European Youth Championships

Bettine VRIESEKOOP: The story must continue

Photo: Henk HOMMES

European Youth Championships

Photo: Rémy Gros


European champion in singles from 1982 in Budapest and 1992 in Stuttgart, the "Dutch Table Tennis Player of the Century" in 2000, Bettine VRIESEKOOP of Netherlands took a challenge to pass her vast experience to young generations. On her premiere at the European Youth Championships as a national coach, VRIESKOOP is leading Dutch cadet’s girls team.

It is always great pleasure to see champions coming back to the venues.


What kept you out of the table tennis in years following the finish of your career at 1997?


“I was a single mother and I could not travel aboard or being absent from home for a longer period. I lived four years in China, but it was different, we stayed at one place. I had support at home for short absences” explained VRIESEKOOP. “Also, maybe, if I could have done this earlier, I would have stopped by now, because it would be to much. Now I came back fresh. I had a distance for a long time and now I can see everything with the fresh eyes. Maybe I can add something more valuable now.”


During her sports visits and training in China, Bettine VRIESEKOOP became interested in the culture and then studied Chinese language and philosophy in Leiden. Between 2006 and 2009 she worked in Beijing as a freelance correspondent for several Dutch newspapers including NRC Handelsblad.


Bettine’s first major event as a coach, was in Denmark at the Six Nations Tournament earlier this year.


“Here, we have three girls in cadets competing at the European championships for a first time and I did not have idea where they stand. I practiced with them for a six months only and with only tournament behind, I was pleasantly surprised with the result. We had a chance to reach the first level here. Unfortunately, we did not make it, but it was really close. It showed us that we have a good base and if we keep on working in right directions and educate them maybe in the future we can aim for medals,” said VRIESKOOP.


It is just a foundation.


“It takes time and we have to work harder and to pay attention to details. Every detail counting. We have a tendency to overrule the details but it all matters.”


Day earlier, in Ostrava, Russia, Germany and France clinched medals in Team’s Events.


“Few countries are doing very well. But, unfortunately only few. Par example, we lost against Slovakia here, but it was really close game. We could beat them despite the fact that we do not practice enough. On the other side, what impressed me is the performance of Russia, especially Anastasia KOLISH. I think she is very attractive player. In addition, Elizabeta ABRAAMIN is very good.”


Not only individuals, VRIESKOOP praised team work.


“I like team spirit that comes from Germany. They are always very smart and classy. I am impressed by what they talked about each other. It is really good. That is what I said to my team. That is what we must do, we must support each other to be positive. Tendency around us is to emphasise the negative things. That is the role of the coaches to work with players and to point them to positive things. From negativity, never comes something positive.”


One of the things that has to change too, is the training.


“I talked with the girls and I said that we mast practice 25 hours per week at least if we want medals. That is the minimum if we want to achieve anything. In my time it was 36 hours. Even in Hungary it was the standard, but they do not practice neither that much now. If you do not do that, even if you are the best talent in the World you are not going to make it.”


Speaking about then and now, VRIESKOOP highlighted the fact that young generations knows so little about their predecessors.


“I remember how I respected great players as Ella Zeller-Constantinescu who was also ETTU Vice President, or even Emil Zátopek who is coming from athletics, but nevertheless… I remembered him being at the stands when I was playing my first European Championships in Prague… I have been admiring him. Or to mention great champion and person Marie Hrachova. New generation does not know her. Here, Slovenian coach told her players I am European champions, and they did not know it. We are anonymous. It is important that new generations know about former champion, not because of me, but because of the sport. The story must go on. It has to continue for the passion of the sport. There are many big champions like Roseanu, Constantinescu…I did not see them play, but I know their names. We can say this is the different generation, but it is up to us to teach them.”


Players have to now their work will be appreciated in future.


“I approached Anastasia KOLISH after the final, because I admired her style and she is a great athlete. She lost her match but nevertheless I congratulated her because she is the player with very attractive style. I paid my respective to the young players. That is also important.”


After the paying career VRIESKOOP’s wrote books and articles that recommended her as the correspondent for the highest level daily newspapers in Netherlands, NRC Handelsblad.


“They chose me to go to China. I worked hard there with long working hours, 80 in one week and worked in war and violent situations. It was great and difficult experience. After I returned home I was tired. I thought I should return to something what is really familiar to me. I felt like I want to be in table tennis again. It is less stressful; I do not have to prove my name here. I already achieved success.”


What is your perspective about trainings here and in China?


“I went there few time to see trainings, but nothing changed a lot compares to time when I was playing. They are doing the same for years. They have better facilities, better flooring, tables…nice venues, but the way they are still practicing is still the same: hard work, lot of drills, same exercises, and they do it for longer time. Par example their backhand against the three lasts 30 minutes, with us it is end after 10 minutes. They learn how to adept on every different situation by working on variations for hours. That was hardest part for me too, m when I was a player, to adept on their system. I see with my players now. If they face something different, they make mistake immediately. They have to learn to make variations and then they will know how to react of them from the other side. It is the same side of the medal. Of course, there is a question of service and first ball..”




“It is not all about techniques. German girls proved it yesterday. It is a lot about team spirit, hart and positive attitude. When you start giving yourself alibi you are on the wrong track. First you have to start from yourself and to give your best. I tell to my girls, first pay the respect to your coach, give you best and then criticizes around you. ”