Koen Breedveld started as the new Professor of Impact of Sports on 1 January 2023. Following on from an excellent career in sports research and as Director of Reddingsbrigade Nederland, he is now keen to pass on his experience to students and lecturers. “Connecting research and practice has always been important to me. Allowing more people to benefit from the power of sports, thanks to the knowledge we develop together: that’s my goal for the research group”.

“The Hague is known for having great sports policy,” Koen starts. “Residents are well enabled to participate in sport. Yet you can see that not everyone seizes those opportunities. This is a real loss, because sport is fun, creates connections and is good for physical and mental health. Many people do want to be active, but they feel disconnected from it in one way or another. For example, due to obstacles in terms of finances or distance, or because what is on offer does not match their needs. This is why we’re going to look at it closely: how can we make the sports on offer as appealing as possible? And what resources do we need to do that?”

Stronger clubs for more movement

Getting the residents of The Hague moving is the main focus. This is, of course, linked to other themes. “The availability of sports clubs obviously plays a major role. But they in particular have had to endure a lot in recent times,” Koen explains. “The pandemic has taken a brutal toll on sports clubs, and now inflation is forcing citizens to cut back their outgoings. In these circumstances, the research group aims to help sports clubs not only to stay afloat but, more importantly, to become stronger. As I see it, this can be done by making the right connections. With each other, with the municipality and with parties such as the Krajicek Foundation. And by working together on various demands for knowledge”.

From actively watching to actively participating

One example of such a demand for knowledge could be: how can sports events in The Hague get people moving? Koen continues: “Brilliant events are held in this city, such as the Davis Cup, Invictus Games and the Sailing World Championships. These events mainly bring people together for great connections around a sport, but I think there’s more to it. I want to investigate: how can we also get residents to actively participate in these kinds of events? And get them so excited about the sport that they want to take it further? Sports clubs can play an important role in this. For example, by organising neighbourhood competitions or workshops around the event”.

Importance of research

Koen has been active in the field of research for virtually his entire working life. He has always emphasised the direct application of research in practice. “Now I hope to be able to offer lecturers and students the benefit of my experience. I want to help students to feel and understand: ‘Oh, so that’s why it matters to be able to do research’. Because later, as professionals, they can work on the knowledge questions that they encounter themselves. And for lecturers, research is a wonderful way to enrich their teaching with specific examples and real-life situations. This makes education really come to life”.

Sport as a catalyst

In four years, Koen hopes that The Hague will have many more healthy residents that are comfortable in their skin. “I think sport, because of its fun factor, can be an important trigger for a healthier life. But in order to accomplish that ultimate mission, other disciplines are of course needed,” he knows. “That’s why it is important to join forces with the other research groups within the Health Innovation Centre of Expertise. So for me, the coming period will be all about making connections, both outside and inside the university of applied sciences. Tips, questions and suggestions: I’d love to hear them!”

Would you like to get in touch?

Koen Breedveld has been appointed Professor on Impact of Sports for two days per week, and can be reached at k.breedveld@hhs.nl and 06-28334042.