Studying alongside a successful elite sporting career? Marloes Keetels (28) proves that it is possible: this summer she won gold with the women's hockey team at the Olympic Games in Tokyo and also completed her studies in Business Administration at Rotterdam School of Management (RSM). "There are special study advisors for elite sport athletes at Erasmus University Rotterdam. That helps enormously to combine your studies and elite sport."
How do you look back on the Olympics?
"In 2016 we lost the final of the Olympics to Great Britain. This year we really wanted to win. The run-up was much tougher though: due to corona we had five years of preparation instead of four. Also, it was very weird to train for a few months at 1.5 metres and live in a lot of uncertainty. But now the feeling is extra euphoric after taking gold in Tokyo!"
You were coached by the EUR Topsport programme. How was that?
"When I was eighteen, I started studying at another university. That did not work out. I started studying at the same time, living on my own and I was called up for the Dutch team for the first time. Looking back, it was all a bit much. I stopped studying then. The following year, I was more focused on the combination of studying and elite sports. At an open day at EUR I was immediately informed about Erasmus Sport and the programme Elite sports and university education. That was very reassuring. At RSM there was also a special study advisor for elite sports athletes. They helped me to arrange things. From rescheduling exams to catching up on papers."
"At an open day at EUR I was immediately pointed to Erasmus Sport and the programme Elite sports and university education. That was very reassuring."
Is it possible to combine elite sport and studying?
"In elite sport, you have to deal with a lot of pressure. It is nice to be in a different environment. Where nobody cares if you played badly on Sunday. By the way, I studied worse in periods when I was not playing hockey. It is precisely the combination that brought me more in both directions. It is good for my self-confidence to have both. I wrote my thesis about this as well: because you study and also come into contact with other students, you develop a different identity in addition to your 'sporting self'. So besides the hockey-playing Marloes, there was also a studying Marloes. That made me aware of who I am apart from hockey. That is better for your well-being. It also prevents you from falling into a black hole after your sporting career, which happens to many top athletes."
What do you recommend to young athletes who want to study?
"Be aware of what you are looking for. Does it give you energy to combine several things? Do you feel better when you are busy? It is tough. They help you at EUR to arrange practical matters so that it is possible to combine, but you still have to do it yourself. You need discipline to make up for everything you missed in training and tournaments. For me, the combination worked very well."