European hockey champions at the tender age of thirteen

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Dutch hockey players with EHL trophy

Young hockey players everywhere whose ambition it is to one day go professional dream of winning the Euro Hockey League (EHL): hockey’s equivalent of the Champions League. For most, dreaming is as close as they will ever come. This year, however, the JC1 team of Kampong in Utrecht have a chance of realising their dream: being crowned European champions in the ABN AMRO Junior EHL.

Simply playing in the tournament is unique experience, but the boys are in it to win it Joris Hermsen Joris Hermsen Sponsor Manager

Youth tournament for the very best

Their ages range from twelve to fourteen, and they train three times a week: the boys of Kampong JC1 are all highly committed and one day want to become stars in the first team. Many of them first played for other clubs in the Utrecht area before transferring to Kampong to play at the highest level. They are passionate about hockey and are eager to develop their talents. This Easter weekend, from 25 to 28 March, these young hopefuls will take on their peers in the ABN AMRO Junior EHL, where of course they dream of being crowned European champions.

ABN AMRO Junior EHL

In its role as Partner of the Future, ABN AMRO supports young athletes along the path from talent to professional hockey player. We give them a boost to inspire them to make the most of their abilities and realise their ambitions. The ABN AMRO Junior EHL is a good example of what the bank does. The participating teams receive the same treatment as their older counterparts in the EHL. Their games are attended by a great deal of public interest: the final of the ABN AMRO Junior EHL is even played in the Wagener Stadium, which has a capacity of more than five thousand spectators. The event represents a unique experience for the teams, one that will bring them a step closer to professional hockey.

How they claimed this opportunity

This is the third time that the bank has organised the ABN AMRO Junior EHL. The C1 teams of the Dutch clubs participating in the EHL were given the opportunity to qualify: this year the opportunity came to the C1 teams of Kampong, Oranje-Zwart and AHBC Amsterdam. In December, the teams played three games to decide who would claim the European ticket. Kampong JC1 beat both other teams to qualify for the ABN AMRO Junior EHL and trigger dreams of winning a European title.

The importance of preparing properly

Simply playing in the tournament is unique experience, but the boys are in it to win it and we have done our best to prepare them for the event. On 5 March they had a warm-up game in the Wagener Stadium to feel what it was like to play there. Playing in a stadium is always a big occasion, and this feeling is amplified if you know that it will be packed with fans a few weeks later. It helps if you have already played there before.

Learning from the best around

Besides playing in the stadium, the boys also had a session with ABN AMRO ambassador Jelle Galema and performance coach Joost Leenders. Jelle won the Euro Hockey League with Oranje-Zwart last year, and is coached by Joost, who also works with footballer Memphis Depay and rapper Ali B. Jelle and Joost shared experiences with the young players about performing under pressure, doing what you do best and maximising your talents.

Next, an interactive session that included the team’s coaches revealed where the strengths of Kampong JC1 lie and what they need to do to perform to their potential. With the ABN AMRO Junior EHL around the corner, this is valuable information. Joost Leenders was impressed. ‘You never know how a group of kids this age will respond to this subject, but the boys paid close attention and actively took part. Hopefully this session will contribute to the success of the ABN AMRO Junior EHL.’

No penalty strokes but shoot-outs

Following the ‘performance session’ the players took to the field to practise shoot-outs with Jelle. At the ABN AMRO Junior EHL, if the scores are tied, the winner will be decided by shoot-outs rather than penalty strokes, and Jelle’s tips and tricks might just give the boys an edge in the final.

Come and watch

The ABN AMRO Junior EHL, on Sunday, 27 March and Monday, 28 March, will be hosted by AHBC Amsterdam. Kampong will play Dragons from Belgium, UHC Hamburg from Germany and Club Egara from Spain. If they take the first or second spot on Sunday, they will play the final in the Wagener Stadium on Monday. Who knows, the thirteen-year-old stars of Kampong might just be crowned European champions!

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