The epicenter of Jule’s world is the Eindhoven student ice hockey club the Icehawks and her never-melting ice palace is Eindhoven's Ice Sport Center. The association has five woman members but Jule is the only woman playing on the men's competition team. “I'm just one of the guys. Before a match I get changed alongside them; they are indifferent. After a match half of them are under the shower before I've left the changing room. They stand around with a towel slung over one shoulder as if I'm not there,” she says with a laugh. “Women friends of mine at SSRE (an Eindhoven student social association, ed.) are always wildly keen to hear my tales of the changing room. All I say is, ‘Some of them look good and some of them don't’. But that's not how I see them; they are just my team mates.”
Jule van Basten | aged 21 | ice hockey | Team FAST | Eindhoven | Bilthoven | Recruitment Days | Icehawks | Nanobiochemistry, Materials Chemistry and Chemical Biology
But don't brand Jule as a tomboy or tough girl. What she actually wanted after the Intro was to join a women's dispuut (sorority) but its activities clashed with ice hockey. After all, she is a delicate waif who weighs in at ‘only’ 58 kilos and stands 1 meter 71 tall; not the physique you immediately associate with a tough ice hockey player. Add to that her cheerful, sweet demeanor and she can hardly be one of the guys, can she? According to Jule, amorous affairs never happen within the team. “If guys at the Icehawks like me in that way, they do an excellent job of camouflaging it. Because we train and play at such a late hour, we don't have much contact before or after the training sessions. It's all about the sport. Within the team, with just five women, there are no relationships... as far as I know,” says Jule with a smile.
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For the vice-captain of the Icehawks the ‘men versus women’ narrative isn't an issue. She puts the current social discussion into perspective with a wise and logical simplicity. “I get along with guys just fine. I have five good women friends and perhaps fifteen friends who are guys. I love masculine directness, the desire to talk things out right away. But in my student house I'm living with eight women and I never have any difficulties with them either. It's also something peculiar to Eindhoven. As there are so many men here at TU/e, women students instinctively adapt a little and adopt masculine traits. At the end of the day, everyone should be judged by their values. It is good that women here are encouraged to apply for high positions or to join student teams, that creates awareness, but I am not in favor of positive discrimination or special treatment.”
Without realizing it, men always give me more space to start with. But that usually stops after the first period
But during matches this past chairperson of the Icehawks is canny enough to make use of her gender. “I always make sure I plait my hair and let it hang outside my shirt and helmet; without realizing it the opposition always gives me more space to start with. But that usually stops after the first period, once they see me doing clever things with the puck. And I always use the boards cleverly too, so that I can skate away quickly or can protect the puck. Between those big men you learn to be agile. I'm reasonably quick on the ice. But if I don't need to skate fast, I sometimes don't. On the quiet I'm a pretty lazy defender,” she says, laughing.
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Playing alongside boys has been a constant factor in Jule's life. As an enthusiastic little girl of six, she started playing ice hockey. “I'm from Westbroek, a village in the province of Utrecht: twelve hundred inhabitants and zero amenities. A five-minute drive away there's an ice rink, and that's where my brother - four years older than me - was already playing. I wasn't allowed to play ice hockey because I wanted to be a keeper and the kit is expensive. After my mother had stuck to her guns for a year, I decided to become a field player with the Utrecht Dragons. Everyone in our family is naturally hyper, so for me and my brother ice hockey is the ideal way to defuse our short tempers.”
Jule proved to be hyper-talented at playing ice hockey. Thanks to her strong drive, she easily hustled among the guys. She soon joined the national youth teams and eventually the bona fide national team. “ From the age of twelve I was already training with the U14 team. From the age of sixteen I was playing in the national selection and we won silver at the World Championship. I was not one of the better ones, but I always performed my tasks and never made any mistakes. Scoring? No, I never dared to shoot. I can do it less well than someone else, so why should I shoot? These days I can shoot pretty well, our coach Roger (Provencher, ed.) has drilled it into me.”
Ironically enough, her bottomless drive was also the reason why her ice hockey career was put on hold. “Whenever I had spare time, I wanted to do something useful. I used to do all sorts of things, like musicals and dancing. When I was sixteen I started taking an extra science program at Utrecht University. Complicated and interesting. My school advised me to stop my national team activities because they thought the program would take up too much time. Because I was always training until late in Dordrecht and had to regularly attend training camps, I decided to give up the national team. Because giving up the national team and carrying on with my regular team jarred with me, I stopped playing ice hockey altogether. In retrospect, I could easily have combined the two things; realizing that was a bitter pill. But it did teach me that it's pointless to think about ‘what if’ scenarios.”
Read on below the photo.
Eventually it was actually education that got Jule back on the ice. “When I went to college, I wanted to start playing high-level ice hockey again. I saw that the Icehawks had just become the champions, and that was a decisive factor in choosing TU/e. Oh, and the sociable Brabants nature of Director of Education Peter Janssens during the Open Day. Delft struck me as very cold and unfriendly. Brabants conviviality really does exist. Life here is definitely a little slower. When I used to be a cashier I was literally told: ‘Help as many people as possible in as friendly a way possible in the shortest possible time’. I've stood in line here for ten minutes on occasion while a cashier talked to a customer. I like that; it is simply friendlier and shows more camaraderie.”
In the ice hockey community, camaraderie is one of the most sacred values. “At the Icehawks we really are a team. If someone is thrown a ‘dirty’ check and has to go off injured, it gnaws at all the teammates until someone 'slams' the perpetrator, in other words, knocks him down. The substitions always make a mental note of who they should slam into. They look at whether a body-check was fair or not and then check the guy back. As vice-captain I try and keep peace. Our captain Ian is so talented that at times the opposition can't stop him without committing a foul. Understandably, that sometimes gets him so annoyed and angry that he loses his cool. At times like that it is good to have someone who can take over the reins.”
When the conversation turns to ice hockey itself, Jule talks at top speed. “The ice rink has a certain kind of nostalgic scent. It smells like the steel my dad used to work when I was a kid. When I got back on the ice after a long absence, when I was doing my semester in California, it triggered my whole body again, made me tingle. The scent of the puck, of the ice... The adrenalin that is released when I step on the ice is intense. You feel the cold wind blowing through you and it's a real kick. The speed of the game feels so good. A good outbreak pass and neutralizing your opponent in a one-on-one are the most satisfying in terms of technique. I haven't scored at all this season but I have made sixteen first assists and a whole raft of second assists. Last season I scored twice, but they weren't goals that decided the match. As for goals: preventing a goal is even sweeter than scoring one yourself.”
Even though she's had three championships in a row with the Icehawks and has an undying love of the sport, Jule no longer considers returning to the national team. “In terms of the level, I still could, but it's in the past. I'd rather spend all the extra training time on other activities. Of course it is amazing to take part in a World Championship, but I'd have to give up things I enjoy, like my work as event coordinator for the Recruitment Days. These days ice hockey for me is about playing sport with like-minded people. It is a sport that lets me be someone else. Someone who is more easygoing. Someone who says, ‘Tomorrow's another day’. With a Master's in Chemistry and a Master's in Physics still to do, that gives me great peace of mind.”