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.
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:
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
sales. 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.
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