Approximately 4.5 million of the total of 16 million people in the Netherlands are registered with one of the 35,000 sports clubs in the country. About two thirds of the population that is over 15 years of age participates in sports on a weekly basis.
Of all sports, football has the largest following in the Netherlands, with field hockey and volleyball as the second and third most popular team sports. Tennis, gymnastics and golf are the three most widely played individual sports. Cricket is considered a growing sport in the Netherlands. A number of native Dutch sports are also practiced, such as korfball (a type of ball sport) and klootschieten (a shooting game).
Another popular sport in the Netherlands is ice skating. Whenever the temperature drops below zero for several days in a row and the lakes start to freeze over, the Dutch become excited as it means there's a chance for an ‘Elfstedentocht’, a traditional ice skating tour which passes eleven cities in the North of the Netherlands. The tour, almost 200 km in length, stretches over frozen canals, rivers and lakes between the eleven historic Frisian cities: Leeuwarden, Sneek, IJlst, Sloten, Stavoren, Hindeloopen, Workum, Bolsward, Harlingen, Franeker and Dokkum, before returning to Leeuwarden. Any time the weather allows it, this tour is skated. The last editions of the Elfstedentocht were held in 1985, 1986 and 1997. The tour would currently feature about 15,000 amateur skaters taking part, which demands high quality ice. The regulations require that the ice must be (and remain at) a minimum thickness of 15 centimetres during the entire tour, in order for the race to take place.
In primary and secondary schools, physical education lessons (gymles) are provided to promote physical exercise. Children participate in different kinds of sports such as basketball, football, gymnastics or swimming at least once a week. They are expected to bring their own sportswear.
The websites below are available in English. A large number of sports associations in Leiden can also be found in Dutch pages.