Our training sessions were led by Dutch field hockey players and perhaps most importantly, male Dutch field hockey players, a surprising sight in a sport that Americans know to be primarily female dominated. Side note: literally every single person in the Netherlands is gorgeous, male or female. I have no idea what they put in the water over there but if I can bottle it and sell it, I’ll be able to skip college and buy my own island. The players would alternate between running drills and teaching us tricks with our sticks that were super cool but semi-illegal in American high school field hockey; a crowd favorite being popping the ball up with your stick and then hitting it out of the air like a baseball, a move that would almost certainly earn you a yellow card from any American referee. We would alternate between learning these cool new tricks and drooling over players like Daniel, our tour guide’s brother, who not only plays professional field hockey on one of the top teams in the Netherlands, but also moonlights as a male model.
Our tourist activities varied depending on the day, from checking out cool architecture in Rotterdam, to walking around Den Hague, to visiting the Anne Frank House and shopping in Amsterdam. One highlight was the bike tour of Den Hague, which is very biker friendly for the most part, but not necessarily for a large group of Americans who have not ridden bikes in a while. While scenic, this ride was far from the relaxing excursion we had envisioned, as we had to do our very best to make sure the fairly aggressive Dutch bikers and Vespa drivers did not run us off of the road. Seeing as we also had members of our group who had never ridden a bike before, this adventure made for some mildly traumatic experiences but a good story.
While our daily activities were entertaining, the most interesting part of our stay in the Netherlands was our interaction with the Dutch teams we played. Each night, we would play two games against these girls, whose command of the game blew us away. Their stick skills and game sense were amazing, and no matter how hard we tried to cover them all, someone was always open for the pass. The power behind their hits and sweeps was also impressive, and we had to quickly adjust to playing on water-based turf rather than the much slower turf of the NCS fields. After each match, we would eat dinner with the Dutch girls and talk to them about life in the Netherlands versus life in the United States. It was from these conversations that we learned that most of these girls had been playing field hockey their entire lives, as the culture surrounding the sport is parallel to that of youth soccer in the United States, whereas the earliest any NCS girl had started playing was in seventh grade. The girls were very nice and very curious about the differences between their lives and the lives of American teenagers and it was so fascinating to get to talk to them. We found that we shared many similarities, such as music taste and a passion for social media.
From Amsterdam, we flew to Reykjavik, Iceland for the second part of our trip. This was easily one of the coolest places most of us had ever been. We spent an entire day touring the island and learning about its history and its culture. We hiked a glacier, we visited a black sand beach, we got to walk behind a waterfall, and we got to look around Reykjavik itself. The highlight of the trip for me was our visit to the Blue Lagoon, a geothermal spa. We got to swim in the water and cover our bodies with the provided silica mud mask, which does wonders for your skin.
The trip was an amazing experience and I got to travel to two new places while also playing field hockey and growing closer with my team, creating memories that I will treasure forever.