THE DUTCH HAVE NEVER BEEN strong in sports that require them to
stride up or down hills, such as cross-country running or pitching
perfect games. Indeed, they haven't been a world power in much of
anything since the 17th century, when they swapped New York for
Suriname and a few islands in the West Indies. But now and again they
excel at flatland events: Speed skater Yvonne van Gennip won three
gold medals in Calgary, and the national soccer team took the
European championship this summer. And, for the last 12 years, the
Dutch have been beating the socks off almost everyone they've played
in women's field hockey, a sport most Americans tend to rank with
quoits and floribunda rose competitions. Holland's women have won
seven of the last 10 World Cups, and they are heavy favorites to
repeat as gold medalists in Seoul. ''As conquerors, we are not like
the early Dutch imperialists,'' says Det de Beus, a history student
widely acknowledged as the alltime best female goalie. ''They were
not very kind to the native peoples they enslaved. Our approach is
much more professional.''
As in young upwardly mobile professional. The team includes an
architect, a doctor, a lawyer and half a dozen physiotherapists --
all 20 to 30 years old. To make the team, they had to work their way
up through the pyramidal structure of Dutch field hockey, which
includes 322 clubs and 9,000 teams for men and women that play every
weekend from the beginning of May through August.
Tuesday is traditionally the big night for field hockey practice
in the Netherlands, and the whole country, it seems, shows up. ''The
hockey club is the family,'' says women's national coach Gijs van
Heumen. ''Little children go to the clubs because their parents play.
The sport is almost 100 years old here. We have a tradition.''
The women players train in the Amsterdam suburb of Amstelveen, but
unlike many of their competitors, they don't live together. ''After
practice, everybody goes home,'' says left wing Sophie von Weiler.
''If we had to train together for two months, we might strangle each
The teams from other countries, such as West Germany, are often
subsidized by their governments, but the Dutch don't get as much as a
free tulip. In fact, they even have to pay their own club fees, which
average around $150 a year.
What makes them so dominant in the sport, says Van Heumen, is the
fact that so many clubs have artificial turf, which allows players to
refine their ball handling technique and play a defensive game built
on patience and discipline.
Van Heumen's father, Wim, was one of the first Dutch coaches to
take full advantage of playing on artificial turf. Known as the
Hockey Professor, he pioneered the chip shot and skippered a national
men's team to fourth place at the 1976 Games in Montreal.
) Gijs shares his father's creative bent. ''He's always
inventing something new,'' says midfielder Carina Benninga. In a
recent exhibition against the U.S. in the Netherlands, Van Heumen
tried different alignments, including one with four forwards, instead
of his customary three. The Americans were totally klonked in a 5-0
Van Heumen talks like a canalside whittler carving a model boat:
slow and easy, spreading around a lot of chips as he works. ''The
strength of this team is that the players are always talking about
'we,' '' he says. ''You'll never hear from one of the girls, 'I.' ''
At a recent practice the players listened politely as Van Heumen
briefed them on a new strategy. They sat in rows in their pleated
blue skirts and orange T-shirts, stiff and upright as monuments in
Vondel Park. The Dutch keep their emotions sealed up like a chunk of
Gouda in a coating of wax. But that reserved exterior can be
misleading. As De Beus puts it, ''Our professionalism is sometimes
taken for arrogance.''
The Dutch do have a light side. Team captain Marjolein
Bolhuis-Eysvogel wears a sweatshirt that bears the legend HOCKEY DO
JE MET 'N STOKKIE (''You play hockey with a stick''). That's one of
those rollicking Dutch jokes that seems to lose something in the
''When somebody is acting very warhoofdig,'' says
Bolhuis-Eysvogel, ''everyone will tell her she's a warhoofd.'' As in
She says the team's most warhoofdig player is midfielder Martine
Ohr. When somebody once suggested that the team go to a 24-hour
restaurant, she responded, ''Is it open at night?''
During a tour of the Far East this year, the players collected
acorns, or eikels, in Australia. Since eikel is also slang for
warhoofd, they designated a certain player eikel of the day. When
they got to Korea, one player after another filed into the hotel room
of team trainer Bob van der Kamp, feigning food poisoning. Dr. Bob,
as he is called, was so distressed that he consulted the coach. But
he pretended to be sick, too. Whereupon the entire team burst into
the room and bestowed the daily eikel on Dr. Bob.
In practice the goalies look as if they're suffering from a dread
disease: Modern goaltending demands that they spend most of their
time lying down in front of the cage, blocking shots with their
bodies. De Beus submits to this style reluctantly. ''I'm an
old-fashioned girl,'' she says. ''I like to stop balls with my legs
and reflexes. Most goalies now play kamikaze.''
< Other countries often play defense as if they were engaged in
a knife fight, with players circling forward, then pouncing for a rip
of flesh. The Dutch disdain this mandekking style of play. ''Our
defenders just try to take away the ball,'' says center-back Anneloes
Nieuwenhuizen. ''Defenders from other countries take not only the
ball, but our player.''
The Dutch expect to see a lot of mandekking in Seoul from teams
trying to unseat them. ''We're still world and Olympic champions,''
says Von Weiler. ''That's what we must fight all the time: to be the
winner in advance.''
But Van Heumen is not worried, and Nieuwenhuizen says, ''To win a
second gold medal will be a real treat.'' Holland is going to Seoul
to play, and as the competition will learn, a Dutch treat is not a