How Belgian Hockey Players Fund Their Passion
Over the past ten years hockey in Belgium has gotten much more professional. The Belgium national team finished the 2008 Olympics with a disappointing 9th place finish. With the explosion of the sport, Belgium was able to revamp the program in only two olympic cycles to bring home the Silver from the 2016 Rio Olympics. Feeding off their upward trajectory, Belgium is hoping for the gold at the 2018 Hockey World Cup in Bhubaneswar, India.
As the National Team has success at the international level, the resources and funding to the players have expanded greatly. Nonetheless, the Belgium players often venture into unconventional careers. A typical corporate job doesn’t always give National Team players the flexibility needed for their commitment to the team, so they branch into unique careers. Belgium’s success as a team goes beyond the pitch.
Giving back to the hockey community.
Many of the Belgian National Team members are capitalizing on the exponential, international growth of hockey. Many aim to give back to young hockey players in Belgium and throughout Europe. Thomas Briels, a three-time olympian who is sponsored by Oskaka Hockey, Aupin BE, Gripp Sports, has done just that. He started Thomas Briel Camps to coach Beligian youngsters and earn some extra cash. Tom Boon–a National Team player sponsored by Mercedes Benz, Nocco, Peak Performance, and Thruso Hockey–also started his own set of hockey camps around Europe.
Making a living.
Uru sat down with Belgian player Nicolas de Kerpel, sponsored by Gryphon Hockey, to discover what he and his teammates sacrifice to succeed at the game they love:
Is your National Team self-funded? Do you get paid to play on the National Team or from your club?
“I am funded in three ways: 1. National team 2. Club 3. Personal sponsor (Gryphon) In national team it depends on the caps you have… the more caps, the bigger the salary. The national team is funded by the state and by the clubs, which pay a certain amount for each player they have”
What it means to play for the National Team.
What sacrifices have you made to pursue playing on the National Team?
“I made a lot of sacrifices as you can see… in terms of my personal life, it’s not always easy to put a professional career on hold or to spend a lot of time away from family.
In terms of physical sacrifices, we began preparation for this world cup we started our program on the 1st of August. We trained from Monday-Thursday with the national team (double sessions a day). And then we trained with our club on Friday before club play on Sunday. So we played A LOT. But if we become world champions it was all worth it.”
Life outside the National Team.
Where do most of your teammates play year round?
I play at Herakles Hockey Club but most of my teammates play at racing or Waterloo Ducks. Our top club league is a great level of play and it’s fun to play against most of our National team teammates throughout the season.
What do most of your national team teammates do for work?
In preparation for the world cup we had a full-time program as you can see, so everybody was 100% concentrated on hockey and the few guys that were working/studying had to put that on hold for a while.
Thanks so much Nicolas for the interview. We commend you all for your hard work and growth as a program. Best of luck as the Belgium National Team moves through the Hockey World Cup – we hope to see you all make some history in 2018!
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