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Hidden Gems: Meet Bernard Hartog of Dutch Soccer School

Today we’d like to introduce you to Bernard Hartog.

Hi Bernard, thanks for sharing your story with us. To start, maybe you can tell our readers some of your backstory.
I moved to the United States from the Netherlands 16 years ago. Holland is one of the top countries in the world regarding youth soccer development. In the Netherlands, I played and coached soccer. And got my higher coaching license at 19 years old. Once moved to the United States, I started a soccer business with four soccer camps. I noticed there were a lot of soccer camps, but hardly any for serious players. Most of them were daycare soccer activity camp. I wanted to really make players better, players who are serious about soccer can improve. So I ‘warned’ campers on our website, with our serious players only motto.

To offer the Dutch method of training, I fly in Dutch Soccer coaches on a camp counselor visa every Summer. The young coaches stay at host families, so they learn about American life. And families learn about Holland. I select the Dutch coaches first of all on their personality, so they represent Dutch Soccer School on and off the field.

2021 we offer around 25 camps and have around 1200 campers each Summer. We offer camps in Maryland, Virginia, Illinois, Wisconsin, Ohio and Michigan. We also offer an elite camp program for the highest-level youth players. We partnered with the best pro club in the Netherlands, and one of the most famous soccer clubs in the world, Ajax Amsterdam. Ajax is bringing in their staff. And we arrange everything for the Ajax camps.

In addition to soccer camps, my company also offers soccer tours to the Netherlands. We invite the best players from our camps to come to Holland for ten days. Players and their family will stay at a farmhouse, bike to training and we play several friendly games against Dutch youth teams. We offer a very cultured trip, visiting pro-games, museum trip (Ann Frank house). Players love the soccer tour, but we see families just as much.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
It has been a very smooth road until we hit the pandemic. Prior to covid, we improved our program every year. We do expect this Summer to be quite normal again. We just can’t offer tours yet, what was about 50% of our business.

We’ve been impressed with Dutch Soccer School, but for folks who might not be as familiar, what can you share with them about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
I am most proud we are able to offer very high-level soccer training for the serious players. Our coaches push kids to get better in a positive way. So players enjoy improving their individual play.

Can you talk to us a bit about the role of luck?
I for sure believe you need luck. Luck to not run into bad luck. But also luck also to run into the right people who help you to improve your business. People who believe in Dutch Soccer School and help to promote our camps.

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