Kaatsen is a sport that has been played for centuries but it’s very limited to one area. That area is Friesland in the northern part of the Netherlands. In some ways it is a unique sport. ,,There are other forms of kaatsen all over the world but they are not similar to Frisian kaatsen”, says Robert Roosjen, chairman of LKC Sonnenborgh in Leeuwarden.
By: Eric Blomqvist – photo: Henk Bootsma
Have you ever heard about the sport kaatsen? If you are not from Friesland don’t be embarrassed. The sport is not widely spread and it is a traditional sport in the region of Friesland. Also referred to as Frisian handball it has been played for a few hundred years. ,,We assume workers who migrated from the south of the Netherlands and Belgium to Friesland in the 17th and 18th century brought the sport here”, says Robert Roosjen, chairman of the local kaatsclub in Leeuwarden.
Points counted like in tennis
Although it has been called Frisian handball it doesn’t have that many similarities to handball. The teams consist of three players each. You score points by hitting the ball with your hand across the entire field, which is called a ‘Bovenslag’. You can also score points by serving and a player from the other team misses the ball, this is called a ‘Zitbal’ . The points are counted like in tennis. ,,Instead of 15, 30, 40 we count 2,4 and 6. Then you win a game or as we call it ‘Eerst’. First to six ‘Eerst’ wins the match”.
The Leeuwarder kaatsclub was founded in 1902, today the club has around 200 members. ,,Approximately 40 adults and 50 kids play for us at the moment. In total there are 120 kaatsclubs in Friesland. There is not much of a rivalry between us because we often work and train together to maintain the sport”.
The P.C in Franeker
There are a few important competitions every year. Beetgum (Van Aismadag) and Dronrijp and Leeuwarden are two notable tournaments but the biggest one is the P.C. Robert Roosjen compares it to other major events in sports. ,,What Wimbledon is to tennis, the P.C. is for kaatsen. It’s the title that the players most want to win”, he says. The P.C. or Permanent Committee as it’s named, is held every year in the town of Franeker in Friesland. Around 10.000 spectators travel there to watch the tournament every time.