The Dutch Handball Academy, based at the High Performance Centre in Papendal on the outskirts of Arnhem in eastern Netherlands has produced and provided many successful players, teams and memories since it opened back in August 2006 – not least a silver medal at the 2015 IHF Women’s World Championship in Denmark where 70% of the Netherlands’ squad came from the academy.
Big name, global superstar players like Tess Wester and Estavana Polman made their way through the academy and added to that list of names is Dione Housheer, currently playing for her country at the 2018 IHF Women’s Junior World Championship in Hungary.
Right back Housheer joined the academy in Papendal at 15-years-old and since then has had a remarkable rise to the top, playing nearly 50 times and scoring just under 200 goals for the national team at all youth and junior levels and late last year she was named in the provisional squad for the 2017 IHF Women’s World Championship in Germany.
Senior coach Helle Thomsen then handed her senior debut before an impressive Women’s EHF EURO 2018 qualification match last month in Almere against Kosovo in which she scored six times in a 42:16 home win.
A few weeks earlier, defending Danish women’s champions Nykøbing Falster Håndboldklub (NFH) signed the 18-year-old to a two-year contract, to realise one of her early dreams to play in either Denmark or Norway.
“It’s been crazy,” said Housheer to IHF.info reflecting on the past three years. “I’ve developed a lot in the last few years, but I’ve stayed focussed, stayed cool, do my thing and work hard.
“My dream is to be the best, but when you follow your dream and work so hard every day in every match it’s nice to look back at what you have achieved.
“When I was 15 I left home, and I think my mindset was so focussed then as you are training twice a day,” continued Housheer, after her side defeated Sweden 30:22 in their eighth-final yesterday.
“Deep in my heart my dream has always been to be the best and, when you know what you want to do in each training and what you want to give to it, if you can put it all together you can become maybe what you want to become.”
With the Dutch senior women’s team exploding onto the global stage in recent years, Housheer still looks up to the players who provide extra motivation for her to continue to reach her dreams, despite now sharing a locker room and court with them.
“I get so much motivation when I am training with the senior team girls,” said Housheer, who has scored 47 goals in six games at Hungary 2018 to date. “Nycke Groot is my idol and when you train with her you can learn a lot – they also begun at the academy too and you want to achieve as high as they have.
Anyone who has seen Housheer at Hungary 2018 cannot doubt her influence on the team both with and without the ball as her repertoire of trick shots, defence, attack, tactical awareness and fighting spirit shines through, helped by coach Robert Nijdam – who can also thank Papendal for his development – allowing her to express herself on court.
“I have a lot of freedom and it’s my style of handball,” said the player who was MVP of the U18 EHF European Open back in 2016. “I like to give great play and that’s the way how I’ve made myself as a handball player so when I don’t give some crazy passes it’s not ‘me’.
“I like to trick the defenders and give some passes and when the ball goes to my teammates it’s nice how you do it. It’s difficult sometimes when it doesn’t work, but you have a lot of training, so I am trying these passes a lot, Sometimes the ball doesn’t go to my teammates, but you try a lot in the matches and some come good.
“After a pass like that does work you get such a great feeling,” continued the EHF Player of the Month for July and August 2016. “it’s so nice to give a pass and to drag a defender away, it gives you motivation to do more and get your teammates into a good position, it’s nice.
“I’m a creative player but I want to stay cool and along with my teammates I want to play a good match. I look around, I want to see what I can do, and I want to bring my teammates or myself into a good position to make a good shot and it works.”
Coach Nijdam is also aware quite clearly of the potential of Housheer and her impact on his team right now. “She’s really important, even though against Sweden she didn’t play that well, her presence makes a big difference, the others get confidence when she is on the court and she sees it,” he explained.
“It’s not only her goals and assists, she makes the space for others and she does that really well.”
As the Dutch prepare to face Russia later in their quarter-finals, Housheer is in no doubt about what is possible for her team in Debrecen after they brushed aside Sweden in the eighth-final, leading by double figures in the last 10 minutes after a goal rush.
“When we fight like we did against Sweden and Denmark (in their last Preliminary Group game) we can go to the final,” she said. “But we look at this tournament match-by-match and the next match is Russia – but if we fight like we can then we can go far.
“Our fights until the end – our mindset was so focussed, and we stayed cool so as you see we can make a big difference in goals. When it is +10 difference you want to make it +12 difference or even +15, but we stayed cool and we kept going.”
Despite coming from the small town of Gendringen on the Dutch/German border, Housheer is making waves internationally, but while her head may be in the clouds as she dreams of greatness, her feet are firmly planted on the ground, or court.
“My family are very proud that I want to do what I like, and I like to play handball,” she said. “I want to go so far – they help with everything and now I go to Denmark to play, they are right behind me and are doing everything to help me achieve my dream.”