Behind the scenes: visiting Schools Tournament organizer Gert

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This post is also available in: Dutch

Gert stopped playing at Sovicos last year but still comes to Steenwijklaan this Wednesday evening. While I’m still sweating from training, we open a bottle of champagne to toast to the new year. No worries, we agreed to meet in the first week of January. Anyway, I take a first sip but without Gert. Gert is training for the half marathon. So no alcohol for him. But a good conversation.

Who is Gert?

Let’s start at the beginning. Gert played with Heren 5 last season, this year he does volunteer for the schools tournament but after this year he stops completely. “Time to relax” he indicates. But not yet. Gert still works at the Central Agency for Asylum Seekers (COA) in the IT / application management department. Those who apply for asylum in the Netherlands are entitled to reception. COA offers that reception. This includes: safe housing, necessary resources and guidance in preparation for a future in the Netherlands or the country of origin. And what does Gert do there? “If something goes wrong in the application of refugees e.g. I fix it. I find it super interesting, especially since I also work a lot with refugees as a photographer. So we chat a bit further on the subject because the refugee reception in the Netherlands is going anything but well

I won’t go on about it here because let’s talk about the school tournament for which Gert has been involved for many years. In fact, Gert became a volunteer at Sovicos about six years ago. Just as long as he has been playing volleyball at Sovicos, which we owe to Harry. Why did he ever start doing that? As often happens at the association: he was asked. 

“It was Theo’s first year as president and he asked if I wanted to become a volunteer. I wanted to! Karin Schreuder once set up the school tournament and I then started helping.” Despite not playing now, he does feel it is his job to pass it on quietly and well. For that, he is taking a year. This is his last season, in June he will also stop volunteering for the schools tournament. So, would you like to help? Sign up in advance.

Organizing the schools tournament

But what exactly does organizing the schools tournament entail? The schools tournament is, as the name suggests, a tournament for which several schools in The Hague sign up. Every week there are games in which the schools compete fanatically. This season (2022/2023) the tournament starts on Friday, March 10.

Gert organizes the tournament together with Rachel (D8). Where Gert does the external communication and Rachel does the internal. The external communication involves inviting the schools. He now knows the contacts so sending invitations is easy. In addition, he keeps in touch with the municipality. The municipality, where Yuen-Lai is contact person, is the client of the schools tournament. Why? “The Municipality of The Hague is very keen to have school tournaments (not only for volleyball but also for field hockey and basketball, for example). Good for the city and the children.” In addition, Gert arranges the hall rental with HKV and the cups for the award ceremony. 

How does this work?

But how exactly does that work? I ask Gert. “Ok, I send a letter with the registration form to the schools. I do this by e-mail. Based on what comes back I make a division of the pools. I have about 40 teams on average each year. That is divided by level and by gender. There are also some mixed teams. I get this information through from the schools and based on that I puzzle.” 

The playing dates are fixed, as this year 2023 it will be on all Fridays in March. The dates are then communicated to the schools by Gert.

Then what does Rachel do? Who, as previously written, does the internal communications. So she takes care of the volunteers (think of the referees, people for set-up, bar shifts and sometimes even a cook).

That sounds like a lot of work, so I am curious how many hours per week/month Gert spends on this. “That’s actually not too bad. From January until the tournament in March about three hours a week”. In the beginning Gert spends a lot of time emailing schools and the Municipality. Making the schedules takes a little longer and during the competition weeks you also lose time. During the competition weeks you keep track of the results, you mail the schedule every week and you have to make time for unforeseen circumstances.

What does Gert like about it?

The most fun is when you enter the hall on the first day of play, you build up after which the tournament begins. The first whistle, then everything is ready and that gives a kick. “We just get it done then!” Gert also indicates that it is nice how happy and fanatical both the students and the teachers are. So are there things less fun? “I always think it is not nice when teams cancel a day in advance,” he says. 

By now I have finished my second glass of champagne and Gert is halfway through his second Coke when he wants to share one last thing. “It’s important to do this job in pairs. And a good click with the teachers just as important, because it’s much easier to communicate.”

And with that we end our conversation. I promise Gert that I will stop by a few Fridays to capture his latest school tournament. Would you like to co-host this next year? Send an email to Gert now and walk with him. And come along anyway! The tournament starts on Friday, March 10. See you then!