Tijsterman: “It’s not about being in the dressing room”Article
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INTERVIEW OF THE WEEK: Dutch Monique Tijsterman of OCI Lions talks about her role as the only female head coach in the VELUX EHF Champions League this season

»EHF CL Channel »2015-16 Men's News

Tijsterman: “It’s not about being in the dressing room”

Male coaches in female handball teams are common, but it is still rare to find a female coach for a men’s team. But it works, even in the VELUX EHF Champions League: Dutch Monique Tijsterman is the only female among 30 male coaches. Since 2014, she coaches OCI Lions - and led the Limburg based team in her premiere season to their first title in the Netherlands.

In the 'Interview of the Week' with ehfcl.com, Tijsterman (44) talks about being a woman in a male dominated league.

While capping as a Dutch international (23 matches), Tijsterman started her coaching career in the Dutch Federation coaching Younger Age Category teams. Her biggest success was the bronze medal at the EHF U20 EURO in 2011. At the same time she had been assistant coach of the Dutch women’s team for a long time.

After a break from coaching, she became event coordinator of the Dutch Handball Federation and was the organizer of the handball tournament (EYOF) in Utrecht. Since 2014, Monique Tijsterman is back on the bench - and now hopes to cause a sensation with the OCI Lions in the VELUX EHF Champions League qualification tournament in Banja Luka (5 and 6 September), where the Dutch champions face their Norwegian counterparts Elverum in the semi-final.

The agreement with the Dutch Federation, for which she still works one day per week, allows Monique Tijsterman to be coach of Lions for two seasons.

ehfcl.com: Is it normal in the Netherlands that women coach men’s handball teams?

No, not at all. I am the only one. But I have absolutely no problems with this role. Why should I? I put any doubts I might have to the side right from the start.

ehfcl.com: Why did you switch from women’s handball to men’s handball?

After more than a decade I was tired as a coach, I needed a break, so I took the job offer from the Dutch Federation as their event coordinator. To be honest, it is really hard coaching young girls for such a long time day by day in our academy, it is no easy job. But when I got the offer to coach the Lions my fire was reignited again. I asked the Federation, they said: Yes, do it, it’s a great challenge.

ehfcl.com: What was the reaction of the OCI Lions players, when they were told in 2014, that they will be coached by a women?

There was no negative reaction, they did not care if their new coach was male or female. I did not hear any comment from players or club representatives when I started. The only interesting reaction was from the media, when I was presented to them. They were joking, if I would go into the dressing room or not.

ehfcl.com: Do you?

In the final briefing right before the match, in the break and right after the match I am in the team’s dressing room of course. But being a coach is not if you are in the dressing room or not. My assistant Lambert Schuurs is all the time there - and he can tell me about the mood and the atmosphere in the locker rooms. And in handball we are used to having successful male coaches coaching women’s teams - the situation for them is the same as for me.

ehfcl.com: Last season proves that you did a good job. How did you feel the season went?

My first season was the most successful season in club history. First we won the bi-national BeNe-League, then we took the Dutch Cup and finally for the first time ever the Dutch championship. It was the first time in Dutch handball that one club took all three trophies.

ehfcl.com: Now OCI Lions are on their maiden voyage in the VELUX EHF Champions League. How do you rate your chances to make it past semi-final against Elverum in Banja Luka?

We were satisfied with this draw, as it is much easier for us to prepare for a Scandinavian team than for, for example, a Balkan team, especially as Banja Luka is the host of the event. Elverum play a similar style to us and Dutch handball in general. We are happy when our sponsorship agreed on the support to participate in the Champions League. But we do not go there, saying: “We are the favourites,” but I would like to think we are in with a chance.

ehfcl.com: Are your players already fired up?

Yes, definitely, they will be super-fit for the tournament. We are just at the end of some tough preparation, and we are on the way. For our younger players this international experience is priceless. The Dutch men’s team missed the qualification for EHF EURO events and World Championships in the previous years, so their only chance to gain international experience is in the European Cup competitions. Even as we fail on the way to the Champions League group phase we will continue in the EHF Cup. As most of the young players in my team have the dream of transferring to Germany, Denmark or Sweden. So they need to match the level which is played in those leagues, and this is only possible on the international stage.

Picture credit: Jos Joosten

TEXT: Björn Pazen / bc