Written by Emily S.
From July 16th to July 27th the U18 NAGS girls had the amazing opportunity to experience an Erasmus tour of the Netherlands. Training and playing against some top level clubs enabled us to progress our hockey skills, evolving both as a team and as individuals. We also had plenty of time to explore the country’s rich and beautiful culture.
Each match offered an opportunity to not only develop our skills and knowledge of the game, but to further our confidence and to thrive in new environments.
At the start of the tour each player set a personal target, ranging from the physical, technical, tactical, or mental aspects of their performance. With the help of our coaches, each other, and the challenge offered by top level Dutch players, we can safely say that everyone has taken positive steps towards their progression.
Game 1 vs HCEL
Goals: Steph S
Player of the Match (POM): Amy C
It was unfortunate not to come away with a win in this game, as we felt that we had dominated in terms of possession but just weren't clinical enough in their D.
Nevertheless, this was a great first match as a new squad. We were happy to come away with targets for the rest of the games in the coming week and were proud of the effort each of us had put in considering the late timings and extensive travel.
After our team debrief and cool down, we sat down under the sunset to watch the boys win whilst enjoying pizza that the club had kindly provided for us.
Game 2 vs Geel-Zwart
Goals: Rosie J (x2), Jazz E
POM: Jazz E, Esme S
To bounce back from a loss the previous day and to perform so well in only our second game together as a squad was awesome! The opposition put up a great fight but we united as a team and played some brilliant hockey that led us to come out on top.
We came off the pitch feeling so positive and proud of each other, excited to keep on developing and moving forward as a squad.
Game 3 vs MOP Hockey Club
POM: Orla O
This was a difficult game in nearly 40 degree heat - our bucket filled with ice and cold towels was essential! Despite our previous win, it didn't really feel like we got into the game much, as our well rounded opposition continuously disrupted our play.
This was a great learning curve for us, to not only play against an amazing team with a few Dutch internationals, but also to build mental strength.
Another valuable lesson was to always carry bug spray, as this was the night we seemed to get eaten alive by the midges in the boiling sun!
Game 4 vs Oosterbeek
Goals: Seren CP (x2), Emily P, Jazz E
We were determined to bounce back from our loss and we certainly put up a fight against another great opposition. With some amazing team goals and resilience we stayed in the game, coming away with a draw.
We’d clearly evolved as a team and we were beyond excited to be going up against Ukraine in 2 days time, with lots to reflect upon and analyse. Once again it was lovely to socialise with the opposition after the game, as we all sat together and watched the boys’ match under the sunset, with delicious curry generously provided by the club.
Game 5 v Ukraine u21s
POM: Caitlin W
To play against this experienced U21 team was an amazing experience. Very much an end-to-end game which was unfortunately not reflected in the final score. We fought until the end but once again weren’t clinical enough when it came to scoring chances.
In our post-game debrief we all offered our thoughts on how well we’d gelled together as a squad, finishing off the day with a light hearted coach-vs-player handstand competition!
We had three two hour training sessions across the tour, where we worked on a variety of aspects that we felt needed to be improved upon for the next match. This included goal scoring, being clinical in the D, and set plays.
On both Thursday the 21st and Saturday the 23rd after our training sessions at SV Kampong HC, the Dutch senior men were playing training matches vs Australia. It was a brilliant experience to watch these two dominant teams face off.
We were also lucky enough to get the chance to meet several of the players after their match and to ask them a few questions. Many of the girls were majorly star struck and couldn't stop themselves from getting photos with each and every one of them!
For our final training session we all decided to have a huge mixed boys and girls 8-a-side tournament. This was so much fun and filled with a lot of laughs, and it was another chance for the two squads to get closer.
We all thought the 18 hours on the coach would be a very long and exhausting experience- especially considering the first pick up point was at Sophia Gardens, Cardiff at 3:30am! But, surprisingly, the journey flew by - definitely helped by the fact that we all fell asleep until the coach reached Dover.
Unfortunately we hit some traffic at Dover which resulted in us being short on time heading into our first match, but we still arrived in one piece (although with some slightly stiff legs)!
Our trip home went even faster, with DJ Rosie J playing some great tunes over the speaker, lots of laughs and lots of sleeping. We’re extremely grateful to our coach driver Dave, who was central to the whole trip.
Some of our favourite memories from this trip will be from our off-pitch socialising. The hotel pool and sauna were very popular methods of relaxation; there were probably only 3 days out of the whole tour where we didn’t go swimming!
We played loads of different games as a squad in the water, such as volleyball and hot potato, we were all constantly laughing. On Thursday the 21st it was the boys’ team captain Sion’s birthday, so we all went into the town of Utrecht for an evening meal. It was great to have downtime in small groups and to have some lovely food.
Towards the end of the tour, on Friday the 22nd, we held a Karaoke and quiz night in our hotel’s meeting room. It’s safe to say we are definitely hockey players and not singers or dancers! The boys came out on top in the Karaoke competition, however, us girls won’t accept defeat and we definitely think some questionable scoring came from the judges (the coaches), so a re-match is definitely needed!
Next came the quiz, which showed that some of us need to educate ourselves on general knowledge! This night was definitely one of the most fun of the whole tour.
The following day, on the 23rd, we went to a bowling alley in Utrecht. This was a super fun activity, with everyone’s poor bowling skills providing some great laughs. On our last night on the 26th, us girls started the night off with some more karaoke and amazing dance moves, before we headed into the meeting room for our tour awards night.
The coaches had come up with a series of awards for the players - some sillier than others:
Players' player- Amy C
Best singer- Clare T
Trying to be a WAG- Freya D
Craziest character- Connie D
Most tasty for bugs- Emily S
Best celebrations- Mia H
Best diver- Seren CP
We finished up a hilarious night by ordering pizza for everyone and, of course, some pool time.
We visited five main regions in Holland, starting with Arnhem and the Airborne Museum on the 19th. It was really interesting to learn about the battles of Arnhem in WW2 through artefacts, videos, voice overs, and an air raid simulation.
After spending a fair bit of time exploring the museum it was time to go and sightsee around Arnhem. However, we quickly realised that the 40 degree weather was not for us. So, we decided to go to the nearest cinema to watch the movie Elvis. This sudden change in plan became the joke of the tour as in the film Elvis is known for his dance moves, which from then on we all loved to recreate. Mia H was the best and became known as the tour’s resident Elvis impressionist.
The next day we travelled to Eindhoven to visit the Philips museum, which had so many interactive activities on the evolution of the Philips technology company.
On our rest day on the 22nd we travelled to Utrecht. This was the main area we visited and we explored the city on a few different occasions. We not only experienced the food and did some shopping, but were lucky enough to go on a boat cruise around the city’s canals. Using the trams and buses to and from the hotel was also a cool way to get a real feel of the city.
The variety of things to do in Utrecht made it one of the most exciting places we visited. The Hague, however, was the prettiest. On Sunday the 24th we went sightseeing around the Hague, taking lots of pictures of landmarks and buildings on our way to the beach. It was a great day to be with each other and play so many games in the sand, with music playing and the sun out. It doesn't get much better than that!
Last but not least was Amsterdam. We spent all day on the 26th walking, visiting and trying new things in the city. We started off in the Rijks museum, which had so many different artefacts dating all the way back to the 1500s, before browsing the shops and exploring the streets of Amsterdam. We tried lots of traditional Dutch food, such as kroketten and stroopwafel, with some of us finding the foods tastier than others!
When we were socialising with the opposition, ordering food or talking to the locals, we tried to learn as much Dutch as possible, as we thought it was important and respectful to greet people in their language. We learnt lots of new phrases, such as goegoedemorgen (goodmorning), fijne dag (have a nice day), and dankuwel (thank you very much).
As captain, I’d like to thank our coaches, Lauren, Mo and Shelly for their time and effort and especially Hockey Wales and Erasmus for this unforgettable experience!