Jon de Ruijter is not someone to pat himself on the back. Nevertheless, he can be proud of what he and his team have achieved since he was appointed director of Erasmus Sport in September 2012. To mention a few figures (see also graph 1): 3900 students had a sports pass in 2012, but 11,600 now have one. In the same period, the number of passes among staff rose from 200 to 565.
The increasing popularity of sports on campus can also be measured by the number of visitors who come through the doors (see graph 2). So it’s no surprise that Erasmus Sport is in third place among student cities – after Groningen and Nijmegen – when it comes to the percentage of sports passes among students.
Extremely well response
“Yes, we’re doing really well,” says De Ruijter. “From the start, we had an idea of the potential, but we too were initially astounded by how well things are going.” When he took up his post, for example, his goal was to sell 7500 sports passes to students in 2016. In the end, the number was over ten thousand. Key points here were: client focus, actively promoting sports on campus and making the sports pass the main product rather than sports themselves. “The pass was always a means, not the end. There was far too much choice. Now there’s a single all-in-one pass for a good price; students only need to decide what they do once. They can do this in either September or January.”
However, that strategy only explains part of the success. The huge increase in the number of international students on campus did the rest. “Erasmus Sport responded extremely well to them. The number of sports passes among internationals is much higher than among Dutch students,” says De Ruijter. “But what’s actually even nicer is that more and more international students have joined sports associations. That percentage is now around 18 percent and there are also more internationals on the boards.”
Vitaal op de werkvloer
The flip side of the success? The associated capacity problems. But that’s actually a luxury problem, according to De Ruijter, because who would have imagined that? In the coming years, De Ruijter therefore wants to safeguard the quality of the sports facilities. Planned new building projects, including the third big sports hall, will help from 2020 onwards. “At the same time, we’re still targeting growth, but only if the quality is maintained.”
An important way to draw attention to sports on campus – literally! – is the Vitaal@Work project which was launched two years ago. “The background to this project was that we noticed that staff found it difficult to come here. Ticket sales were therefore stagnating,” explains De Ruijter. “We then translated a concept that had been used in Germany for some time called Pauze-Express – supervised exercise at the workplace – to Vitaal op de Werkvloer (Dynamic on the Shop Floor). Here the no sweat guarantee was crucial because that lowered the threshold.” Every week, five members of staff from Erasmus Sport now provide a fifteen-minute workplace workout to around fifty EUR departments and there’s also the option to exercise with sweat guaranteed.
Health insurer Zilveren Kruis co-finances (together with EUROPA) Vitaal@Work and according to De Ruijter is delighted with the initiative of Erasmus Sport. The company regularly sends organisations and other companies that also have its collective health care insurance to Erasmus Sport so that they can see for themselves how it works. “We’ve already had visits from the RET, DSM, ABN-Amro, Blokker, TU Eindhoven and the NS,” says De Ruijter. “It’s a unique concept for the Netherlands.” He is quick to acknowledge the input of his staff: “Everything depends on the people who implement it. They make the difference. We have a real can do mentality. You see, we were founded 71 years ago to enable staff and students to do sports. And that’s what we do.”