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Thijs van Dam: Getting Back on Your Feet

After emerging victorious with his team in the 2017 Euro Hockey Junior championship, Dutch forward Thijs van Dam’s career was taking off. But just a year later, he was faced with a challenging decision.

Van Dam was told by doctors that his right hip would need surgery, otherwise threatening to end his career. The surgery also meant that van Dam would have to sit out the long awaited 2018 Hockey World Cup.

The young hockey star had a hard decision in front of him: watch his team from the sidelines or take a risk and undergo surgery after the tournament. For van Dam, the World Cup was too big an opportunity to miss, so he made the decision to play through his injury.

“At that moment, the pain was less because my mind was on the World Cup,” he says.

The Dutch team went on to win the silver medal.

The real challenge, van Dam says, has been the road to recovery. Doctors told van Dam that the recovery process would take at least six months—a long time for a 22-year-old on the cusp of his career. 

“I want to travel the world and play great matches and now I sit at home and watch my team...that's hard,” he says. “But it motivates me to get back stronger, and it made me realize that this sport is what I really want.”

Even with these obstacles, van Dam has still found ways to be as involved as possible with his team. He attends training two to three times a week and helps his teammates during training. He finds it especially important to meet the new members and supports them in assimilating with the rest of the team.

Van Dam has also worked on adopting new mindsets and motivations to get him through the recovery journey as successfully as possible.

“I think for me it’s helped to find my own motivations and my own goals. I think 'OK, the European Championship is at the end of the summer, go for it.' It’s good to have your own goal and go for it.” 

For van Dam, it’s less about lamenting the present and more about looking positively toward the future. Here's to hoping we get to see him back on the pitch at Euros in August!

Get to know more about van Dam and how he got his start in hockey here.