Director leaves renovated SSCE with peace of mind

Volleyball is the common thread throughout Wim Koch’s career

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Director leaves renovated SSCE with peace of mind

The imprints from the volleyball at the European Championships were still on his fingers when Wim Koch – a player on the Dutch team at the time – joined TU/e in 1985. He started out as a sports instructor, then became coordinator at the Student Sports Center and since 2006, he has been director. “I’m going to say goodbye when the expansion plan is completed.” Koch’s career in nine photos.

Naming of the Van Lintbad

In 2007, Wim Koch had a grandchild of former Rector Magnificus Jacq van Lint press the button to switch on a special work of art in the swimming pool. “The pool had been there since 2001, but this was when it got its name (Van Lintbad, ed.). An artist created a tile wall on which, through relief and colored LED light, his name appears. It’s a reference to the late Professor Van Lint’s scientific calculations. The mathematician was also an avid water polo player, and had done much for student sports. He played a crucial role in the establishment of the pool. To honor him, the pool was named after him. Just like the sports week in December when you can try out the SSCE without a sports card. I thought it was very fitting that it was a child who activated the artwork. I am, and always will be, a teacher and I love to see young people fascinated by engineering.”

Students share in the responsibility

Koch mentions it repeatedly; it is important that students at the 38 sports associations feel responsible for the equipment they use. The SSCE provides the facilities, instructors and basic equipment. Any additional items that are required are provided through consultation. “The associations themselves know best what they need. When mountain biking was gaining popularity, SSCE invested in bikes for All Terrain. The agreement made with the survival running association is that they take care of the bikes themselves.” Every association must do more than simply “hold out their hand,” Koch emphasizes. The photo shows the handing over of the bikes.

All associations share in the responsibility. Take the examples of gliding association ZES and rowing association Thêta: “When new, strict safety requirements were imposed for gliding, new transponders had to be installed in the planes at very short notice. ZES knew best what needed to be purchased and SSCE did the pre-investment. And for the rowing association, there is also a shared responsibility for the boathouse. Together with Real Estate, I am the building manager and Thêta is the user. If there is damage due to their own use, Thêta will have to fix it themselves. But they do a good job at that.”

Koch also had the SSCE purchase transport vans. “The associations compete in regional competitions and tournaments, but the locations are often not easily accessible by public transportation at late hours or on weekends. Those who want to go to an equestrian center or waters for surfing encounter the same problem. That’s why we now have two vans; the umbrella organization ESSF rents them out and SSCE pays for insurance, tax and maintenance.”

Common thread throughout career

Volleyball is an integral part of Koch’s life. “It’s my passion that led to my directorship.” In 1985, Koch quit as a player on the Dutch volleyball team (he continued to play in the premier league until 1989) and subsequently became a sports instructor at TU/e. He was head coach at volleybal association Hajraa for 23 years, but also trained the climbers of ESAC.

From 1998 to 2000, Koch was assistant coach for the Dutch volleyball team. They took a commendable 5th place at the Sydney Olympics. “Those were exhausting years,” Koch admits now. “I worked at TU/e from September through April and spent the other months coaching the Dutch team. But the work was still there when I returned and I always gave it my full 200 percent. I enjoyed the work, but it wouldn’t have been sustainable in the long run.” The experience did help Koch in terms of career planning. “I used to work with Toon Gerbrands, former director of PSV, AZ and the DSB ice skating team. He was an excellent manager and a great example for me. I realized I wanted to go into management. I love building bridges, creating connections. A role focused on setting the right conditions is a better fit for me than being a professional coach.”

Ten thousandth sports card

When Koch began working as director of SSCE, the number of sports cards had consistently been at around 9,000. He set himself the goal of facilitating sports for 12,000 students and had already reached the first milestone of 10,000 by 2009. “We then entered a period of rapid growth. Now we have more than 14,000 cards, and after the opening of the renovated building we expect another two thousand. Due to the technological developments in the region, we now have many more students and the Fontys students also find their way to the SSCE.”

That growth calls for guidance. Koch systematically researched students’ needs and how to structure an increasingly complex organization. Five clusters emerged; for courses, fitness, group lessons, associations and well-being. All colleagues, and there are now more than 220 people who work for SSCE in some capacity, were involved in defining the vision.

Koch’s vision: “All students, at all sport levels, should have a wide range of sports and exercise options available where they can meet safely and develop their personal skills. This will benefit their studies.”

Opening new bar

Thanks to a deal with Bavaria, the catering services at SSCE were able to transform from a “glorified snack bar” into a sports café. Koch sees the opening of the new bar as one of “the fun challenges” that came with growth. “First we modernized the sauna, then we tackled the old locker rooms, and third up was the sports café. I gained insight into what further needs came with more growth. So I created an agenda, in cooperation with architectural firm Houben&van Mierlo, among others, to move toward the future in steps. The problem areas of the building and fields were identified and since 2015, something has been improved every year.”


“Of course I rappelled down Vertigo when I got the chance during the Dream and Dare festival in 2016. That was in honor of TU/e’s 60th anniversary. After all, I started out as a climbing instructor here, didn’t I? Before that, I had also led camps in the Ardennes for high school students, with night walks and hikes. I love doing that.” It is no surprise that Koch is one of the founders of survival association All Terrain. “I taught the members several knot techniques for safe zip-lining, rappelling and climbing.”


In 2019, it was time to renew the role of the umbrella organization for student sports associations, ESSF. “The associations sometimes used to skip the ESSF because they felt that it was faster to discuss issues with SSCE than wait for an answer from the umbrella organization. I thought that was a bad development. We gave the ESSF more responsibility and since then, it has always been an important advisory body for me. It represents the interests of the student associations.” Koch says he is concerned that the current political developments in the country will make it difficult to fill student boards with volunteers. “Students fear study delay.”

Time capsule

At the start of the groundwork for the expansion of SSCE, Koch got to place a time capsule in the ground. This was in 2023; if it had been up to Koch, it would have happened sooner. But setbacks such as budget cuts, the pandemic, rising prices and the TU/e administration's prioritization of education threw a spanner in the works. “I do understand, of course. It’s beyond their control, but I’d so hoped we would be finished by 2021. Then I could have continued as director at the renovated sports center for a little while. See if everything works the way we planned.”

Still, Koch is ready to move on to the next phase of his life, retirement, with peace of mind. “I’m going to say goodbye when the plan I’ve worked on all these years together with my colleagues at the SSCE is completed. Everything has been realized and I’m leaving the SSCE in good hands.” Max van Veen, who is currently in charge of Tilburg University’s sports center, will be succeeding Koch.

“Among other things, I can spend more time with my grandchildren now; the third one is on the way. And of course, I’ll stay active. I’m still chairman of the sports council in my hometown Heeze and a little further from home base, I remain the chef de mission at Studentensport Nederland for the World University Games. That means that, if all goes well, I will be supporting all Dutch student athletes in their sports performances at the summer editions in 2025 in Germany, in 2027 in Korea and in 2029 in the United States.”

More stories

Eight photos are not enough to capture Koch’s career. If it were up to him, many more would be added. And when asked to name four that first come to mind, he lists the following: A photo of the entire Team SSCE, a photo of him as coach of the Dutch volleyball team, a picture of the big Hajraa outdoor volleyball tournament and a picture of the boathouse by the canal for sailing association Boreas. And for all of them he has more stories to tell, because Wim Koch never runs out of things to say.

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