

IMG_0374 FullSizeRender (1)

We were then able to see how the specific needs for renovation were being carried out when we strapped on our orange vests and construction hats and received a full tour of the facility during its renovation stage. The Thialf tour ended with us learning how the facility makes its world-class ice. From there, we were on our way to Zwolle, where King’s Day was waiting.