The pressures of managing the Dutch hockey teams were laid bare by Alyson Annan, the great Australian now in charge of the women’s side, on the eve of their clash against England here.
At last summer’s Olympics, Annan “blacked out” during the semi-final win over Germany and believed the match had another quarter to run, when in fact the players had to tell their coach it was going to a shoot-out.
Then, following the epic shoot out defeat to Team GB in Rio, Annan was pictured alone in the dugout, seemingly in a stunned trance, as the Netherlands lost their bid for a third straight Olympic gold.
“There were 10 or 15 seconds where I had a black out [in the semi-final],” Annan told The Hockey Paper before these EuroHockey Championships.
“I looked at the clock and it said the fourth quarter counting down. And I looked at the team and they were ready for me to say something.
“There were whole different aspects into the confusion and under the pressure. I hadn’t drank enough water and there were 10 seconds before I realised that we had another quarter.”
Annan took the women’s role after Dutch hockey reviewed their shoot out defeat to England at the 2015 EuroHockey in London.
The call to Annan, regarded as one of the greatest women players of all time, came nine months before the Olympics.
“It was certainly a challenge,” said Annan, who saw five Dutch players retire post Rio (including Maartje Paumen, Naomi van As and Ellen Hoog). “You know it will be hard. It’s a position and a chance that you take.”
There will be an expectant nation in place on Thursday night following the Dutch soccer team’s win over England at Euro 2017 in Holland – exactly three weeks’ ago – and a colourful, euphoric city parade down the canals following their title win.
She added: “There is most defintely major expectation to succeed. Hockey is one of the major sports in Holland. There is always pressure and that is something I wasn’t really aware of before this position.”
Annan retired from the Hockeyroos in 2000 and moved to Holland where she took up a club coaching role.
That has included bringing up her two children in Dutch culture. “Our oldest loves hockey and the yougnest hates it and wants to play football,” she says.
She soon started work at the Cruyff Institute, set up by the late Dutch football legend Johann Cruyff, where she helped to manage athletes combine sport and study.
Lured back to hockey and with fresh purpose, she returned to club hockey and coaching in Amsterdam before the national call came.
“It’s been a year and a half now,” she added. “We don’t have a programme like England or Australia where we train daily and weekly. At this stage and the time we’ve had to mould ourselves we are now a good team.
“We still need more time to get it right. At this stage, we’re exactly where we want to be at given the time and preparation we’ve had together.”