Before the birds were even thinking about stirring from their cosy nests on the morning of 21 October, 29 bleary-eyed Upper School girls and 3 staff boarded the bus for their long anticipated hockey tour to Rotterdam, Holland. Spirits were not dampened by the long journey and excited conversation (and questionable singing!) kept everyone going to Dover, on the ferry and through parts of France and Belgium before we alighted at our lovely, welcoming hotel.
Not a moment was to be wasted and, after settling into our rooms, our tour representative, Evelyn, whisked us off to the first training session at Rotterdam Hockey Club. Founded in 1925 the club is the largest in Holland with over 2000 members, including a number of international athletes who play for the men’s side. The club was met with gasps from our girls who were impressed with the number of floodlit pitches on offer, the size of the clubhouse and the vast array of bicycles parked outside! We were also surprised to learn that Dutch children don’t often learn to play hockey at school; the majority play club hockey after school. Sure enough, over the coming days we often saw tens of boys and girls arriving on their bikes after school, one hand on the handlebars, the other clutching their hockey sticks, cycling eagerly to the club for another training session!
Our session was run by two of the club’s youth side and the girls relished this opportunity to stretch both their legs and their skills – lifting balls over planks of wood, spinning with the ball and tackling at speed. Back at the hotel, the girls enjoyed the first of many fantastic feasts there – the selection of food on offer was vast and suited every taste; just what the doctor ordered for a team of hungry athletes!
Day two saw a rather different focus: sheer fun and indulgence! Efteling Theme park provided everything the girls could want in terms of adrenalin and excitement. Wearing their orange hoodies and fuelled by sugary treats, the girls raced off to various rides in small groups, trying everything from the gentler pirate ship to the hideous thrill of the newest ride which suspends you for an agonising three seconds before plunging you into a seemingly bottomless hole at 90km per hour! Not to be outdone, Mrs Simpson, Dr. Gilmour and Miss Massey tried most of the rides too; it was difficult to tell who was more terrified!
That night, after a brilliant evening of bowling at Bowling Dok 99, it was hard to wipe the Prep for The Week Issue Number 1843 18 November 2016 10 smiles off everyone’s faces as we crawled happily into bed ready for whatever the next day would bring. The sun shone on Sunday for an action-packed day of fixtures against the local Dutch club teams. After initial nerves, both teams played with skill and confidence and emerged victorious, Team A with a 5-0 win and Team B with an impressive 11-1 result. The afternoon’s action was probably the highlight for many of the girls: watching Rotterdam HC’s Men’s 1st XI play a match against a local side. The stands were absolutely packed with friends, families and supporters and the DJ really got the crowd going with songs and shout-outs, including one to the Cheltenham Prep girls! The speed of the men’s hockey was unbelievable and their level of skill, ball control and teamwork was out of this world. Rotterdam HC won their match and even signed autographs for our girls afterwards. Much to our delight, two of the team (Simon Egerton and Blair Tarrant) led our training session the following day.
The penultimate day of the tour allowed us some time to explore Rotterdam with a quick trip to the gift shop, a boat trip on the Rhine-Maas-Delta and the opportunity to learn about the largest port in Europe. The last matches of the tour were played that evening under floodlights, a new experience for us all! It was fantastic to see so many of the girls putting into practice what they had been learning in training sessions and mimicking the skills and team work they had seen in the men’s hockey match. Team B fought valiantly against a tough opposition and sustained a 2-0 loss while Team A continued their winning streak, coming away with a 4-0 victory.
The next day, after one final, excellent coaching session from two of the senior men’s team players, we reluctantly boarded the coach for a weary but happy day of travelling back to the UK. The Cheltenham Prep girls excelled themselves on the tour; they proved themselves to be hugely caring and supportive of each other both on and off the pitch, and were fantastic ambassadors for the school. The amount they learned in terms of hockey is still evident on the pitches back home – come and see for yourselves!