That Feeling of “Family” – Lehigh University Athletics

That Feeling of "Family" - Lehigh University Athletics

Door: Justin LaFleur, Lehigh Sports Communications

This fall, there are four Dutchmen on Lehigh’s hockey list.

While four years ago Havas Link It was a first in the program’s history and today the pipeline is as robust as ever. It’s a pipeline that has struggled even during the pandemic – a testament to Lehigh and its field hockey program.

Havas (Maastricht) will return this fall in her fifth year and go to high school. Carpentry Sarah Pontes (Old Biggerland), student Lotte Smoreenberg (Rotterdam) and new students Guusje Hogendoorn Apeldoorn is also called the homeland of the Netherlands. How did they find Lehigh?

Their stories are similar in some ways, but different in others.

“Every Dutch student who wants to study in the United States is married to an agency in the Netherlands,” Havas says. “The agency is responsible for matching you with different universities. I had to make a video of myself playing, and I had to take the SAT and TOEFL, which is an international test of English.”

From there, the Havas profile was created by the agency, which was sent to several college coaches in the United States.

“So it’s just a matter of waiting to see what the coaches are up to and interested in having you on their team,” Havas said. I had six or seven schools that said they might have a place for me.

“Lehigh was one of the first schools to show an interest.”

Mountain Hawks’ business philosophy is developing in the Netherlands, just like all student-athletes.

“We strive to find those who not only fit our culture, but enhance our culture,” said Lehigh’s coach. Caitlin Dallmayr. “It takes a lot of work to find a student-athlete who is willing to take a closer look at our program, and chooses to not only see the potential growth of the program, but also He Program growth.

For this reason, Havas was strongly drawn to Lehigh – the impact he could have on the course of the reconstruction program (which she certainly did).

“The decision to choose Lehigh was not too difficult as Skype conversations with Coach sounded very attractive,” Havas said. “I felt like it was a bigger picture… something bigger than me. Lots of other conversations [with other schools] A man we expect to be champions in every season. What I liked about Lehigh is that there was so much room to grow and so much room to build a better program. “

From the start, Havas was intent on making a decision almost entirely, relying heavily on long and exhaustive conversations with his college coaches.

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“Lehigh’s coaching staff mostly told me about the campus, the team, and the culture,” she said. “I did the same with other schools. You eventually get offers to schools and it’s time to make a decision.”

Two years after Havas, Bonthuis found herself in a similar situation – through an agency to get her name in the Division I field hockey programs in the United States.

The only, but important, difference for Ponthos is that she decided to visit.

“In November of my last year of high school, my dad and I visited schools so I could see the campus, the environment, and the people there,” Sarah said. “I had to make a decision in a week. When I got back, my dad and I had seven hours, so I made a list of all the pros and cons.

When we got to Amsterdam, he made the decision.”

Lehigh addresses prospective student-athletes in a number of ways. Havas chose Lehigh almost confidently, while Bonthuis also chose Lehigh after a personal visit.

“The campus is beautiful,” Pontes said. “When I walked, I saw myself walking there” [next year]. “

During her visit, Pontos met only the Dutch players of the team at that time – Havas, along with Sophie Melinck (Van de Pelt).

“It’s sold out,” said Ponthes. “Lehigh was the place to go.”

Compared to the hypothetical recruitment of the Havas, the Ponthuis experiment was a different path to the same outcome.

“Sarah attended American schools, so we met her and communicated with her and her family,” Dallmeier said. “Then we then planned a recruitment trip to Holland and were able to see her again in her playing environment, which was a great experience for us.”

The similarities and differences in hiring Havas and Bonthuis is indeed an example of the unique recruitment process from the Netherlands.

“Every day we receive different profiles from different agencies highlighting international athletes who are excited to come to the United States,” Dallmayr said. “We sort through them and find the academically qualified student-athletes first, then move on to evaluating the game movie. The game movie can be a challenge because it is easy to show your strengths and hide your weaknesses by simply showing them.”


“You can’t get a realistic picture of the athlete from a few clips of the movie, so there’s a lot of risk in the process. We had to base our decision on moving Lenke to Lehigh from the movie, checking references and making Skype calls (now Zoom calls).”

Ponthuis has definitely helped Havas to be on the list of her country and culture. And with Sarah’s decision to come to Lehigh came the impetus that set Smorenburg and Hoogendoorn in her footsteps over the next two years.

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Due to the impetus, a mentor from Holland is now waiting on campus (for all but Havas, where she was first).

“Link had the most powerful mentoring role for me during my first week in the States,” said Bonthes. “You also helped a lot with the preparation; we met in the summer [heading into my first year] I went for a test drive and what do I pack. She sent me this whole list of things I can’t forget to bring.”

Once Bonthuis arrived on campus to prepare for the season, she was doing well. However, being away from home can be intimidating.

This is where mentoring Havas began.

“I slept in her room during the first week of pre-season,” Bonthuis says. “She said if you want to talk about something, just talk to me. We can have our conversations in Dutch at night because I am sure you will miss her with your family.

“It was great for me.”

For the Dutch, the language barrier is a little challenging, but not much, as English is taught in the Netherlands from an early age.

“Everyone in the Netherlands speaks Dutch, but since no one else in the world speaks, we have to learn other languages,” says Ponthuis. “Because English is the most important language in the world, we started learning English very early on.”

Bonthuis was in high school when she started formal English lessons.

“I studied bilingual in high school, so I did six years of bilingual education (high school starts at age 12 in the Netherlands), which helped me a lot,” said Bonthes. “When I came to the United States, I was really good at teaching English; I knew what everyone in my class was saying. I needed to learn how to communicate in the field, but I learned that in a few weeks.

“You start talking to your teammates and friends and it just happens without you even knowing it.”
Havas Sarah Ponthuis link


With the addition of Smorenburg, Sarah’s role was reversed.

“Sarah has done an amazing job with Lotte,” Havas said. “Not much was needed. I certainly hope it will remain that way in the future; It’s a great opportunity to mentor as an older person. It’s also great to have this newcomer on the team who can see things from his point of view.”

“I hope it continues and I think it is. I hope Lotte takes it to Guusje and Guusje takes it to the next stage.”

It says a lot about Lehigh, and the folks at Lehigh, that the Dutch pipeline will only get stronger during the pandemic (that’s when you’re naturally concerned about long-distance travel from home). One of the main reasons for this is the coaching staff, who care deeply about their student-athletes as people.

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“[In March of 2020]Referring to Lehigh’s initial announcement of a two-week shutdown before quickly moving on to the rest of the semester as the severity of the pandemic becomes more apparent, Havas said. “I felt so supported by the team and the coaches. They were standing by to go home and it was fine if I couldn’t get back in time. It would have been better if I had been at home.”

“They were absolutely right.”

Havas felt supported in every decision she made.

“It wasn’t hard to make the decision to go home because I knew they were supportive and understanding,” she said.

Similar thoughts went to the president of Bonthuis, who was on spring break in San Francisco before returning to campus when the news broke.

“I was on the phone with my dad and he didn’t think this would be over in two weeks,” Sarah said. “I just want to go home in such tough times, so I immediately texted the coach to say I was going home. She said it was a smart decision and she just wanted me to be safe and be home with my loved ones.

“The coach has supported me a lot throughout this period – and also when I said I wanted to leave the fall (2020) season,” Ponthuis continued. “I felt like you couldn’t make a wrong decision.

“You have to do what is best for you, and do something that is good for you — mentally and physically.”

The college is an opportunity to grow in many ways, and Lehigh provides this environment for all of its student-athletes. Lehigh’s reputation is growing within the hockey community, not only locally, but internationally.

“For the past two years, I’ve had a group of girls who know me, see me on Instagram or know my mum or dad, and reach out to them that they’re considering going to the States and ask what I recommend,” she said. . “The first thing I say is: do it. It’s honestly one of the best things that ever happened to me. When I’m in Lehigh I keep telling myself every day, ‘Oh my God this is an adventure.’

“I am very fortunate to have experienced this with such a wonderful family-like team.”

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