Utrecht Dominates American Football Scene
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Back in the day, British ExPats may remember Channel 4 arriving in the UK and with it American Football. There was a huge surge in interest and when the NFL World League was announced. London Monarchs took part as one of the original teams along with Amsterdam Admirals who joined up in 1995.
Amsterdam actually won the World League in 2005, but two years later it was all over and American Football returned to the USA or so you thought!
In Utrecht an enterprising young man, Ilja Tersteeg, pictured below, founded the Utrecht Dominators and he has been actively involved ever since.
Iija started playing American football in 1998 when he went to the USA as an exchange student and once the American Football bug bit, he was claimed forever it seems!
I asked Iija to tell us a bit about his club
Utrecht Dominators was founded almost 14 years ago. We wanted to offer a unique sport to everybody in and around Utrecht. Over the years the club has grown from 3 enthusiasts to 150 members now. We pride our self in being an inclusive and active sports club. We organize a lot of events during the year, like our game days, hosting the national team practices, and our annual International King Bowl Flag Football tournament.
The Dominators club has close to 150 members and promote a very vibrant Junior program where they offer youth flag and youth tackle football. Anybody aged 8 or over can join.
They have Under 15 (cubs) and Senior (16+) Flag Football teams. Dominators also have an Under 19 tackle team (juniors) and a Senior tackle team. They are also close to adding a Peewee team (age 8-12) and an exclusive Women’s Flag Football team, so we can see this is a growing and progressive club.
When and where are training nights
We practice on Tuesday and Thursday nights at Sportpark Overvecht Noord (Manitobadreef 4, 3565 CH, Utrecht). The practice time of each team can be found on our website.
Dominators are always open to welcoming new players and coaches. Previous experience is not necessary.They don’t have a waiting list so everybody can come and try out. They regularly offer try out practices. Anyone can sign up for them here.
What attracted you to play Flag Football/American football
American football offers a unique combination of strategy, physicality and comradeship that I have never seen or experienced in any other sport. Flag Football is a fast and dynamic sport with a great community. It offers a great blend of competitiveness and inclusiveness.
I wondered whether Flag Football was an introduction to the contact game?
In Europe Flag Football is growing rapidly as its own sport. Some of our youth players do use it as an introduction to tackle football, but you can just keep playing Flag Football as well. We have a national league and also play international tournaments.
Are there many clubs like yours in area/Netherlands?
Obviously we are unique.
There are 22 clubs in Netherlands who also offer American football.
Is this mainly for ExPats or Dutch?
American football is by nature a very inclusive sport. There’s a position for every body-type. Our members reflect this diversity as well. We have Dutch and international students, but also ExPats and ‘regular’ Dutch athletes.
If you coach, why are you involved?
As the senior Flag Football coach I hope to offer our players a great workout while helping them to become better players and to have fun.
Are you from Utrecht?
Yes, I was born and raised in Vleuten. After spending some time abroad, I eventually found my way back to Utrecht again.
What is your favorite place in Utrecht?
Ledig Erf for drinks during the summer, and the walking route along the Singel during the Fall. In general, I just really like the downtown buzz generated by the terraces on a warm night.
Does Utrecht inspire you?
I love how Utrecht maintains it’s ‘small town’ vibe while doing and offering amazing events and quality of life. I think you can say it’s a modest city that doesn’t have to scream and brag like some other Dutch cities.
Does Utrecht as a city do enough for sport in general?
Yes. I believe Utrecht truly values sports and therefor has organizations like SportUtrecht in place to promote sports and support clubs.
What about your sport, do they give you enough support?
We had a great relationship with the previous aldermen of sports, Paulus Jansen. He didn’t just focus on the mainstream sports, which we really appreciated. So far, we haven’t seen or heard from the new guy. Overall, I believe Utrecht as a city does encourage and properly supports ‘alternative’ sports providers.
Ilja Tersteeg had a vision and over the years has worked hard to make sure that his vision came true. He has built a club, along with his volunteers, that Utrecht should be proud of. Why not get along to watch a game or to take part? Flag football is growing throughout Europe and can be enjoyed by anyone.
All photos courtesy of Leontine van Zutphen and Roy Schrijver