Ajax coach Frank de Boer is happy that the Ajax Foundation and head sponsor AEGON are organizing the StreetWise school project this year, for the third year in a row. “Kids forget their day to day worries when they’re playing sports. More importantly, it brings them closer together.”
To De Boer, it’s quite logical for Ajax to take on its social responsibility. “We’re a big crowd attraction, and people like to come to see us. If you’re able to bring something to kids that way, such as respect or the importance of sports and learning, that’s great.”
Ajax’s coach recognizes the differences with thirty –odd years ago when he, with his brother Ronald, spent hours outside playing football. “In the last decade especially, the practice of school and afterschool sports had diminished visibly”, says the 112 time international. “That’s due to the fact that most kids now place more importance on an iPhone, computers, and social media. And actually, that’s true for society as a whole. That’s why it would be great if we at Ajax could help breathe some new life into sports at school.”
In addition to that, De Boer enjoys the camaraderie that projects like Ajax StreetWise create. “You see that they’re genuinely enthusiastic, and it’s not forced. Kids from different cultures, from Surinam, China, Morocco, Turkey and the Netherlands all develop a nice camaraderie. That’s quite an important thing.”
The national champion’s coach is saddened by the recent rash of violent incidents that have occurred in football, but at the same time, it makes him as passionate as he was during his best years as a football player. “It’s exactly because of these cases that we should not conclude that it doesn’t work. Every bit helps and if we can contribute, then we will”, he says, referring to the school project as well as the RESPECT discussion at the KNVB, among other things.
Ironically, there isn’t an aggressive hair on De Boer’s head. “At school, I never had arguments, and
I definitely never did anything like fight or hit someone. That’s just not in me, and it’s not in Ronald either. We would play-fight with each other and other than that, we were just involved with sports.” The De Boer family could thus take their places in the stands to admire the achievements of their children from there. “Ronald and I always tried to solve things nicely on the field. In my entire professional career, I don’t think I ever got more than two yellow cards.”
Because Frank and Ronald de Boer discovered their exceptional athletic talents fairly early on, their school career was quickly relegated to second place. “When we were in our second year of high school, we went to Ajax. And from that moment on, I was more concerned with football than with school. My father picked us up from school. After that, we drove to Ajax and changed our clothes in the car. We normally didn’t get home until around eight o’clock in the evening.”
But De Boer did get his LTS diploma. “Although I wasn’t the most fanatic kid at school, I always went and did my best. I did my homework and finally passed, but a passing grade was good enough for me.” He recognizes this character train in the oldest of his three daughters. “My wife (Helen) and I have had to keep pushing her. While the two younger ones are very independent. Fortunately, the eldest one has passed.”
Although he and his brother didn’t have much passion for school, De Boer does get involved with his kids’ performance at school. “Our youngest daughter especially asks questions about her homework regularly in the evening.” The famous 10-minute conversations at school are also on the busy coach’s plate. “I always go if I can. I ask how it’s going, because I want to know how she’s doing in the class. Our kids all have different character traits. The middle one is much more easy-going than the others. And that comes out in these meetings.”
De Boer is resolute when asked if one of his kids has it in her to become a top athlete. “No, it’s too late for that, and it’s not something that I think is important; as long as they’re happy and healthy.” Nonetheless, his daughters have no shortage of physical activity, as they participate in handball and gymnastics, among other things. But what if the Ajax Women had existed ten years ago? “Then I think the middle one could have played. She’s just too shy and would have to work on that.
Funnily enough, all three of them like football and they want to watch everything.”
Just like the father of the house doesn’t miss much in the area of football. Whether it’s Jong Ajax, Ajax A1 or another youth team: De Boer tries to attend as much as possible. Even the Ajax StreetWise activities genuinely interest him. “I went a few times last year, but whether I have time this year depends on my agenda. In any case, the entire selection is going to the final day on May 15.”
Ajax StreetWise consists of three parts, just like in previous years. The Ajax StreetWise School Project, in which several grade schools in Haarlem, Hoofddoorp and Almere receive Ajax lessons for one entire week. Clinics, in which kids from grades 7 and 8 can be scouted for a city team. And finally, there’s the Ajax StreetWise final, where the city teams play against each other. Finally, one player will be scouted to attend the Ajax youth academy for one month.
A few Ajax selection players are always in attendance at the weekly closing at the schools. During the final on Wednesday May 15, the complete selection will come to cheer on the kids.
Ajax StreetWise is a project of the Ajax Foundation and is made possible in part by head sponsor AEGON.