Running BRESS

BRESS has been inextricably bound with our BUas community for 30 years. Sies and Wouter have been at the helm since last year. What will they be doing differently?

This academic year, BRESS marks its 30th anniversary! BRESS stands for Breda Student Sports and is an initiative of – who else – students in Breda. Avans and BUas – at the time, Hogeschool Brabant and Nationale Hogeschool voor Toerisme en Verkeer respectively – have supported the initiative from the beginning. For and by students, that’s not going to change. But what kind of ideas do the young directors – about the same age as the organisation itself – have about it all?

Why doesn’t Breda have a sports facility especially for students, like you see in other student cities? That’s what students in Breda asked themselves 30 years ago and that’s how the idea of a partnership with existing sports organisations in Breda was born. 

I graduated in Leisure & Events Management from BUas in 2015 and Wouter Pons studied Sports Science in Haarlem; we complement each other very well

Sies De Witte (right in the photo)

‘This partnership is still there,’ Sies says, ‘but the foundation that used to be BRESS has evolved into a large non-profit organisation with its own facilities, own building and a team of about 50 enthusiastic flex workers. It is a young team that consists mainly of students or recent graduates who give group lessons, run the front office, or work behind the bar.’

A young team in this setting is not surprising, but did BRESS ever have such young directors?

‘I was 26 when I was asked last year,’ Wouter answers. ‘And Sies was 29, but he had been working with BRESS for some time already. It is true that we are the youngest so far, but that also fits in perfectly with the vision of the foundation.’

‘We feel it’s important,’ Sies adds, ‘that the people who walk around here are able to mingle with the target group. That is why, for example, we have fourth-year physical therapy students who are in charge of the fitness programme.’

And why two directors?

‘That stems from the desire to have young people at the helm. In some respects, we are less experienced, so it’s great to have a sparring partner and to share the responsibility. We are both very driven and, of course, sports-minded,’ Wouter explains. ‘I studied Sports Science at hbo level and I did my graduation assignment for BRESS. It’s really nice that I am now working together with Sies, whom I already knew a little from my time here.’

‘Even as a child I was fanatic at sports,’ Sies continues, ‘before I started my Leisure & Events Management studies, I completed CIOS (Central Institute for Sports Education, eds.). When I started studying in Breda, I took up a job with BRESS pretty quickly. I see it as a wonderful opportunity that Wouter and I can now further expand the organisation.’ 

What kind of ideas do you two have about it all?

‘The first year was mainly about experiencing how it all works, jumping right in operationally,’ Wouter says. ‘And now we are working on a five-year plan. A particular strength of BRESS is its diversity. Apart from fitness, we offer about 60 other types of sports. It’s all very accessible. Of course, we want to maintain this diversity, but we do want to take it to the next level. We now have a football team and the women even play at the KNVB (Royal Dutch Football Association). This kind of team sport ensures that students feel more connected to BRESS, and that’s precisely what we want!’

‘True!,’ Sies confirms, ‘another one of our objectives is to make BRESS the central place to meet for hbo students in the city. Students of Avans already often find a place to study here, they are given practical classes here in the gym; just think of the PABO (teacher training college), and now physical therapy classes are given here too, because Avans has less space for its practical classes due to the corona restrictions.’

What is the impact of these corona restrictions on your plans?

‘Well, it has never been as clean as this before,’ Sies laughs. ‘Another advantage is that we now have to dig in even deeper into our director roles, we need to rethink our approach and come up with alternatives.’

‘What’s difficult about it, is that we are dealing with the protocols of four parties,’ Wouter adds, ‘NL Actief, Squash Bond Nederland, NOC*NSF and Koninklijke Horeca Nederland. This has been quite a challenge. And with the new restrictions, we are not allowed to keep the bar open. That doesn’t help, of course, considering that this is where we were planning to create a meeting place.’ 

That plan will have to be put on ice – along with the beer and soda – but what can you do?

‘The students can continue to play sports, which is actually the most important thing,’ Sies stresses. ‘I’d hate to think that we would go into lockdown again. We must try to avoid a total standstill. At this time in particular, when everyone feels an even greater need to see each other and stay in touch. And we are doing everything we can to facilitate this in a safe manner. The biggest challenge now is spreading crowds and that’s difficult if you have less capacity. But there are definitely solutions. We have expanded our opening hours and are using a strict reservation system. And once you’ve managed to get yourself a spot, you literally have all the space you need here to practise sports to your heart’s content!’

So, no standing still, or will you? To consider and celebrate your 30th anniversary?

‘Well, that’s a milestone, of course,’ Sies confirms, ‘more so for the organisation and its partners than for the students, I guess. But yes, we do want to give it some attention. Perhaps there are creative BUas students who can work out a fun and corona-proof concept to mark the occasion? I have good experiences with the student groups who assist in our BRESStival, so I say: bring it on!’