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Case Report: Helping Dutch Equestrian Team Win the Olympics

July 8, 2023
Jaap Hollander

In 2012 the Dutch equestrian sports people won 20% of all the Dutch Olympic medals in London. Three times silver and one bronze medal.

 Imagine you’re a brilliant rider. To be specific, dressage is your expertise. Day in, day out you are training to be in complete harmony with your horse and to achieve the perfect result on the Olympic Games. You have formed your own staff with an excellent trainer, groom, vet, farrier and so on. You ride and train your horses every day and you’re probably doing all this on your own estate or equestrian center. You’re over twenty-five years old, not single anymore and if you would like to, you may imagine that you also have children.

And then when you’re selected to be in the National team, especially for the Olympic Games, circumstances really change. Now you are a member of the Dutch Dressage Team. You have to deal with the other team members for about ten days. Your own staff is not nearby. You will be staying in the Olympic Village and see and meet all those other top athletes. You have to share a room with another rider of your team. The distance from the Village to the stables is at least 45 minutes.

So how do you deal with this as an individual top athlete? How do you stay focused? What kind of a team will make you feel at your best or beyond this? What do you need from the other team members and what are you willing and or able to give? What is important for you in the context of being part of this Olympic Team? That’s what our coaching program is about: How can this team be the best possible team in this moment in time for every rider?

For example in a team that scores a high average on ‘solo’ you really have to find out how much solo is needed for everyone and when. High score on ‘solo’ means to someone really have a desire to concentrate on their own affairs, a need for working alone, undisturbed by other people. Normally this is not something that people are consciously aware of … they just start feeling annoyed if there’s to much emphasis on doing all kind of things together, like “where do WE have breakfast, lunch and dinner?” “At what time do WE leave for the training?”

Or the difference between the thinking styles ‘global’ and ‘specific’. “How was you’re training?” asks one team member with the Meta Program ‘specific’. “Fine” answers the other with Meta Program ‘global’. “Hmm”, goes our ‘specific’ thinking rider, “Why being so rude? Why not answering the question, I am really interested in how you’re training was. I think I am not going to ask this again”.  Our ‘Global’ rider doesn’t have a clue of what is happening, because “fine” was how it was, a genuine answer. He’s not thinking any more specific than this.

Understanding and insight in each others Meta Programs is really a wonderful way to avoid misunderstandings and, as we found out in the last few years, to create a team spirit of respect and empathy. Of course this is helpful for any team in any context. Management teams, Project teams, sports teams. What makes the top athletes so special is their eagerness, willingness and readiness to learn and to improve every day. It is such a privilege to work with them.

The MindSonar professionals running the project were Lot Wielders and Jennet Burghard (Netherlands) They were asked to do this again in 2014 (World championship for Eventing), 2016 (Rio for Eventing) and 2018 (World championship in Tryon USA). Look them up in the Registry.

About the author 

Jaap Hollander

Psychologist, living in the Netherlands. Founded MindSonar in 1995. Directs MindSonar Global, which manages the ICT development, applications and the curriculum of the MS Certification Trainings. Working part time as a trainer, writer and coach as well as being an expressionist painter (artist name JAAPH, see jaaph.com). Has written 10 books on NLP and Provocative Coaching.

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