"There are just so many talented players there"
Erica Sanders joined #teamritual in 2016. She was a member of GB Hockey's centralised program from 2017-2019. After leaving the GB Hockey program in 2019, Erica began a different challenge and moved to Holland to play in the Hoofdklasse, for the 2020-21 season. We caught up with Erica to discuss her time in Holland and how her she is getting on living in a different country.
The move to Holland
"The biggest difference between playing in the Hoofdklasse and the English Premier League is really the depth of quality."
Playing in Holland is something I had wanted to do since a former teammate at Beeston HC, England, shared stories of her time playing in the Netherlands. I was 14 years old at the time. I remember her saying that if I ever had an opportunity to go, I should take it.
It was July 2020 when an old university teammate reached out and said her team, HDM, were looking for a forward to join them. I had lots of conversations with Dames 1 coach, Ivar Knötschke, as well as other members of the club. We agreed I would come out to The Hague at the end of July for the beginning of pre-season.
After being deselected from the GB women's centralised squad in December 2019, I was searching for a new challenge within hockey. Having played in the English Premier League since I was 15 years old—first for Beeston, then University of Birmingham and Surbiton—I thought the best way to continue to learn and improve as a player would be to seek an experience playing abroad. I was actually all set-up, flights booked, ready to go and play in Western Australia for a club in Perth, but COVID-19 restrictions quickly put an end to that!
The Hoofdklasse is widely regarded as the most competitive, highest-standard women's domestic league in the world. The biggest difference between playing in the Hoofdklasse and the English Premier League is really the depth of quality. There are just so many talented players there. The standard of basic skills and the breakneck pace also makes a big difference.
As I’m writing this, we’re sitting fourth in the league, having just beaten ladder-leaders Amsterdam. At the start of the season, our aim was to take the leap from the middle table, and start knocking on the door for a playoff spot. To achieve this, we have to keep improving, showing our quality against all the teams we come up against. There are no ‘easy’ games in this league, so we can’t afford to take our foot off the gas. The atmosphere around the club is really positive, which is especially important during the current circumstances. No-one knows quite how this season is going to play out.
Along with playing and training hard, I’m busy studying at Open University. I’m doing an Open BSc degree focused on environmental science and biology. I also coach an U14 girls team at the club and work part time at a logistics company. It’s pretty hectic!
I’m only seven months into my time here in the Netherlands, but my three tips for anyone thinking about playing abroad would be:
- If you’re thinking about it as a possibility, go for it! You can travel the world, make friends and experience totally different styles of hockey.
- Try and reach out to players, coaching staff or members of the club before you go. The hockey world is full of fantastic, kind and friendly people, so make the most of it.
- Finally, say yes to as much as possible. Push yourself outside your comfort zone. Whether that’s getting involved at the club with coaching or umpiring, or going to a social event where you don’t many people. It’s all good experience. On that note, practise drinking a pint as fast as possible—you never know when that will come in handy!
Erica Sanders, 2021