Out of a total population of around 16m people, nearly 5m are registered sports club members so you can safely conclude that the Dutch are sports-mad. To accommodate all these (often fanatical) members, there are thousands of organisations, ranging from national sports authorities down to the innumerable, grass-roots, local clubs.
From a young age, children join sports clubs as schools do not really cater for organised sport. Parents should bear in mind that enrolling children at such clubs is not cheap but it will give you and your children access to a wide range of local social networks and contacts.
Of course, with this social access come club duties. Members are tacitly expected to help out with barwork, catering, cleaning or training, for example. Besides the sport, there are usually social events and to run all this activity, there is an almost trade union-like hierarchy, with no shortage of committees and office-bearers who manage the club and take care of official matters.
The Dutch sports psyche
It is no coincidence that many recent technological advances in the ‘science’ of sport (video analysis, match statistics, medical monitoring etc) were either thought up or tested in Holland. Dutch sports fans and players are fascinated by the techniques of their particular sport and are happier discussing detailed skills or strategies rather than ‘passion’ or ‘temperament’.
This rather calvinistic, practical approach helps whenever the national teams do badly. The Dutch prefer to wipe the slate clean and start planning for the next big event rather than waste time on self-reproach and regrets. On balance and in their favour, it must be said they are more successful across a broad range of sports than they ought to be for such a small country.
The number one sport for both players and spectators is football, which is hardly surprising in the country of Johan Cruyff, Marco van Basten and Ruud Gullit. The big three football clubs in recent years have been Ajax Amsterdam, Rotterdam Feyenoord and PSV Eindhoven. Ajax and Feyenoord in particular have suffered from hooligan elements, though nowadays this aspect has almost disappeared from the national team support.
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