Dutch National Coach Sjef Van Der Heijden steps down after
these championships, but yesterday's final pool stage marked his
400th match in charge of a National Team at various levels. We just
had to have a chat with him, didn't we ...
did it all start ?
I was appointed on 17th September 1994, the first match I took
charge of was in April 1995 at the European Teams in Tel Aviv.
And 400 matches since then, there must be some memorable ones?
Yes, at senior and junior levels I've taken Dutch teams to 41
countries over 15 years.
Highlights will include the European U19s 1998 in Belgium. That was
a special tournament, Tommy Berden became the individual champion
beating Ben Garner, Adrian Grant and Nick Matthew, a whole England
team! We had two 11-year-old girls so the pressure was all on the
boys and we still made the final with our number two beating Gregory
Then in 2003 Dylan won it, beating Delasaux in the final, and we
were three points away from the team title when Orla Noom was 2-1
and 6-3 up against Suzie Pierrepont.
Last year's European Teams was special of course, the semi-final
went to 2-all, 6-all, 76-all. Dylan knew how many points he could
afford to lose and did it to perfection!
Any special tours?
We had two tours to South Africa, playing 'test series' which were
wonderful. Technically they were unofficial, but it's never a
friendly when you've got Holland on your back. We played those
matches with both national anthems sung before a crowd of 400,
Natalie Grainger and her mother were here, and the atmosphere was
electric. That's the mentality I wanted to instil into my squad.
Any thoughts on the Federation, and a successor?
The Federation have always been good to me in supporting all the
ideas I've had, even when some of them appeared daft at the outset,
but they always helped me push things through.
The players' choice would be Lucas Buit and I think he'd be a great
choice. The worst thing in the world would be to be a coach who knew
he didn't have the players behind him.
Everything I know as a coach came from Jonah Barrington. We were
lucky to have him as National Coach for three years in the early
90s, and he immediately installed me as his assistant. I learned so
much from him, but most of all his passion for the game. When you
travel you realise what he means to the game, you go to a club in,
say Nairobi, and there he is on the wall.
He gave me belief that Holland should be coached by Dutch people,
and I trust and hope that I lived up to his belief in me.
So now you're moving on?
Yes, everything changed in my life in 2007. I bought a second club
and I was away from them for too long, I couldn't enjoy the trips as
much as I should have, there were too many other things on my mind.
When you have two clubs, 23 courts, gym, aerobics and 28 people
working for you it's always on your mind, and so it should be.
I always thought that if you can't give 110% you should be honest to
yourself and the federation. At this moment I'm not the right
person, but standing down was the most difficulty decision I've
taken in a decade and a half. It's always been a privilege to hold
this position and I always said if I couldn't do it properly I'd
This is a great one to go out on though, n your own country, your
own club - if I didn't own other clubs this would be my club -
reaching 400 matches and hopefully being on the podium, it couldn't
be better than this.