This past summer a Dutch sports promoter hosted an event for anyone interested to get acquainted with a few of Holland’s most authentic sports. Since soccer and speed skating are extremely popular in the Netherlands, it’s easy to forget there are really fun and typical Dutch sports out there.
With the landscape still wearing it’s morning dress I hoisted myself into a sports outfit, stepped into my car and drove to the event. So sit back, and enjoy my little adventure into the exhausting world of sports.The sports event was held at a vast meadow in the middle of nowhere. Parking was next to a small field, drenched with cow-droppings and from there it was a 15 minute walk to the ‘sports extravaganza’. When entering the area it became clear that the organisation had made some sort of obstacle course to optimise the experience of all sports. After collecting my shirt number (?) I went to the given spot to start my venture.
The first objective for any participant was to throw a soccer sized ball through a hoop-basket. The resemblance with modern-day basketball was undeniably there apart from the basket being an actual basket. Pop quiz; could this be the grandfather of basketball?
Anyway, the sport is called Korfbal, originates in Sweden as Ringboll and brought to the Netherlands in 1902 by Dutch teacher Nico Broekhuysen.
Ringboll was played with nothing more than a steel ring on a pole where a ball had to be thrown into. Replacing the steel ring with a bottomless wicker basket introduced the birth of Korfbal.
Nice detail derived from Ringboll: the game is a truly mixed team sport.
After a mere seventeen tries (yes, I am that good) the ball went through the basket and I was allowed to enter the next phase of my sports-journey. For that I was given a small leaded (not leather) ball with a diameter of about 7 centimeters. The purpose was to throw the ball as far as I could over a predefined route. The goal: to reach the finish line with as little throws as possible. Aha, the use of a meadow started to make sense now.
The sport I was playing is called Klootschieten (Ball shooting) and the little ball is called the Kloot. This sport is very popular in parts of the Netherlands and Germany. Originally klootschieten resembled golf where predefined targets were to be hit with as few throws as possible.
Anyway, about 35 minutes later — after having lost my ball at least four times — I finally reached the finish line, being pretty sure I would not receive a medal for my achievements. Not that it mattered because I was actually having fun.
Up until now I was feeling quite content with myself but that was about to change. As before me was a huge obstacle; a three meter wide ditch and not a single bridge in sight. Turned out the ditch was part of Dutch sport number three; Fierljeppen.
Fierljeppen (plural) is a Frisian word and with Frisian language close to English you get ‘Fier’ = ‘far’ and ‘ljep’ = ‘leap’. So Fierljeppen means far leaping and that is exactly what it is. Take a big stick (a pole) and try to leap as far as possible.
For the final sports introduction a hardened leather glove was handed together with a very small ball, almost the same size as the kloot. The ball was made of leather (not leaded) and weighed about 24 grams.
Together with two other participants I found myself standing on one end of a 61 by 32 meter playing field. Luckily having a quizzical look helped, because it didn’t take long for a big fellow to come over and explain to us what we were supposed to do.
Now don’t think Kaatsen is named after an undecided score. In Dutch the word kaatsen means ‘to return’ and that is what the name relates to. Modern day tennis bears a lot of resemblance to Kaatsen, which is not surprising since tennis and Kaatsen share the same grandmother: a French game called ‘jeu de paume‘.
Thinking back to that day I can’t help but smile for it sure was fun. The organisation was great, with each sport having their own stand with information and application forms. Along the course food and drink stands were cleverly positioned for everyone to relax. And so together with high-spirited volunteers and enthusiastic spectators made this an amazing event worth repeating.
After all, Dutch sports can use the extra spotlight.
Leaves me with answering only one question; what’s the story on the shirt number? To be honest, I don’t know and I didn’t ask when returning my number. Remind me to ask them next time.
Then I woke up; Sweating.
Turned out it was all a dream.