"We will continue to work hard off-ice for as long as it takes!"


Team Ice United consists of 19 girls aged 15 to 25. They practice in ‘s-Hertogenbosch in the Netherlands. (Credits: S.J.Photos - 2020)

Founded in 2011, Team Ice United starts this summer its 6th year in the Senior category. Before joining the highest level in sport, this team competed in the Mixed Age, and then in Senior B. Winners of the Dutch national championships last season, the team who has experienced some difficult years, is now "back on track" and is working hard towards the upcoming season.

"The 2019-2020 season was finally a really good season for our team," starts Jesse van de Sande, one of the team co-captains. 

New ways of practicing, some new rules, new goals... Team Ice United set two main goals at the beginning of the season: to create programs with skills that match the capabilities of the skaters and to improve their technical scores to at least 53 points in total. "Looking back at the 2019-2020 season, we see both of these goals accomplished! With a technical score of 54,74 at the Spring Cup in Italy, we showed a 43% improvement in our technical scores compared to last season," continues Jesse.

With achieving these goals and also earning the Dutch National title, the team really seems to be "back on track". "It was just an awesome season and it was the fresh start we needed. The season really motivated us, which also resulted in everyone staying for another season!"

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They found a new balance
"Starting at the end of the 2016-2017 season, it seemed as if our team had gotten into a downward spiral, with all kinds of unfortunate things happening that affected the team quite much. One such thing was that our head- coach had to leave us in the middle of the 2018-2019 season, leaving it up to one of our captains (Feline van Kempen) and assistant-coach to ensure we could still continue and finish the season," explains Jesse.

As the captain became the new head coach, the team had to find a new balance during the training and also in the relationship. "Of course used to skate together as friends. Feline had to adjust to her new role. Our progress kind of paused that season. But with a lot of respect for what our new coach does for and with the team, we actually made it work. The new situation works well, we saw in the 2019-2020 season!"

Jesse van de Sande (on the left) is 24 years old. She's one of the skaters of the Dutch Senior team Team Ice United. (Credits: S.J.Photos - 2020)

National champions but no ticket for the Worlds
For the Dutch Senior teams, the Dutch National title does not directly qualify the team for the Worlds. Instead, there are a few ISU competitions that are selected as qualifiers, and the team with the highest total score when summing the scores of the best Short and the best Free out of all these qualifiers is the team that will be chosen to go to Worlds.

"Even though we won the Dutch title (which happened at the first qualifier, the Lumière Cup), we did not have the highest scores at the end of all qualifiers, so it would not have been our team at Worlds this year. Nevertheless, we are still very proud of winning the Dutch title as it was something we were not expecting to happen. It showed us that we made a lot of progress," Jesse enthuses. 

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About the upcoming season...
Team Ice United is starting the upcoming season with the same team as last year and has one new skater, who was skating in the Junior B team. As they already had enough skaters, the team doesn't have to organize a solution for try-outs but they decided to leave it up to the skaters themselves to contact them if they are interested.

Due to the Covid crisis, the Dutch champions are not yet able to practice on the ice. "The current aim in our country is to allow indoor sports again starting in September, but the government is actually investigating whether July would also be possible (depending on the spreading of the virus in the upcoming weeks). As everything is still a bit unclear as to what will happen, we just continue to work hard off-ice for as long as it takes!" Jesse adds.

Team Ice United - Short Program 19/20. (Credits: Dariusz Skrzy?ski - 2020)

Theoretical lessons about the elements
For the upcoming season, Team Ice United will continue to improve their technical scores and their performances. The athletes are focusing on getting more speed and better shapes.

"As we have to rely on off-ice training at the moment, we work on our explosivity, muscle strength and endurance amongst others to improve on our off-ice and on-ice speed. We do a lot of ballet and posture exercises for shapes and we have theoretical lessons about the elements so that all skaters eventually understand what is important to obtain certain levels for our technical scores. Each month, all skaters of the team together decide what the subgoals will be for that month, and at the end of the month, we celebrate our achievements. Besides, we do weekly teambuilding exercises and mental training to keep up the positive vibes and to carry those on to the rest of the new season!"

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Three fun facts about the team!
If you see the team next season, be aware. Team Ice United is a family business. The Dutch team has the chance to have three pairs of sisters. There are twins, but also the younger sisters of the coach (so they are actually three). "On top of that, we also have one couple in the team. That’s a lot of family!" Jesse says.

Contrary to some other teams, Team Ice United doesn’t have two fixed captains. They have one captain and three co-captains, "each of us bringing a different strength to the ‘cockpit’ of the team. At competitions we rotate who goes to draws for example, so that is why you might see a different co-captain alongside the captain all times."

With the average age being around 18 and only having 4 skaters above the age of 20, Team Ice United is a quite young Senior ISU team. "Our coach is younger than the four oldest skaters of the team. But we see this as a benefit for the future rather than a disadvantage: it gives plenty of room to develop further in the upcoming years!"

Young and motivated, Team Ice United could reserve some nice surprises and good improvement in the coming seasons.