Next weekend the Dutch national men’s hockey team will play a qualifying game for the Olympic Games in Tokyo, against Pakistan. At that level, it is nowadays normal for the players to have a broad staff around them, not only for technical training but also for fitness and strength, nutrition, recovery and mental coaching. In top sport, every percentage improvement counts, a detail can make all the difference.
Not only in the absolute top, by the way: every performance-minded athlete benefits from this. “But for an average athlete, that extensive guidance is often too far away”, says Daan Hullegie. In 2015, he developed Your Sport Pro, an online platform that “makes supply and demand in the sport more transparent and accessible”. The platform has grown into an online marketplace where athletes can find the trainer they need on a daily basis. More than 2,800 trainers joined the platform throughout the Netherlands.
Hullegie: “More and more things are happening online: ordering food, buying clothes, booking holidays. We also orientate ourselves online for a healthy lifestyle and sport. Google receives the search query ‘lose weight’ thousands of times a day. Your Sport Pro responds to this demand for a healthy lifestyle. Whether it’s about losing weight, feeling fit, getting better in the sprint, climbing Alpe d’Huez or getting better as a team, with all your goals you can go there.”
How does it work? “With your objective and sports discipline, the platform will introduce you to a number of trainers in your region. You can contact him or her via the profile of the trainer you like the most. You can search very specifically for what you need.”
In order to be able to respond better to developments and trends in the sport, Hullegie works together with Zeloo, the management and marketing agency behind athletes such as Marianne Vos, Steven Kruijswijk, Gianni Romme and Tom Dumoulin. Together with Zeloo, Hullegie turned his idea into a working platform in 2016. “We have grown organically without using marketing. This has enabled us to monitor what is happening on the platform and to discover its potential.”
Your Sport Pro also brings specialized training methods closer to the average athlete, says Hullegie. “I believe that you have to invest in order to achieve your goal. Top athletes have a whole team of specialists around them, from trainer to physiotherapist, from a nutritionist to a sports psychologist. This is not the case for everyone. With this platform, I want to make it more accessible to find a specialist who will help you achieve your goal.”
At the end of 2017, one of the hockey players from the first team of Were Di in Tilburg knocked on Hullegie’s door for sponsorship. Hullegie wanted to sponsor but not in the form of a sum of money. The ladies had a goal and that was to reach the play-offs to promote to the premier league. Hullegie brought the team in contact with Miel van Berkel, a personal and group trainer with his own gym in Hilvarenbeek that was connected to Your Sport Pro since 2017.
Van Berkel gave the ladies four clinics of functional strength and fitness training focused on hockey. “In the end, the technical staff, the former trainer and the ladies themselves were so enthusiastic that I was able to finish the season as a strength and fitness trainer. This season I am also the strength and fitness trainer of the men’s group.”
According to Van Berkel, the crux is in hockey-related strength and fitness training. “It has to be fun, otherwise the ladies would go for a different sport.” Van Berkel gives his training once a week. This is done in a targeted way, Van Berkel explains: “A defender doesn’t always need the same thing as an attacker. There are also ladies with hamstring or back problems. Yet another has to strengthen her abdominal muscles. Or more explosiveness or manoeuvrability is needed. I don’t play hockey myself, but I do know which exercises are suitable to train that explosiveness and agility.”
Van Berkel had the ladies do tests last year after the winter break and at the beginning of this season. “Then you can see that they were fitter than last season before the start of this season. It’s not just your arms that help you drag a ball. You will do that better if you train your thigh muscles and are stronger in your abdominal muscles. You have to know how to use your whole body so that the ball will be hit harder and more exact. And the fitter you are, the less quickly you get tired and you can stay focused longer.” Last season the ladies “just missed” the play-offs towards the premier league.
Through Your Sport Pro, trainers like Van Berkel can be booked by every athlete, says Hullegie. His formula is also interesting for companies. “Friesland Campina, for example, used the platform. Users of the Vifit product were able to win five sessions with a personal trainer as a win action. The prize winners redeemed their prizes via Your Pro Sport by finding a personal trainer that suited them.”