Until a few weeks ago, Poland’s coach Karol Sniezek would travel as often as possible between the Dutch town of Heemstede and Poznan in Poland. It is a 10-hour trip, but Sniezek’s love of hockey, and his family, kept him going.
It was 10 years ago that Sniezek ended up in Heemstede, a quiet Dutch town some 40 minutes drive from Amsterdam, playing for local club Alliance. In his first season at the club he tore a knee ligament, an injury that ended his hockey career. Sniezek, who was then in his mid-20s, had already picked up a coaching diploma while a student Poland. He decided to go all out as a coach, starting with Alliance’s youth teams.
‘Sometimes they would say: No, no, no Karol. You say de-fen-der’
‘My Dutch was really bad for the first two or three years. I was training six-year-olds and of course, they did not speak English, so I had to learn Dutch. I wanted them to understand me. They were, of course, very helpful and sometimes would say “no, no, no Karol. You say de-fen-der”,’ he laughs. ‘It really was like that. I loved it, they always had such a big grin on their faces.’
It did not take Sniezek long to become head coach of Alliance’s first men’s team and technical coordinator for the youth teams. In Poland he was appointed coach of the men’s national team for both field and indoor hockey.
Commuting between the Netherlands and Poland
For years he has commuted between Heemstede and Poznan, where his wife and sons, aged 14 and seven, live. It was not an option for them to move, given his wife has her own career within the Polish legal system.
‘Every holiday and every free weekend I would get in the car and drive to Poland,’ he says. ‘If my wife had a holiday, she would come here. We would see each other roughly once a month, no more, and not in the winter when I was busy with indoor hockey. Luckily my wife is a very understanding woman.’
‘I want to spend more time with my family’
Last season Sniezek decided enough is enough and he said farewell to Alliance and the Netherlands. Poland has also just been relegated to the European Trophy competition after a disappointing run at the European championships.
‘In September we are expecting a baby girl. I want to spend more time with my family and build up my life in Poland,’ he says. ‘I already own three small supermarkets there. And I’ve had a great life in the Netherlands.’