1. Good morning Jan Coolen, we are very pleased to hear from you. As the man upon whom the Federation was relied for years you could be thought of as the guardian of the ISF temple. So, just how long have you been involved in our federation and for how many years have you been the General Secretary?
Thank you for considering me the ISF temple guard, I am honoured.
Officially I became involved in the ISF from September 1997 when through a special project subsidised by the Flemish government, I was detached by the Flemish School Sport Foundation to assist the then Secretary General of the ISF, Raymond Defever, and 1 year later was officially appointed Executive Director in October 1998.
When unfortunately Raymond Defever died in November 2001, I became acting Secretary General until May 2002 when I was elected Secretary General which means that at the moment I have been in the ISF for 17 years of which 12 years as Secretary General.
My first contact with the ISF however was far earlier as in 1990 I was member of the Organising Committee of the Gymnasiade organised In Bruges, Belgium and in May 1997 of the first Swim-Cup in Antwerp, Belgium.
I also had the chance to be head of delegation of the Flemish delegations that took part in ISF Volleyball in Kecskemet, Hungary in 1992 and in Komarno, Slovak Republic in 1996. In 1994 I was a member of the staff of the Belgian delegation for the Gymnasiade in Nicosia, Cyprus.
All of this, a good schooling for my future career in the ISF.
2. Before going on to ask you about your current role in the job we’d like to know who exactly Jan Coolen is? What led up to your arriving on the ISF doorstep?
I was born in 1956 and after I finished my secondary school (specialising in Latin and mathematics)
I went to the Catholic University of Leuven and graduated Master in Physical Education in 1978.
I also have a certificate of sports administrator with BLOSO which is the Flemish governing Body of PE, Sport and open air Recreation.
After 3 years in school as PE teacher and school secretary, I started working for the Flemish School Sport Foundation in November 1981, first as sports coordinator and staff member in the province of Antwerp, later in 1997 as international sports coordinator and senior staff member at the central secretariat in Brussels, a duty which I initially combined with my ISF duties until I was elected ISF Secretary General in 2002 and definitively from 2010 when the ISF secretariat became autonomous from the Flemish School Sport Foundation.
3. Turning to your job as General Secretary, everyone recognises your serious-mindedness and your involvement but could you give us an idea of your day-to-day schedule?
The job is all-embracing and quite demanding but fascinating.
I am involved in the policy making of the ISF, the preparation, reporting and follow up of all board meetings (Management Committee, Executive Committee and General Assembly), the representation of the federation with governments, sports federations, other organisations having the same aims and the sponsors. Maintaining close contacts with member countries, EC and TC members and Organising Committees ensuring the co-ordination of ISF-activities are other important duties.
I also am always pleased to be the ISF delegate at some of the school sport events, as I like to be on the field, to feel the heartbeat of the federation.
All of this is, let us say, the part of the ‘general’ element.
On the other hand as the only employee of the ISF at the moment I am also the ‘secretary’ and responsible for the daily management of the federation, the membership administration, the administrative support of the ISF Treasurer and in general the continuity of service.
4. After so many years there is no sign of any lessening in your devotion to the ISF cause. Are you still passionate about sport, passionate about your work or are you sure that ISF is an important body which must continue to exist in order to discharge its responsibilities to its member countries? Can you be all three at the same time?
Yes, all three at the same time.
I am passionate about sport and education as is demonstrated by my diploma and my personal history in sport. I was a volleyball player and coach, not without merit if I am allowed to say this about myself.
I am passionate about my job. As said it is a demanding but interesting job in which I can enjoy myself but must invest a lot of time and energy as the ISF is growing bigger every day.
And of course I believe in the mission of the ISF which is education through sport. The international school sport federation has a unique DNA and we have a duty towards youngsters if ISF really wants to be the educational answer to professional and materialistic influences of contemporary society on sport.
We have to work hard to gain and keep world-wide recognition and I am glad to form part of it.
5. The arrival of a new president seems to have given a fresh impetus to ISF. Andrea Delpin achieved remarkable progress but has had to move on. Laurent Petrynka is his unanimously elected successor and seems to want to enhance ISF’s influence at international level. What are your thoughts?
Andrea Delpin laid the foundation for the future development of the ISF. He was the first to understand that to grow, the ISF had to be autonomous and recruit employees itself and he made it come true. He believed in leadership (a team not an individual) and created a cordial atmosphere.
He also started positioning the ISF at the international level, signing Memoranda of Understanding with organisations having the same main aims.
I am very pleased that Laurent Petrynka understood that he has to look to the tradition while moving forward into the future. He clearly told in his maiden speech at the General Assembly in Besançon, where he was elected unanimously, that he would follow in the footsteps of Andrea Delpin and would build on his legacy.
I am very content that he also emphasises his own topics and new angles of incidence as there are the first ISF Convention in 2015, the School Sport Foundation and the importance of communication with a new website, the more intense use of social media and other modern communication tools.
I am convinced that together with the ‘men and women in the ISF’ he will succeed to reach his goal to make the ISF still more important and credible on the international sport scene. I will be happy to assist him in his endeavours.