With the departure of Alisson Annan, who has been in charge of the Dutch national team since October 2015, the Dutch National Federation must look for a new national coach. A complex task for several reasons.
The sudden farewell of the world’s best coach three times (2017, 2018, and 2019) split the Hockey League. In light of the ongoing and highly sensitive investigation of the performance climate at the Orange Ladies, the greatest possible care is required when appointing a successor. At the same time, time is running out, because the World Championships (partly in front of the home crowd) will take place in five and a half months, and preparations for it are about to begin.
The National Bank announced in a press release on Wednesday that it is currently studying Annan’s succession in the short and long term. In the short term, the Dutch national team will play its first training session on Monday, after the free month of December. The first Pro League matches will also start soon. At the beginning of February, when the situation surrounding the Corona virus allows, the Netherlands will play two matches away from home against Spain. Two away matches against India will follow in mid-February.
Short term: Jamilon Mulders?
The most sensible option in the short term is Germany’s Jamelon Mulders, who joined the Dutch national team after the Tokyo Olympics. Among the current members of the technical staff, he is the first to assume the position of assistant national coach after the departure of Annan. Moreover, Mulders knows what is required in international hockey. As the national coach of Germany, he took the gold at the European Championships in 2013 and the Olympic bronze in Rio de Janeiro in 2016. After his stint with Germany, Mulders was active as the China women’s national coach.
It also speaks in his favour that he only started in Orange last September, and therefore takes no responsibility for what would have happened before Tokyo. It is clear that he will be set until the Pro League matches in February, so that preparations for the World Cup begin. Moreover, it brings some peace after Annan’s sudden departure.
Raul Eren has been number one for a long time
The difficulty of long-term appointments lies in several aspects. First of all, research into an accurate overall picture of the performance climate in the Dutch national team is still ongoing. The result is not expected until the end of February and the beginning of March.
When a wide range of requirements have already been imposed on the position of national coach, it is now added that the person must comply with the possible recommendations following the conclusion of the investigation. Hiring someone before the investigation is complete may run the risk of concluding in the end that his or her approach is not the innovation that this group of players needs. It therefore seems very logical to cancel the appointment in the long term due to the outcome of the investigation, and therefore also the Pro League matches in February. Furthermore, the Orange team will not play again until April after these matches.
In addition, the question is who is suitable and available to give face to the new performance climate as a national coach and continue the successes. Among the Dutch candidates, Raoul Ehren has stood as a champion maker at Den Bosch for years first place. But at the end of December 2020, he started a mission with the women of Belgium for the Olympic Games in Paris. Erin, who has a contract until the next World Cup, is not the man who let the Belgians sit six months after Tokyo.
Schopmann, Dykstra, Matessen
Yannick Schopman has enough international baggage, but she has been ultimately responsible for the Olympic upset in India since Tokyo. As the US national coach, Schopman gave an interview with hockey.nl in which she openly questioned how long she wants to remain active as a coach at the international level, because the pressure as a national coach is much greater than as a club coach. “Of course I would think about it if I got asked if I wanted to become a national coach for Orange, but the pressure in the Netherlands is different than the pressure in the US. There is a lot more pressure from the outside world to do the performance,” she said at the time.
Schopmann took over from one of the few other Dutch coaches who have been active in international women’s hockey in recent years: Sjoerd Marijne. Marin was already the Orange Women’s national coach, but was fired by the Dutch National Federation after taking the disappointing 2015 European Championship silver, and has just started a new adventure with the Tilburg men. It wouldn’t be a serious choice for these reasons. Marek Dijkstra is known to KNHB as a ballroom coach, but she has only been head coach for Den Bosch for half a season and therefore has little experience at the top.
Rick Mathiesen, National Champion Blomendale’s men’s coach and assistant national team coach with the Orange Men up to Tokyo, knows women’s hockey well during his time with Amsterdam. His contract with Bloemendaal expires after this season, but the question is whether Mathiesen, who switched to men’s in 2019 for some reason, actually wants to return to women’s hockey. Furthermore, he does not appear to combine national training with his position at Bloemendale. A possible scenario is for someone else – eg Mulders – to remain in the temporary pope role until the World Championships and Mathiesen starts working with Orange after that.
A possible outcome for the hockey league could also be to look across the border and seek sanctuary in a foreign coach, but candidates aren’t readily available either. Due in part to the unprecedented success of the Dutch national team led by Annan, there are few, if any, national coaches in international women’s hockey with attractive titles on their resume. Thus, the selection of a new national coach can end with a great mental excitement for the hockey league.