• Parasports World

Frank Maagdenberg; Everything for Wheelchair Hockey (2)

Updated: Jun 19, 2019

Parasports World talks to Frank Maagdenberg, Dutch Wheelchair Hockey Head Coach

Frank Maagdenberg is the head Coach of the Dutch national team of wheelchair hockey. The sport has a long history in the Netherlands, where 2.300.000 people of 16 million play field hockey. Frank is not only the head (coach) he is also the arm and the leg of the mission to develop wheelchair hockey and make it accessible to as many people as possible.


When talking of developing a sport, the biggest factor can be the support from authorities. On this Frank has mixed opinions. ‘’There are a lot of kinds of hockey like rink, ice, floorball etc., but the Dutch Federation and the International Hockey Federation (FIH) don’t want to mix these. It’s easier for families to go to a club together and play field hockey.


That’s the philosophy of developing more the field hockey side rather than the wheelchair hockey side of things. I think it’s the same thought process for FIH. However, for the development of my sport it is important to mix. The number of players for each sport is still small.


Maybe after reading this interview, people will be inspired to start a wheelchair team in their club. Or even an association / federation says lets adapt this sport and start promoting it in our country. In Holland we have a good system of support. For instance, if a para-athlete wants to buy equipment after 6 months of playing a sport, the Government pays for it. If you want a Ferrari, you have to pay it yourself. However, they will pay for wheelchairs for various sports.


On the other hand, the wheelchair hockey association was not able to fund the national team anymore, so we are unfortunately not associated to them. That is a shame, since we want to become a Paralympic sport at some point, however that isn’t possible without the backing of a large Federation. We are funded by a generous private sponsor - Nederlof, who provides us €20,000 per year. On the downside, relying on a private sponsor can be a fragile ground’’


However, developing the sport only in the Netherlands is not where Frank’s vision ends, that’s only the beginning. In spite of limited resources, their reach is long and they want to keep growing. He says, ‘’there are initiatives in France and Portugal to develop this sport for disabled people. We do demonstrations with them, and take part in each other’s tournaments.


I think it’s the way to develop the sport – and the way to go – together! India! that’s a place where we are looking to develop wheelchair hockey. We have tried to contact people via Facebook, and we are looking for various clubs and initiatives that are compatible with the things we do’’.


On the Paralympic dream, ‘’we started about 6 years ago with 4 teams, now we already have 13 teams playing internationally. At this rate of progress we are on a good path. We are hoping to soon be under the umbrella of the International Wheelchair and Amputee Sports Federation (IWAS). They scout new sports, and give them the chance to demonstrate the sport at the IWAS Games, which is a great way to develop the sport. Thereafter, the criteria is 25 countries playing internationally, as well as continental and World championships, and then you can knock on the door of the International Paralympic Committee.


We haven’t had a World championship, but we did have a trial European championship. What we do have regularly have is a big tournament featuring many national teams, called the Para-Games in Breda in Holland, every 2 years. The whole system is however still fragile. For instance even though we have 13 - 14 countries playing the game, they have only a single team in the entire country. So when they arrive at the Para-Games, this is their first ever match. It’s not yet sustainable. The 3 main countries with a national team are Sweden, Holland and Czech Republic, the others are still developing.


These 3 countries, along with Canada and Poland are trying to develop the sport through the International Wheelchair Floorball Committee. Every year 1 or 2 countries are added to the list of participants at the Para-Games at Breda. This tournament serves as a good measuring point for our progress. I’m optimistic that our progress will be fast’’.


On advice to countries looking to start teams, ‘’Just do it! We really want to help, so please contact us and ask for what you need. It’s more sustainable to start teams within already existing clubs. Of course, the first hurdle is money – a wheelchair costs money. And to start at the ground level, this is an important factor.


Culture is a second factor. For example in India – where people have an affinity to hockey, we need to use that pathway to develop the sport. In Ireland, the culture is different. They have ‘weekend sports’ where say a few clubs come together and compete in several sports like wheelchair hurling and wheelchair football and 1 club is the winner. So we are approaching them in a different way from how we would India. Connecting to cultures is important.’’


>>>End of Part 2<<<

Interview for Parasports World by Pritha Chakravarti



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