This year's BLEND edition is about connecting with others and with yourself. Exercise is one of the ways you can do this, but how? I spoke with Sies de Witte, director of BRESS. He has given me some more insights into how sports can contribute on a social, mental and physical level. He also discussed some of the distinguishable parts of BRESS. Curious why exercise is good for you in all kinds of areas? Curious about BRESS? Be sure to keep on reading! 

Can you tell me a little bit about who you are?

My name is Sies de Witte. I am originally from Goes, where I did the CIOS (sports and exercise study). There I chose a specialization in tourism, and I wanted to be a gym teacher, but I couldn't do this because of my choice package in high school. At the CIOS I found out that I like organizing, although not necessarily teaching, so I started looking for studies. I ended up at NHTV; next thing, I started looking for a part-time job. A friend of mine, who had already gone to Breda a year earlier, said that BRESS might be something for me, so I googled it and it sounded nice. During the introduction week, BRESS was present at the info markets. Then, I was asked if I wanted to come and work out, so I said no, I want to come and work. I did many different things for BRESS, and after 4 years I received my diploma. Later, they asked if I wanted to come and work for BRESS after graduating. Of course, I did so, so I said yes and took a management position. In 2019 I was asked to become a director together with Wouter Pons. 

Do you believe that sports make the connection with yourself stronger? 

I can't be sure about that. What I do know is that sport helps you push your limits. I am someone who says, "Find your limit on it, step over it". The statement, you can’t do more than your best, hurts my ears a bit. If you want to push your limits, you can do that with sports. If you can jump a certain height, or run with a certain speed, and you start training - you will push your limits and eventually, you would be able to jump higher and run faster. That's the physical part, but you also have the social part, especially team sports, but also fitness on the floor. You continuously encounter social contacts, which can be both positive and negative sometimes, and you learn to deal with this again and thus push your boundaries a bit to grow even further. And in that bit of growth, you get to know yourself better and better, and I think that fits your question. But I think that sport is mainly there to push you. It doesn't matter if it's social, mental or physical. 

I take from your answer that you think that sports also make you a lot stronger mentally? 

Definitely! Whether it is a team sport where you are very much in the social context, or a boxing training in which you become more confident, or fitness to boost your self-image by seeing progress. Sport certainly helps with your mental development. 

How do you find the sport for you? Do you have any tips for beginners who might want to come to BRESS?

The advantage of BRESS is that you don't choose a sport with your discount card, so you don't commit to anything. That is the power of BRESS - that you have the freedom to do multiple sports with your membership. That's on the sports offer. A good tip for a beginner is: to choose a lesson with an instructor, whether this is a trainer in volleyball or fitness. A trainer can help you learn techniques and make sure you do it right. That is, of course also possible with a friend who does have experience. 

What would be a motivation to start exercising? 

There is a motivation; do you want to work on your physical, social or mental health? If you want to work on it, sport can help you. For students, it would be good for the physical, but also for the social part. For example, you also see people from different study programs. However, mentally it is also nice to clear your head before an exam, for example by exercising. If you want to work on one of these three points, then you are in the right place with sport. 

What is the best sports choice if you want to push your boundaries? 

It depends. When it comes to physical fitness, fitness is number one, you can train very concentrated on that. Fitness is also a sport that every athlete can do next to any other sport. Team sports are best for social contacts. Mentally - it depends, maybe playing squash or boxing to beat out your frustration. Not very strategic, but it does feel good when you're frustrated. I think you have to look at your problems, what do you want to work on, and then choose a sport that suits it best. 

Stay tuned for part 2!