After another great breakfast at our beachside hotel, we hugged goodbye our seniors who were on their way back to Lewisburg for graduation a day before the rest of us. These goodbyes were particularly meaningful for those that would not be at graduation on Sunday, as they represented real goodbyes to people we weren't sure when we would see again. They all promised to keep in touch with us, and I have no doubt they'll be cheering for us on the sideline next fall and on the field for alumni games down the road, but we all feel a strong emotional bond with this class. Waving goodbye was not easy.
The rest of the day was our first real free day, and the team spent it doing something they'd been sneaking into 15-20 minute blocks between events so far on the trip… shopping. We traveled together by tram downtown, popped into a square in the middle of their parliament where that group was actually in the process of meeting to elect a leader for the whole country. We did a little Dutch civics lesson, then went our separate ways. Den Haag's city center provides miles of pedestrian-only shopping, kind of like a gigantic open air mall with 16th century buildings , creating space for modern fashions alongside some random stores like “America Today,” featuring really skinny but longer cutoff jean shorts (for men.) After a lot of exploring of the town in small groups, we met back at the hotel for a short drive to Hockey Club Klein Switzerland for the last match of the trip. We rerouted slightly to pass by the infamous prison here, home to anyone incarcerated by the World Criminal Court.
The game was absolutely wonderful, perhaps the best competition we've faced here, which brought out our best performance as well. The game was against their first women's team, with an age range of 18 to mid 30's, many of which had been playing together for years at the club. It was an incredibly positive experience for all of us, as the style of hockey at KZ really showed the difference of what it means to grow up in that environment, on turf, with a club structure that promotes hockey in the best possible way. The difference between our scholastic based programs, and their family-centered setup was very evident at each club we visited. As many as four generations of hockey players were in the club houses after games. “Smaller” clubs like KZ still have four field hockey specific turf fields, all of which were in full use during our few hours there, by teams of teenagers or teams of retirees, all of which met us in the clubhouse afterwards to hang out. A fraternity/sorority for all ages, with the common focus being on hockey, that holds competitions, social events and celebrations, and provides a focal point for the community to come together every weekend to play, cheer for family and friends, and just socialize.
I am extremely grateful that we had the opportunity to spend quality time together on this trip, and had the opportunity to introduce our students to these cultural differences in how their society views sport and community. Everything on this trip is a positive memory for me, some for myself, but more so in getting to hear and see reactions from the students. The passion that Renee and Bob Drake share for their dream, the history behind the Anne Frank house and her story, cycling through long canals to experience the Kinderdijk windmills, dancing in wooden clogs, Dutch cuisine, a morning of sharing our passion with some little kids, and the hockey club lifestyle, popularity, and strength of the Dutch game in general, were all big highlights for me. I can't express thanks enough to everyone who made the trip possible!