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Field Hockey

What is the difference between (college) field hockey in America and (club) hockey in the Netherlands?

Many Dutch female hockey players choose to play hockey and study in America. But what is the difference between playing hockey in the Netherlands and in America? What can you expect in terms of level, competition structure, and facilities? In this blog, we will delve deeper into this topic.

Written by

Lars Blenckers

Continue reading because in this blog you will learn all about:

  • The comparison of the hockey system
  • The difference in level between the Netherlands and America
  • Difference in age class (18-23 in America vs. Youth and Seniors in NL)
  • Difference in competition structure
  • Difference in facilities and funding
  • Why international hockey players come to America

The field hockey system in America compared to the Netherlands: College Hockey vs. Club Hockey

In the United States and the Netherlands, the structures and approaches to hockey are significantly different, mainly due to the differences in how sports and education are integrated. In this article, we particularly compare college hockey in America with club hockey in the Netherlands.

College Hockey in America

In the United States, college hockey is an important part of the university sports program. This system is unique in how it combines sports and education, allowing student-athletes to compete at a high level while also pursuing a full academic education.

University teams, especially at the Division 1 level, often offer sports scholarships to talented players, which is a major attraction for both domestic and international players.

Here you can read more about how college hockey in America works and here you can read more about hockey scholarships at American universities.

Club Hockey in the Netherlands

Contrary to America, where sports and education often go hand in hand, hockey and study in the Netherlands are largely separate. Hockey in the Netherlands is primarily played in clubs. These clubs offer players of all ages the opportunity to train and participate in competitions. The Dutch club system is very well developed, with competitions at various levels, from local clubs to the highest national competition, the Hoofdklasse.

Dutch hockey clubs have a strong focus on developing technical skills and tactical insight from a young age. Players often go through the entire system within the same club, from the youth teams to the first team. This creates a strong bond with the club and continuity in the development of players.

In contrast to the American system, where players often are part of a team for a limited period, players in the Netherlands can spend their entire hockey career at the same club.

Club Hockey in America

While college hockey is dominant in the sports culture of the US, there is also club hockey, especially at high schools and some universities. However, after high school and university, there is less structure and attention for club hockey compared to the Netherlands.

This is partly due to the greater emphasis on other sports such as basketball, American football, and baseball in American sports culture..

College Field Hockey game in the USA: UPenn vs Georgetown

How can I compare the level of Dutch club hockey (seniors) with American college hockey?

The comparison between Dutch senior-level club hockey and American college hockey, particularly in NCAA Division 1, offers interesting insights into the similarities and differences in playing level and development opportunities for players.

Similarities at the Top Level

The top of the NCAA Division 1 closely resembles senior hockey in the Netherlands. This is largely due to many of the best young Dutch female players, coming from top girls' A-teams or from the Hoofdklasse and Promotieklasse, choosing to play in the United States. These players bring a high level of technical skill and tactical insight, contributing to the quality of college hockey.

A striking example is Iris Langejans, who gained experience at SCHC in the Dutch Hoofdklasse and then became a top player at Rutgers University in the NCAA, where she was even named the best player in the Big Ten Conference.

Differences in Level Within NCAA Division 1

Although there are similarities between the top of NCAA Division 1 and Dutch senior hockey, there is a significant difference in level among the various teams within the NCAA. Not all Division 1 teams have the same quality of players or the same level of competitiveness. This difference in level is also visible between the different divisions within the NCAA, with a generally higher level in Division 1 compared to Division 2 and Division 3.

Scholarships and Playing Level

For Dutch players who want to secure a large scholarship at a top team in the United States, it is often a requirement to be among the better players of their generation in the Netherlands. This indicates that American universities are looking for talent capable of competing at a high level. 

However, for players just below this top level, there are also opportunities at lower-ranked NCAA Division 1 teams or in the Division 2 competition, where the requirements might be slightly lower, but where there is still a high degree of competition and development opportunities.

Difference in Playing Styles

When looking at the level difference between American and Dutch hockey, we see two different playing styles, each with their unique strengths and weaknesses.

Physical Intensity of American Field Hockey

American field hockey, especially at the college level, is known for its physical intensity and athletic style of play. Players in the United States are often trained with an emphasis on physical strength, speed, and endurance. This focus on athleticism leads to a fast, powerful playing style that is impressive in terms of physical performance.

Teams in NCAA Division 1 are often composed of athletes who excel in these physical aspects of the game, resulting in a very competitive and dynamic competition.

Technique and Tactics of Dutch Hockey

In contrast to the American style, Dutch hockey is known for its technical ability and tactical intelligence. Dutch players start developing their technical skills at a young age, and this is further refined through years of training in a club environment.

The emphasis in the Netherlands is on ball handling, positional play, and smart tactical moves.

Dutch Club Hockey in the Hoofdklasse

Difference in Age Class: 18-23 in America vs. Youth and Seniors in the Netherlands

A notable difference between the American and Dutch hockey systems is the division into age categories. This difference has a significant impact on player development and team dynamics.

Age Class in American College Field Hockey (18-23)

In the United States, the focus of hockey is mainly at the college level, where players are between 18 and 23 years old. This age group coincides with a student's university years. College hockey in America offers a unique combination of sports and education, where young athletes have the opportunity to grow both academically and athletically. The limited age class means that teams often consist of players who are in the same phase of life, which can lead to strong team cohesion.

An important aspect of this age structure is the relatively short period in which players are part of a team. This results in a constant flow of talent but also challenges in terms of team continuity and development.

Youth and Seniors in Dutch Club Hockey

In the Netherlands, hockey is played in a club system, with a clear separation between youth and senior teams. Youth hockey is divided into different age categories, from young children to the A-youth (up to 18 years old). 

After youth, players move to the senior teams, where there is no upper age limit. This allows for greater diversity within teams, where young talents can play alongside experienced older players.

Difference in Competition Structure between America and the Netherlands

The setup and structuring of hockey competitions in America and the Netherlands show clear differences, especially in terms of the season, the frequency of matches, and the intensity of the competition.

Hockey Season in America

In the United States, the college hockey season takes place in the fall, from August to November. This period coincides with the fall semester at universities, which facilitates the combination of sports and studies.

The competition is relatively short but intense, with teams often playing two matches a week, usually on Friday and Sunday.

Full Year of Competition in the Netherlands

In the Netherlands, on the other hand, the hockey season extends over a longer period, usually from August to June, with a winter break. In Dutch competitions, teams typically play one match per week.

Difference in Facilities and Funding between America and the Netherlands

The difference in available facilities and funding for hockey in America and the Netherlands is significant and has a major impact on the experience and development of players.

Facilities in US College Field Hockey

In the United States, the facilities and resources available to college hockey teams are often of high quality. Many universities invest significantly in their sports programs, with advanced training facilities, high-quality playing fields, and extensive support services such as physiotherapy, nutritional advice, and strength and conditioning training. These resources reflect the culture of college sports in America, where sports are an important part of university life.

The budgets for college sports teams in the US are often substantial, with some programs spending millions of dollars per year.

This allows teams to access the best equipment, facilities, and coaching, which is an important factor in attracting talent, both nationally and internationally.

University of Michigan Field Hockey Facilities

Facilities in Dutch Club Hockey

In the Netherlands, the facilities and resources for hockey clubs are also of good quality, but the scale and budget can vary significantly from what is available in American college sports. Dutch clubs often rely on membership fees, sponsorships, and local support, which can lead to less consistent investments in facilities and resources compared to American universities.

Although many top clubs in the Netherlands have excellent fields and training facilities, the overall budget for these clubs is often lower than that of American college teams.

Why Many International Female Hockey Players Come to America to Play Hockey and Study

The attraction of America for international female hockey players, who choose to play hockey and study there, is due to a combination of unique opportunities offered by the American college system.

Combination of Sport and Education

One of the biggest advantages of the American college system is the opportunity to combine top-level sports with a high-quality academic education. This offers athletes the chance to develop both athletically and intellectually, which is an attractive option for young players who want to continue their hockey career without neglecting their education.

Sports Scholarships

Many universities in the US offer sports scholarships, which alleviate the financial burden of education and provide access to excellent facilities and coaching. These scholarships are very attractive to international players, giving them the chance to study and play in a new and challenging environment.

High Quality of Training and Competition

The quality of training and competition in American college hockey is a major draw. With access to top coaches, advanced training facilities, and a competitive league, players can significantly develop their skills.

Cultural and Personal Development

Studying and playing in another country also offers valuable cultural and personal experiences. International female hockey players have the opportunity to meet new people, experience different cultures, and build an independent life, contributing to their personal growth.

Professional and Career Opportunities

In addition to the athletic and academic benefits, playing in the US also offers opportunities for professional development and future career prospects. The experience and skills gained by players during their time in America can be valuable in their future careers, both within and outside of sports.

UNC wins the National Championship
UNC wins the National Championship

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