Captain America. How do we blend cultural differences?

diversity leadership teamperformance Jul 07, 2019
Mary Kok-Willemsen Headcoach FC Twente Women, National Champions 2010-2011

How an American player leaded FC Twente champions for the first time!

As the World-cup Final is reaching its climax, the Dutch European Champion against all time favorite and World-cup Champions USA, lots of talkshows in the Netherlands are discussing the differences in attitude between the players…

In 2007, as FC Twente coach, we were building a team of regional talents and having them play from 15 years old in the Dutch Eredivisie… Every year we were playing great tikki-takka but still got goals scored against us in the 92nd minute ending up empty handed. Having Anouk Dekker and Sari van Veenendaal on board of the present Holland Team, we decided enough was enough. I knew what was looking for I wanted to get in a fighting, dueling defensive midfielder who brought some other flavor to the team.

This player was Ashley Nick, captain and just graduated from USC, one of the top Colleges in the USA (and NATIONAL CHAMPIONS!) and by coincidence on a training tour in Holland. I directly knew she was the player I needed, the player I wanted. She was offered already to play professional in the US and me what was I going to offer?

  1. A young team with mostly regional players that were ending last on the table 3 years in a row.
  2. 6 times training a week, with no real salary.
  3. The only way to get a visa for her on short term would be to go to study at University again.
  4. She had to do babysitting next to her trainings to be able to  financially support herself.

Prizes and Priceless

Ashley Nick decided to come for one reason only: She believed in the Mission, to become the first ‘Captain America’ to lead a team with young women to achieve their dream of winning prices and design new perspective for future generations…

With her presentation at the club she introduced herself to the board:

“Hi, I am Ashley and I am here to become champions with FC Twente” Joop Munsterman and Aldo van der Laan looked at me, Mary did you tell her that we were end of the table 3 vears now?” Ashley became my captain from the start with Anouk Dekker, Sari and 3 others we made a leaders group to support the leadership in the Team.

Ashley was not a tikka takka player and got laughed at with the young girls when she lost 2 crucial balls in the first games that we lost. This was the moment I stayed quiet during the break and Ashley stood up as captain and said: “Team, Listen, I am sorry for the 2 mistakes I made, I am not a great tikka-takka player like you, I am loosing balls with my back to the other goal. You are great at that but I want to fight for you, I will be your warrior to be there at your back, never let anyone beat our team or take a win”

FC Twente played their last game in the season all of a sudden a Championship Game with 10.000 fans in 2010! Ashley was on my bench, with 5 days before breaking her wrist and having a cast. “Her” team scored 5 goals, so in the 90th minute she came in as Captain America bringing FC Twente the first title ever!

Mary Kok-Willemsen was Head-coach of FC Twente Women, winning their first National Title in 2010-2011. Until her stay in 2015 she became the most successful women football Manager in Holland, leaving the club with 5 Titles, 3 BeNeLeague titles and 2 National Cups.

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