European Team Championships 2008  

EuroTeams Snippets                         Joey gets the call
Sjef stepping down

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 ...

When 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 Gaultier.

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.

Particular influences?

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 step aside.

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.

Joey gets the England Call

Framboise asks England debutant Joey Barrington how he fees about being called into the England squad.

You've been waiting a very long time for this,
how did you feel when you got the news?

I'm so proud to play for my country and I feel that the news had a greater effect on me than others, as I started playing squash so late and never represented England as a junior. Unlike the other countries the strength in depth of the players is so apparent so it's even more of an achievement to be selected.

I had a few calls from the other English players expressing there congrats and welcoming me into the team. That to me was very special.

What do you think made the difference this year? And how did the fact you lost the Lottery money helped you in a way to give it a last push? Or not?

I have been very consistent with my ranking the last two years and I had been playing my best squash to date. Just before Xmas I produced a string of good results in all the big tourneys. My game is developing all the time, of course you have some minor blips along the way but that's all part of the professional game, for me its the improvement as a squash player that's important and the results follow. I started to find more form again at Canary Wharf and I feel that reinforced the selectors' views. Unlike the other countries the strength in depth in players is so apparent in England

The lottery /world performance program is a fantastic set up for the pro players, you have some of the best coaching, physio and support for flights, so when I lost it for 6 months after having my best result (beating Lee Beechill in Saudi, Dec 2006) and reaching my highest ranking of 24 it was very frustrating . But I realised had to change and rectify few things, which I did, and I was put back on in June 2007. It's been excellent for me ever since.

What did your mum and dad say ?

My mother is a bit more emotional to me than my father so she was over the moon, my dad is exceedingly happy for me, although I tend to find out about this from all the people he has told!

What are your expectations on that tournament?

England have always been the dominant force in team squash in Europe and although on the world scene Egypt come out top on paper, the English team spirit and support has been unique and enabled them to win world championships.

No other country has what England have, that's why we have been so successful. I can't wait to be part of this and I just want to do myself and the team proud, win my matches and support the other guys.

Any final comments?

I just wanted to say that I feel I really deserve this opportunity to represent my country and I want to thank the players and selectors for having faith and confidence in me as a new addition to the team.

My mother represented Great Britain and England as an athlete and my father represented Great Britain and Ireland as a player so it's even more special for me to join them with this accolade!

As Joey prepared for the match, National Coach David Pearson told him that no-one had ever lost a pool match on their England debut - no pressure, then !!!

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