“When you combine sport and studies, you can get a very good result”.
We interviewed Kurt Van Diest, TVO at KVC Westerlo and teacher/coordinator of football at the Leerlabo, about our collaboration with Dalton Athenaeum. He gave us a picture of how the cooperation came about and described the positive story that emerged from it.
How did the cooperation with Het Leerlabo start?
The partnership started in 2007. At that time, I was already a teacher in the current Leerlabo, then called De Beeltjens. During that time, there were too few students so we started looking at offering a new education to increase this number.
I knew David Paas at KVC Westerlo, he was the commercial manager here at the time. Through him, I came into contact with Wim Van Hove. I asked him if KVC Westerlo would cooperate with the school. They immediately went along with that.
What does KVC Westerlo want to achieve by working together with Het Leerlabo?
There are several aspects. The main one is that we, as a professional football club, want to fulfil our social role to the maximum. One of those things, in the community story, is supporting a school. We also want to offer students the opportunity to combine football and school. So this is a very nice cooperation on a social level.
On the other hand, we also want to create the possibility that young people, who play football here, can enjoy the necessary facilities through the school.
As a club, we also believe that studies are very important. Experience shows that when you combine sports and studies, and when both work well together, you can get a very good result. The alternation between sports and studies stimulates pupils both athletically and intellectually.
Which (ex-)players of KVC Westerlo have completed the process?
At this moment, the best known is Kyan Vaesen. He is currently active in the A-team of KVC Westerlo. He followed his school education in Het Leerlabo.
There are also a number of other youngsters who have gone through this process, such as Maxim Versteven. He has been given a contract with the club.
As we say here, these players have completed the golden triangle.
What facilities can the pupils use?
During a normal day with football lessons, the pupils go to KVC Westerlo by bike. They then utilise the changing rooms. During the lessons, they can enjoy all the equipment needed to give a full-fledged football training. The training sessions always take place on one of the two artificial grass pitches.
When a pupil hurts himself, the medical post of KVC Westerlo is always ready.
Furthermore, certain rooms at the club are equipped with the necessary technology to give theoretical football lessons. For example, we can do video analysis with the pupils.
Are youth players expected to do well at school to be able to play here?
In my opinion, there is a difference between doing well at school and having the right attitude at school. You can give your best at school, but be in the wrong education. Then your results may be bad, but that has less to do with your commitment and attitude.
What annoys me are players who combine football with school, but have an attitude problem. For example, that they don’t study or behave rudely at school.
Through our cooperation with Het Leerlabo, we can act quickly when a problem arises.
Which values from Dalton education are also important in football?
We are a family club, the school is a family school. The three pillars of dalton education, namely independence, responsibility and cooperation, are three principles that are also very important as a football player.
Every player has a certain talent. As a football club, we can ensure that there are sufficient facilities to develop that talent to the maximum. But in the end, everything stands or falls with the pupil/player himself. The player himself is responsible for developing his own talent. It all depends on how far you want to go.
Football is a team sport, so the pillar of cooperation also comes into play here.
I am convinced that, as soon as you master these three pillars as a football player, you will automatically become a better football player.
What are the main benefits for KVC Westerlo resulting from this cooperation?
The biggest advantage is that there is a healthy synergy between the school and our club. On the one hand, that translates into the fact that we can profile ourselves as a club. We are not only involved in football, but also in social issues. In this case thus education, which we find extremely important. This allows us to offer the players and the school the necessary support.
Because of the good cooperation, our players can, if necessary, leave earlier on a normal school day. This can occur in case of any training sessions or matches on the move during school hours.
As a club, we find the studies very important. It is an enormous added value to be able to contribute to that as a club. It is really an advantage that we can profile ourselves in the right and correct way.
How are youth players supported in their school work?
From the moment problems arise at school, we always make it very clear that school always comes first. Football is the most important side issue as far as we are concerned. By offering football, you are working on the general education and creating values and norms with every young person.
At our club, we have a study supervisor who is partly in contact with the school’s care team. We maximise the intensity of training, taking into account the exam periods.
So there is an excellent cooperation between the school’s care team and KVC Westerlo. For us as a club, the school has absolute priority. This translates, among other things, into a modified training planner during the exam period. Especially during this period, football becomes “the most important side issue.”
Are you curious about this education or do you think this is something for you? Then don’t hesitate to take a look at the website of Daltonatheneum Het Leerlabo: