Beach volleyball player Madelein Meppelink (31) participated in the Olympic Games for the third time last summer. She follows the Master in Management at the Rotterdam School of Management (RSM). What is it like to be a top athlete and to follow a study at the same time? "It is nice that there is guidance from the university."
How do you look back on the Tokyo Olympics?
"I look back on it with mixed feelings. I was going for more. I am not happy or satisfied with the result. But I am proud that we were there. Elite sport is very hard. Of the 24 teams, 20 or so had a chance of a medal. It was all very close. So we knew 17 teams would be disappointed."
You were coached by the EUR elite sports programme. How did you experience that?
"I found it very pleasant. They think with you and are there for you. 'What can we change for you?' is often the approach. Elite sports coordinator Rebekka de Kogel-Kadijk was a beach volleyball player herself, so she knows what it's like. Of course, you often have to arrange things yourself. I usually have contact with my study coordinator first and then with Rebekka. But it helps that she thinks along. And it's always a lot less hassle than what I'm used to at a tournament!"
"I really like the alternation between training and studying. It allows me to get the best out of myself."
Is it possible to combine elite sport and studying?
"A full-time Master's degree alongside my elite sporting career, that really seems impossible. I am therefore happy that I can do my Master part-time. It also depends on the individual. I like learning new things. I have been playing beach volleyball for 12 years now, so the novelty has worn off. I get the novelty out of my studies. It took me a lot longer to finish my bachelor's degree. After that, I consciously stopped studying for a while. But especially in the winter, when we train a lot, it can become monotonous. At a certain moment you have finished watching Netflix!"
"I really like the alternation between training and studying. It allows me to get the best out of myself. As athletes, we constantly push ourselves to become better. If you feel good about yourself, it ensures that you have positive energy during training. So yes, studying helps me in my sport as well."
What do you recommend to young elite sports athletes who want to study?
"As an athlete you learn to perform under stress. You know what suits your character and what gives you energy. Ask yourself: am I a person who will get energy out of this? If the combination stresses you out in advance, don't do it!"