This leg makes a difference

Xan Engelsman (age 14) started playing field hockey about eight years ago. His parents sent him to a trial training session because the club was short of boys. Since then he hasn't tried anything else. Thanks to the JUMP, he recently made the switch to another club to play field hockey at a higher level.

Xan played field hockey at Hockeyclub Nijkerk since he was six years old. On the field he could keep up with his standard prosthesis. Although: certainly in the early years he preferred to play without a prosthesis than with one. "Without prosthesis I was faster," he laughs. "I was very handy on my stump. But yes, in the long run it is of course not wise to continue with that. Because my stump was actually too long, I had surgery so I could get a better-fitting prosthesis. With that I then continued playing hockey, but I missed speed, had a hard time with fast opponents, or if I wanted to make an action myself."

Back then, Xan was regularly invited to Mentelity Foundation activities. During the Mentelity Games - the skiing and snowboarding event for people with physical challenges in Switzerland - prosthetist Frank Jol looked at Xan's leg for the first time and concluded that the JUMP could make a big difference for him. "Frank really looks at what you need as a prosthetic user," says mother Mathilde Dusol. "At the prosthetist we were at, we didn't feel that it was getting the most out of it. What Xan had, he thought was good enough. Frank immediately asked how his life was at that moment AND what he would like to improve."

He knows what Xan wants to improve: he wants to get faster. His ambition is to get as high as possible in field hockey. And with the JUMP of the Mentelity Foundation, he has already taken a huge step in that: he has moved to Hockey Club Eemvallei in Amersfoort and plays there in the first division. "This leg really makes a difference," he says. "I can now surprise opponents at speed and I get away from my spot faster. The first time I ran on the JUMP, I even had trouble slowing down; really a huge difference. I run neater and am much faster. This leg really makes a difference. It makes me feel good when I wear it."

"This leg really makes a difference. It makes me feel good."

The switch from his old prosthetist to Frank Jol took quite a bit of effort. "We didn't know that beforehand either," says Mathilde. "But apparently you officially get a prosthesis on loan and sign a contract that you can't just get out of. That's also why a lot of people stick with the prosthetist where they start. That's a crazy system, but through the rehabilitation doctor we eventually managed to make the switch anyway."

And within six months of his first experience with the JUMP, Xan made another the switch: to another field hockey club at a higher level. "I think a lot of guys at HC Eemvallei didn't even realize in the beginning that I was wearing a prosthesis," he says. "Of course: the JUMP does stand out, but everyone is mostly concerned with the game. You don't pay attention to how you look. And because I was able to keep up well in training, it wasn't until the locker room that I noticed." How far his ambition extends? For now to the first team and playing in the premier league. Whether he can become the first player with a prosthesis in the Dutch team? Xan has to laugh about it, but doesn't rule it out: "You have to be ambitious, otherwise it won't work out."


Xan running with his father, who also has a prosthesis.

He would like to transfer his experience with the JUMP to his father Jurjen. He too is missing his right foot, but still has a traditional prosthesis. When you see the two running side by side, you can clearly see the difference. "Sometimes we go running," smiles the teenager. "I then come home after half an hour, he after an hour panting and puffing. I've already said once: dad, get a leg like that! But he won't listen yet. I hope he will, because with this leg I walk much neater and am faster. Everybody wants that, right?"

Text: Robin Wubben
Photos: Mathilde Dusol