How do we bring canoeing back to the top?

Sports coach Niels Hoekstra would like to win a medal in Rio with Bram Brandjes in order to put the sport of canoeing on the map.

Niels Hoekstra is a former professional canoeist and is currently a trainer-coach for juniors (16-18 years old) and seniors (18+) at the canoe club Vikings Amsterdam. He coaches his athletes with passion and takes pleasure in preparing them for the European and World Championships and the Olympic Games. His goal is to put the sport of canoeing back on the map.

In 2012, the Dutch Olympic Committee rejected the request for financial support for canoeing. The organization argued that the sport did not show enough high performances, and that the influx of talent was relatively small. This initially caused a lot of anger and disappointment, but then a question arose: what are the basic needs to win a medal in Rio?

The answer is: an athlete, sport coaching, and a program. And all these ingredients are in place to achieve that goal. The main objective is to ensure that Bram Brandjes will be canoeing as fast as he can at the Olympic qualifying tournament in Germany in May, in order to get a ticket to Rio. If he succeeds there, he will be able to do the same in Rio. After Rio there will be a new plan, with new goals appropriate to our ambitions, with the aim to fight our way back up in this exciting sport.

Canoeing is a wonderful sport and in many ways it is similar to ice skating on natural ice: both are outdoor sports, you’re on water and surrounded by nature, which provides you with a different view of the world. They are also both endurance sports and you can do it alone or in groups.

Sport Coaching Kano Niels-Hoekstra - Master in Coaching

Canoeing talents feel that same passion. As a coach, it’s great to see your team them grow as athletes and as people. It is also important that you continue to improve as a coach yourself. This was made possible for me through the Master in Coaching at Johan Cruyff Institute. The teachers challenged me to look at myself from multiple angles. In addition, the coach-students who are already sports coaches or those who have a management role, bring added value to the group by sharing their various experiences with the other students.

Actually, it is strange that so many Dutch people have a canoe, or enjoy recreational canoeing during the summer, but do not make the transition to professional canoeing. People ask me regularly: “How was rowing?” Canoeing is much less well known, and is in great need of new young members. Without grassroots sport, there is no professional sport!

How can we put the sport of canoeing on the map? Publicity is essential to make a sport more popular. Therefore, it is extremely important to win that Olympic medal! That will give publicity to the sport and will generate more interest. And that is good for the recreational sport too.

In addition, we need the support of sponsors. It makes a lot of sense to invest in canoeing, because our athletes have shown that they have tremendous drive. Despite the difficult circumstances, they decided to continue. Their love for the sport and their ambition are huge. They are fighters and go-getters. They inspire us every day and, hopefully, one of them will realize their Olympic dream in Rio!

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Telesport Scholarships
This interview was recently published in Telesport, a Dutch newspaper that is offering two scholarships – one for the Master in Sport Management and one for the Master in Coaching – for the 2016-17 academic year at Johan Cruyff Institute. By doing so, Telesport contributes to the mission of Johan Cruyff Institute to educate the next generation of leaders in sport management. Check it out by clicking here

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