The first team Feature as part of our Big Bowl countdown takes us to Group C participants and perinial tournament attendees the Urecht Dominators. Safety and centre Ilja Tersteeg gives us an insight into the 2009 Dutch champions and what their plans are for 2017.
Can you give us some background about the Dominators and how they started?
I started the Utrecht Dominators organization in ’04 after spending a couple years with a team in Amsterdam after I came back from playing in the US for 2 years. Like many start up teams we started out with playing flag football. With the NFL Europe still around we had multiple flag tournaments we could easily join. We actually won the Admiralty bowl, organised by the Amsterdam Admirals fan club, a couple years in a row. When the kitted team took full flight, flag football got a bit side tracked. We still entered tournaments and held our yearly open club championship, but we weren’t involved in any league play. This changed around ’08 when we formed our first official senior flag football team. In ‘12 we added our first ever Cubs (kids 12-15 years) flag football team. We hope to further expand with a Peewee team (8-12) and support other enthusiasts to start flag football teams of their own in and around Utrecht.
Can you tell us about the Dutch league and its format?
The Dutch league is only 7 teams and it is being played in a home – away full game format. Last year it was 8 teams: The Hague (4), Utrecht (2), Leiden and Groningen. The top 4 teams go to playoffs. After the regular season #1 will play #4 and #2 will play #3 in for a spot in the finals.
What position did you finish last season?
We finished 3rd. After going 13-1 during the regular season we suffered a surprise playoff defeat to The Hague Wolfpack. At half time we had given up more points than our full game league average. On the other side of the ball we didn’t even score half the points we normally did. Terrible timing for a complete off day.
Who was your biggest rival?
The Hague Hyena’s. They are the team to beat in Netherlands, and largely made up of the national team squad. We came really close to beating them during the ’15 finals, but two costly errors gave them the two score win.
For 2017 you have decided not to remain in the league, can you tell us why?
The Dutch football association (AFBN) is a very kitted football minded organisation. Even though they set up a specific flag football division called Flag Football Nederland (FFNL), we believe the sport isn’t properly promoted and supported. The current Dutch flag league is so small that we got fed up with playing the same teams over and over. Despite dropping out this year we will keep working with the AFBN and FFNL to get a better flag football league for youth and seniors in the future.
How will you be competing this year?
In three different ways actually. We will play a couple of international tournaments, including our own King Bowl. We will play friendly matches and last but not least, we are registered to compete in the German league this year.
We have seen you in quite a few different tournaments such as Big Bowl, Pink Bowl and recently Flagging New Year. What is it you enjoy about these large tournaments?
It’s the whole experience actually. Driving or flying to a place just to play flag football and have fun with teammates while meeting new teams and people. It’s cool to play unfamiliar teams and see how you match up against them. Sometimes they play a totally different style of game which you have to adapt to in no time. In general it’s just a great way to spend a weekend or so we believe.
Which tournament has been your favourite so far?
I’ve enjoyed all. Big Bowl is amazing if the weather is nice. Tons of flag football and a great atmosphere, that’s hard to beat. Flagging New Year was more compact and since we stayed close to downtown Glasgow we had lots of time to explore all it had to offer. In general, flag football tournaments just have a great vibe.
You are entered into Big Bowl again this year in quite a tough group including the Ex Pads who finished 4th in last years tournament. What are your aims this year?
At last year’s Big Bowl we were in a group with NP flag (5th) and the Chieftains (12th), so the group doesn’t faze us at all. I’m actually really looking forward to playing the Ex Pads. They aren’t the most athletic or fancy play team you’ll face, but their game is just rock solid. Great execution and very few mistakes. Overall we have a relaxed approach to our placement during international tournaments. Trying to hit that perfect balance of competing and drinking / relaxing. We’ll try to end up in the second tier on day two, that would suits us just fine.
What are the Dominators main strengths?
We have a great combination of size, speed and short play sure hands on offence. The starting defence is just really well tuned into each other.
Which players should we watch out for?
I can’t really say, we have 18 players to make up a team with so it really depends on who’s travelling. For opponents it’s always a surprise as to what team you will face. At the last Big Bowl we played with our #2 QB, that changes our game completely. At Flagging we were with our #1 QB, but without our deep threat receivers and most starters on defence.
You have started your own major tournament called King Bowl on the 29th & 30th April. What made you organise this?
There’s a couple of reasons for it. First of all we would like to contribute to the growth of flag football in and outside of Netherlands. By organising this yearly tournament we hope to increase the knowledge about and visibility of the sport. Secondly we enjoy going to international tournaments so much that we would like to offer other teams the same possibility. We are very proud of our hometown, it’s such a great place to live in and visit, so we kind of want to show her off. The King Bowl is the perfect excuse to come over to Utrecht, play flag football and have a great weekend away with teammates. Being able to combine it with the traditional Kingsday festivities makes it a unique tournament.
What is the ambition for King Bowl going forward?
We would like for the King Bowl to become a fixed feature on the European / world flag football calendar. There’s no desire to become the biggest or the flashiest. Just a well sized and organised tournament for teams from all levels to enjoy. In 2018 we will expand the number of men/mixed teams and add a women’s competition. We hope the top teams will continue to visit. They are the best way to inspire kids, upcoming teams and people unfamiliar to the game to give the sport a try.
What are the Dominator’s goals for 2017?
The most solid flag football goal is to get the Utrecht School Flag League implemented this year. It has been in the works for some time and it looks like it’s going to happen. We don’t really have any set goals for the senior flag team this year since we’re experimenting with playing in the German League. We are looking to recruit a trainer / coach for the senior team to further our development. Our youngsters (U15) are competing in the league and for them it’s a learning year. For all of the players it’s their first year playing the sport.
For players that might want to join the team, where and when would they find you training?
Aspiring players or international transfers can drop by our facility and join a practice on Tuesday or Thursday night. We practice from 7:30 pm till 9:30 pm. Our club is located at Sportpark Overvecht Noord, Manitobadreef 4, 3565 CH, Utrecht. They can also drop us a line via one of our social media channels. We usually respond quite fast.