Interview with Toine Klerks: “The group dynamics and individual growth on and off the court was amazing.”

From 27 to 29 December, the first Winter Camp Experience took place in Zwolle, the Netherlands, organised by the BEN Foundation. A wheelchair basketball camp for teenagers and young adults aged between 16 and 23. A total of 28 young people from ten different countries took part in the three-day event. We asked Toine Klerks (Director at BEN) what his personal conclusion was, what the participants had to say about the event and whether he could imagine offering a camp in Germany – together with Rollt. Find out what the family man had to say about all this in this short interview.


Toine, the Winter Camp Experience 2022 is behind us. What is your conclusion?

My conclusion is that there is a need for high quality camps in Europe in this age group and my conclusion is also that we are very much capable to host a camp like this one in the future again.


How many participants were there? Where did they come from and what did the players say after the tournament?

We had 28 participants. 11 girls and 17 boys coming from Belgium, Netherlands, Austria, Finland, Norway, England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, France and Japan. I was a bit surprised there was no German player at all who subscribed, as the location was close to the German border.

After the event most of them posted some feedback with a matching picture. A few comments:

Henri (Finland): “I had so much fun during the camp that I want thank you all for making the atmosphere open and supportive for all. I myself at least think that I was able to be myself and perform on the level I am, but also challenge myself to become better after every training.”

Amelie (Belgium): “It was a very nice group, we had a great team spirit on the basketball court but we also had a lot of fun otherwise.”

Shayne (Scotland): “I had such a great time at the Netherlands winter camp playing against high level players I’ve never played against before and making new friends which If will hopefully meet again in the future.”

Shiori (Japan): “I had a wonderful experience at the winter experience camp. / Her father: “Shiori came back with confidence!”


Good mood during the camp – Photo: Ilse Schaffers


What do you and the other coaches remember positively?

The group dynamics and individual growth on and off the court was amazing. I think every single participant made new friends, learned a lot socially and basketball wise. But seeing athletes grow off the court is for me personally the most rewarding as it proves once more the power of this team sport. I really respect the courage of young athletes, traveling individually to a place they don’t know and to people they don’t know, only knowing they are there for the same thing: Basketball.


Will there be a repeat of the camp? If so, when and where?

We are still reflecting on the camp but it looks like it will return, hopefully in a yearly sequence. Preferably a bit longer, like 5 days, to reach more goals but also to raise more interest for players from overseas.

Even though it is challenging, looking at the costs. We want to keep the price as low as possible for participants. That wouldn’t have been possible without a partner who supported us financially and a partner who gave support of coaches. In this case the Johan Cruyff Foundation and the NBB (Dutch basketball federation).


Could you also imagine organizing a camp in Germany together with Rollt., joining forces and providing new approaches and thought-provoking impulses? I imagine that would be pretty cool.

We are definitely open for that. Let’s make a plan (laughs).


Finally, let’s change the subject: Could you please give us a short update on the European Championships in Rotterdam and the Champions Cup Final in Nijmegen?

Yes, I can, sort of. For the European Para Championships (wheelchair basketball is the largest of the 10 para sports competing for Paris 2024 qualification) the website has been launched and we are in the process of opening up registration opportunities for volunteers. The draw for the courts and stands has been confirmed and it looks like we have a date for the draw for the European Championships. We are now talking to IWBF Europe to confirm the date and publication of the draw.

About the Champions Cup final, venue is confirmed: Sportcenter De Kooi, in Bemmel. Most of our valuable volunteers have already come forward. And soon a website for this event will also be launched. It looks like we are on schedule.


Thank you very much for your time, Toine.


Interview: Martin Schenk | Photos: Ilse Schaffers

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