“I’m a lucky guy who has the opportunity to do that because it is my hobby and my hobby is what I do for a living. "
Nonetheless, for the last two years Netherlands wheelchair basketball head coach Gert Van der Linden has embraced the opportunity to lead both the men’s and women’s teams and is gearing up for a hectic summer.
First he has the task of guiding the women’s team through the 2014 IWBF Women's World Wheelchair Basketball Championship in Torontom, Canada, between 20-28 June. He will then travel to Incheon, South Korea, to help the men’s team with their World Championship campaign between 3-15 July.
“I’m a lucky guy who has the opportunity to do that because it is my hobby and my hobby is what I do for a living. It’s great for me to coach both Holland teams,” said Van der Linden, a well-respected former player who won gold with the Dutch team at the Barcelona 1992 Paralympic Games.
“It’s a hobby that never costs me any time and they pay me for it so it’s good. In a whole season, the men and the women practice together and we only have one day in the week where we have separate sessions, so it saves a lot of time.”
Even though he is a responsible for both sides, Van der Linden said his time is more manageable compared to 2004 when he was training for his fifth consecutive Paralympic Games.
“At that time, I was playing in the international team to prepare for Athens Paralympics, I was playing in my club team and I was coaching one of the best able-bodied teams in the highest professional league of Holland. I also had a job working 40 hours a week,” said Van der Linden who, at the time, was working as a manager for a wheelchair manufacturing company.
“I didn’t have plenty of time then, but now I do. When I was working 40 hours a week, I did that to get the money and then I did my hobby which was coaching the able-bodied team and training with the international wheelchair basketball team for the Paralympics. That moment was busier than now.”
After guiding the Netherlands women’s team to the 2013 European title with victory over London 2012 Paralympic champions Germany, Van der Linden has given his team the target of another gold medal at the Rio 2016 Paralympics.
In contrast, the Oranje men are using the 2014 World Championships as a marker for their development.
“The women are European champions so we will aim for the medals,” he said.
“We have one goal and that is to get the Paralympic gold medal in Rio. Every game now, we play to win. Of course, we want to win the tournament in Toronto but our focus is Rio and we will see where we are after the results in Toronto.
“In Korea, all of my players, except one, will be competing in their first major tournament. It will be their first time and it must be a learning experience for them. We play every game to win and we want to gather a lot of experience to help with the European Championships next year in Worcester so we can qualify for the Rio Paralympics.”
Twelve teams will compete at the IWBF Women’s World Wheelchair Basketball Championship in Toronto. Paralympic champions Germany have been drawn in Pool B alongside Great Britain, Canada, China, Japan and Brazil. Pool A features defending champions USA, European champions Netherlands, France, Peru, Australia and Mexico.
The men’s event starts on 3 July and will feature 16 teams. For further information, please visit the IWWBC website.