“An athlete performs better if you make them the owner of their development”

December 28, 2017

“Un deportista rinde más cuando se adueña de su propio proceso de desarrollo” - Johan Cruyff Institute

After 10 years as a professional cyclist, Marieke van Wanroij has made coaching her work, which she applies in her job as a sports podiatrist, as a coach of new talents and through her own company MvW Coaching

Marieke van Wanroij is a retired professional cyclist, a sports podiatrist and an alumna of the Master in Coaching at the Johan Cruyff Institute. Nowadays, Marieke runs her own business, MvW Coaching, where she helps young athletes to develop both physically and mentally, as well as coaching people on how to improve their lifestyle in general. Besides working as a sports podiatrist, she is also involved in the Master in Coaching at the Johan Cruyff Institute, as one of the personal coaches of the program, and at the Cycling Academy Gelderland. She recently started as a part time coach at UCI cycling team Parkhotel Valkenburg.

Can you tell us what the biggest challenges and achievements were in your sports career?

I have been a professional cyclist for 10 years and have been able to see, experience and learn a lot during my sports career. For instance, I found out that I was a team player, and often did more to improve the team performance than I did for myself! I really loved the teamwork.

In my last year as a pro rider, I was a ‘coach’ for the young riders from the Boels Dolmans Cycling Team. At that time, only very few professional cyclists could make a living out of it, so I had to continue working and studying. It was a very tough combination, but it also helped me to develop important skills, such as organization, perseverance, structuring and decision-making. I also suffered a severe ankle injury, which left me unable to ride for a few months, but thanks to this process and my comeback in competition, I also gained many insights that still help me today in my work as a coach, but also as a human being. Coaching has always fulfilled me with satisfaction.

Why did you decide to become a coach after you retired from being a competitor?

As an athlete, I was already active as a ‘coach’ in the field, mainly because I offered a sympathetic ear to my teammates, and as mentioned earlier, since I had an eye for team dynamics and teamwork, coaching felt like a natural role for me, and I was always helping the young riders in the peloton. I was also used to working with others this way because of my 15 years of experience as a sports podiatrist, where I am used to observing patients, listening to them, being curious and asking.

So I noticed that coaching was a natural role for me. I enjoy the process of stimulating people to get them into action and making them responsible for their own progress. Whether it’s a patient or a coachee, for me it’s quite similar. When I realized that I wanted to become a sports coach, and further develop my career in this field, I contacted the Johan Cruyff Institute to study the Master in Coaching.

Are there many female coaches in cycling?

In cycling, there are still not many female coaches. It is a conservative world! Change is slowly happening however, which is good news for women’s cycling! It will be nice when there is more cooperation in the future between men and women coaches in – and outside – cycling. We could learn a lot from each other, and that would be beneficial for the athletes!

As well as being a coach, you are also a sports podiatrist. Can you tell us about this?

Sports podiatry involves the diagnosis and treatment of conditions and injuries relating to the foot and ankle, for both daily life and sports. Sports podiatry has given me enormous insight into human functioning, injuries and mental well-being. This knowledge and experience I can apply in my work as a coach. For example, you need to be curious to find out why your patient got injured. But it is also important to make the patient aware of their own responsibility in the healing process. Ultimately, you also want this in sport, because you want to get the best out of the athlete and make them the owner of his or her process.

"An athlete performs better if you make them the owner of their development" - Johan Cruyff Institute

What would you say is the difference between a coach and a trainer?

A trainer determines and gives instructions, and is focused on performing an exercise, training or schedule. An athlete adapts to the structure of this training or exercise. A coach is focused on (team) processes and development, and aims to make the coachee the owner of that process by, for example, asking critical questions or helping them find solutions.

And what is the difference between a coach and a mentor?

A mentor is more focused on transferring knowledge and experience in his/her field of knowledge, while a coach is more focused on coaching and discovering qualities, guiding and developing learning processes with the aim of personal growth.

Did you have a coach during your professional career as a cyclist?

During my cycling career, I worked with trainer-coaches that mainly focused more on giving instructions and less on personal growth and development. On the other hand, I was curious by nature and did focus on innovation and development, so I went looking for that myself, and started to work with a mental coach. Nowadays, you see that this is changing, because both research and practice show that athletes perform better by making them the owner of their own progress, because it is more efficient, and also because it is more challenging when they think about their own development.

Which do you think is better: to have a team coach or to have a personal coach for self-development within a team like a cycling team?

Both! I think that coaching aimed at personal growth and development of the individual, ultimately is beneficial for the team and team performance. The responsibility of the team coach is to monitor this properly, to coach the team on the team development, and to correctly use the individual qualities to ultimately perform as well as possible as a team.

What are your future coaching ambitions?

For the time being, I see myself coaching young talents. I recently started as a coach at UCI cycling team Parkhotel Valkenburg, and that is enough of a challenge right now. For the future, it would be good if men and women collaborated more within and outside cycling, to make youth talent development an integral part of a broader context. I would like to contribute to that. Besides that, I hope that I inspire more women to become coaches, to have more women coaches working in sports!



This 7 month program is based on the vision of Johan Cruyff in which sport coaching is more than using tactical and technical knowledge. It is about yourself, the players & staff, the team and the environment. We believe that you can only coach others if you know how to coach yourself. Each participant’s personal background is a base for further development and better understanding of oneself as a coach and/or manager. The principle of coaching is that you then apply this insight knowledge in counseling others. A personal coach will guide you in the process of realizing your personal goals for becoming a better coach, manager and/or person.

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