(Photo: Badminton Europe)
Jeroen van Dijk: I did not want to continue in badminton
Date: 9/27/2020 10:24 AM
Published by : Alan Raftery
Head Coach of Badminton Europe’s Centre of Excellence, Jeroen van Dijk, is a former elite player. Read a detailed account of his personal badminton journey. 

Jeroen van Dijk, born in Rotterdam in 1971, was one of Europe’s brightest players in the mid-nineties. The tall men’s singles player was a finalist at the 1992 Dutch Open and 1994 Canadian Open. He has three titles to his name, La Chaux-de-Fonds in 1993 and twice winning gold at the Amor Tournament in 1994 and 1996. 

This success culminated in him representing his country at the highest level in the sport. First, winning the bronze medal at the 1996 European Championships in Herning, Denmark. Then later that year competing at the 1996 Summer Olympics. He reached the second round, losing out to Malaysia’s Ong Ewe Hock, who in turn lost to the eventual gold medallist and current BWF President, Denmark’s Poul-Erik Høyer. A man who plays a key role in Van Dijk’s career later on! 

During a player’s career, with so much focus on training, it is often difficult to begin thinking about a post-badminton life. For Van Dijk, he had some support encouraging him to begin thinking about this a little earlier than normal.

- I was working with my psychologist and she made me think of what I would like to do after my playing career. While playing I was only focused on badminton and did not want to do something else. I barely did not finish school and was not studying. Which in hindsight was not so smart, so it was good that she made me aware that there is also life after badminton. I decided that I would like to be a coach. 

Take your time
Upon retirement from the sport, Van Dijk took his first steps into the other side of badminton. 

-She (psychologist) advised me to not immediately start on the high level but begin in a smaller club and follow coach education courses. Build yourself up as you have done as a player. Take your time and learn as much as you can.
In August 2000, the former Dutch international started to coach in Denmark, at Nivå- Kokkedal and juniors in Skovshoved badminton club and followed coach education courses organised by Badminton Denmark. At the same time, I was going to school in the morning to learn Danish. 

Then there was a significant moment in Jeroen van Dijk’s life, a fork in the road where he had to make a big decision as to which way to walk. 

-At the end of 2004, I was in the last year of high school and had basically decided that I did not want to continue in badminton and started to study mathematics but I got a call from Poul Erik Høyer asking me if I was interested in becoming a national coach in Germany. A difficult decision but I went to Germany and never regretted my decision.

We started with nothing 
In 2012, Van Dijk embarked on another change in career, when becoming the Development Manager at Badminton Europe. He was responsible for the implementation of all different development projects. Five years later, he accepted the role as Head Coach of the BEC Centre of Excellence (CoE) in Holbæk. Van Dijk was a key component of this project taking off. Sharing his memories of this transition, he says. 

-The first four months I was hardly in the hall. My time was spent on making the project work. I was working more as a manager then as a head coach. Slowly I came more and more into the hall to deliver sessions. From August 2019, the project had become so big that we decided that it would be better that I focus 100 per cent on coaching and leave the management to the office.

Recently, the CoE has celebrated it’s third birthday. Commenting on the changes he has witnessed in this time, Van Dijk states. 

-I do not think that we had one major advancement. It has been more a slow process where we have been able to improve the system all the time. You have to remember that we started with nothing. We got the players and federations interested, we found coaches, slowly improved the physio services, build up a testing program together with Stenhus, took on players from other continents training at the CoE through scholarships given by the BWF, organised women and men singles training camps, delivered coach and player pathway courses. All these steppingstones and teamwork has made the CoE what it is today.

The trajectory of the CoE is very promising. The awareness and prestige of the training set-up are developing strongly in Europe and beyond. Asking the Head Coach how does he envisage the CoE looking after the next three years. He responds by saying.

-In February last year we had so much interest from players to be part of the CoE that we hired extra rooms to accommodate everyone. We also, unfortunately, had to decline some players because of lack of space. And then COVID-19 hit, which has been challenging for us just like for everyone else. Now we have around 16 to 18 players on a daily basis in the sessions, so we are not at the level before the pandemic started. For the near future, it is our goal to come back to normal. In three years, I hope that the CoE is a centre that plays an important role in the development of European high performance.

Lastly, Van Dijk is in a role that is actively moulding the future of the sport. Giving a final comment to what legacy he wishes to leave with his work, he responds with a clear goal. 

-I hope that I have been able to create training environments where players would like to be and where they have been able to improve.

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