A recent analysis of the past and current performances of the Australian, Belgian, German, Dutch and Spanish teams was conducted to provide more information on other factors for success.
The research was carried out by an organisation of Dutch hockey veterans, who wanted to understand why the Dutch team had failed to maintain the momentum of its performance in the late 1990s.
"The Dutch men’s team performed best in the period 1990-2000 and the association wanted to know why,” said research team member Erik Gerritsen, who takes over as new head of the KNHB in September. “So we decided to analyse the power inherent in the strongest European men’s teams over the past 20 years.”
All the national coaches approached cooperated with the investigation and shared their information. “We’ve analysed the facts and figures from all the games, looked at the scores, the way the match progressed and the make-up of the teams,” says Gerritsen. “We assessed the moment goals were scored and the effectiveness of corners. And then the coaches and former internationals also gave us their feedback on the statistics.”
When it comes to the statistics, the Netherlands would appear to have the best starting position in terms of its hockey infrastructure and facilities. The Netherlands has some 240,000 players, twice as many as Australia. The Netherlands has 800 artificial turf pitches, twice as many as Germany, which is next on the list.
The top layer of the sport in the Netherlands has a budget of €3.2 million, which is significant considering the geographical size. Germany, for example, has a budget of €3 million. Australia has the biggest budget at €4.8 million – but enormous problems to deal with in terms of the spread of the population.
Yet despite the facilities, the research made it clear that other factors are crucial in determining the likelihood of a given country winning a big event. The mental strength of a team, for example, is key. And the strength and speed of individual players plus the authority wielded by the coach are among the least important factors.
The statistics show that the German men’s team most often win big tournaments – four out of the last six - and that the matches they are victorious in are decided in the later stages. Australia, by contrast, is most effective at dealing with penalty corners – when looking at the combination of scoring and defending them.
The German team leads the way in terms of its mental strength and team make up. Australia was best in terms of the speed of its players and the authority of its coach. Spain, however, has been hit by the economic crisis. The budget for hockey has plummeted and this has impacted on its score in all the factors looked at. Belgium, on the other hand, is still developing and could be on the verge of a major breakthrough, the report said.
The Netherlands has not won a big tournament since the Olympic Games in 2000 and Gerritsen plans to use the results of the research to further strengthen the Dutch teams’ performance. “We are going to look at how we can learn from other countries and other sports,” he says. “Perhaps it is something to do with performance culture. The Dutch are pleased if we reach the final but the others strive to be number 1 every day.”
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