Eduarda Amorim, a student of the Master in Sport Management at Johan Cruyff Institute with a scholarship from The Cruyff Athlete Fund, is resuming her studies upon her return from her fourth Olympic Games with a promising future ahead: one more year as a professional handball player and a desire to work in the industry to “give a human touch to the sport business”
Eduarda ‘Duda’ Amorim is enjoying her final years as a handball star with determination and on the attack. That’s how she has always played. The Brazilian was in Tokyo, her fourth and last Olympic Games, handing over the baton to a generation whose challenge is to return the Brazilian national team to the top. Duda’s sporting career has been, so far, extraordinary: world champion with Brazil in 2013; five EHF Champions League titles (the first Brazilian to achieve it) and, individually, voted best player in the world in 2014, best player in Europe in 2019, and the best of the last decade according to the prestigious website Handball Planet. Duda had intended to end her sporting career last year, but Covid, the postponement of Tokyo 2020, and an interesting offer for one year deal with Rostov Don delayed her farewell.
But she is not going to let go of what she has in hand since September 2020: graduating from the Master in Sport Management at Johan Cruyff Institute thanks to the scholarship she was awarded through The Cruyff Athlete Fund. Her graduation will be in March 2022. “Having athletes with professional training leading sports organizations is ideal. We athletes should be there to give a human touch to the sport business,” she says, with a view to her next goal.
Eduarda Amorim started in the world of sport in rhythmic gymnastics at school, and she was the best. But what gave her butterflies in her stomach was watching her older sister, Ana, play handball for her club and the national team. She didn’t miss a single training session, let alone their matches. She started playing when she was 11 years old and by the age of 14 she knew she wanted to be a professional. To do so, she had to leave her hometown, Bumenau, to go and play in Sao Paulo and, at 19, she took the big leap and crossed the pond to start her professional career in Europe, first in Macedonia and then in Hungary. It is on the old continent where she continues to make history, this new season with Rostov Don.
Here we find out a little more about the concerns of one of the great stars of women’s handball in the world, both inside and outside the classroom.
You grew up watching your sister play and she is the one who encouraged you to also become a handball player, but you have followed different careers. How did you start playing and what memories do you have from your childhood?
Yes, she inspired me to start playing and she was a big help and support at the beginning of my career, especially when we moved from our hometown, Blumenau, to play in Sao Paulo and then to Skopje, Macedonia. I had a happy childhood. I used to play a lot in the street with my siblings and friends. On summer, we would always go to spend some time on the beach. My mom was a PE teacher, so I remember always being active and doing fun activities.
When did you realize you wanted to become a professional handball player?
I started to play more or less when I was 11-12 years old and by 14 I was already sure I wanted to become professional and play in Europe. In Brazil, the level of handball leagues and clubs is still amateur. People who have played with me always remember me being very focused at a very young age.
How do you remember the experience of playing with your sister in Kometal Skopje?
That was totally new for me. I had to adapt to a new culture, a new kind of handball, with a very high level. I was lucky to have my sister there, we supported each other and we were a very good pair in defense! We had lots of Brazilian friends who lived in Skopje, so we would get together on the weekends whenever we could.
“I was lucky to have my sister in Kometal Skopje; we supported each other and we were a very good pair in defense!”
What are your best qualities in and off the court?
I am very disciplined, I am very positive, and I am a team worker. I like to be with people and learn from the best mentalities.
What scares you most about retiring?
Not knowing what will come next. We have every step of our career planned, and this transition period is the one that I worry about. Am I going to find something I love as much as handball? Will I be able to pass on my experience to future generations? Will I make a difference in the handball world from off the court? Too many thoughts, but, on the one hand, I am calm, I am doing what is within my control, which is to prepare financially and to study. For sure, this will open more opportunities for my next career.
“Too many thoughts on retirement, but, on the one hand, I am calm, I am doing what is within my control, which is to prepare financially and to study”
What would you like to do in the future?
I would like to work in handball, or at a sports company where I can help to improve, share similar values and make a difference. My goal is to work at the European Handball Federation or the International Handball Federation, hopefully I’ll have an opportunity to do so. I’m doing my part and we will see what happens. I’m open-minded and, of course, I would be open to work in other sports but my first option is handball, and especially women’s handball, where I see much room for improvement.
What made you decide to study a master’s degree in sport management while you were still an active professional athlete?
It’s important to study. Actually, the physical coach we had for Rio 2016 was the one who encouraged me to take the plunge. Last year was supposed to be the last in my career, so I started to look for some options. I heard about Johan Cruyff Institute from a handball player in Barcelona who was always sharing things about his studies on internet. I was looking for some sport management studies in Europe, where I want to work. I checked a little bit the options and I decided to apply for the Master in Sport Management Online through The Cruyff Athlete Fund. It is really positive to incentivize and help players to study. A scholarship can change an athlete’s life and can inspire them to make the sports industry even better and more equitable. For us players, it is a way to be able to give back to society everything that sport has given to us throughout our careers.
“My goal is to work at the European Handball Federation or the International Handball Federation, hopefully I’ll have an opportunity to do so. I’m doing my part and we will see what happens”
How important is education for athletes during their sports career?
Very important. We have the peculiarity of building two careers. We train and prepare so much for the first one, but it is also important to prepare ourselves for the second one. Sport has its risks and a sports career can end very early, so it is important to have an education as well; not all sports are that stable financially, so it is necessary to prepare for the future.
How have you found the master’s program so far?
It’s quite challenging. At the beginning it was a little bit hard because you need to get into the rhytm. Also, my life plans before Covid were totally different. I decided to start the master’s in September because I was supposed to finish my career in December, and I wanted to have more time to dedicate to it. But I had to combine both and because I’m quite determined I decided to continue. It’s a matter of time management, I train once or twice a day and I like to study in the morning because it’s when I’m more focused, my concentration is higher. More or less, you need to study 2-3 hours a day, it depends on the schedule, but after two months you get into the rhythm and I think it’s possible.
There was a period when the schedule was quite overwhelming, playing in a club and preparing for the Olympics with the national team, so I spoke with my tutor and he was so nice and they let me slow the pace a little bit, so instead of finishing in September I will graduate in March. Athletes are goal-oriented, we have to plan many things in our sports career, so when you want to study you also plan when you want to dedicate your time to do that and when you want to finish. At least, we are very disciplined and good at planning.
“As an athlete you have your point of view, but when you study you realize how much needs to be done for us to be able to work in a professional way”
Do you think the modules are relevant and respond to real cases of the different areas of management in sport?
Absolutely. And it’s very interesting because when you are playing for a club or a national team you have your point of view. But when you study you realize how much needs to be done for us to be able to work in a professional way. In every module, we have debates and I like to participate because you can give your opinion, hear other people’s opinions and the exchange is really enriching. We work on real cases, so you have to apply what you are studying and this is for me really interesting because you have to present an event, or a marketing plan, it’s not just theory.
“It is really positive to incentivize and help players to study. A scholarship can change an athlete’s life and can inspire them to make the sports industry even better and more equitable”
What can you bring to the class as a professional athlete?
Maybe the emotional part. Sport is about emotion, sometimes when people start to work on management, they try to take more a business approach, which is quite normal. But I think athletes are there to give a more human touch and remind them that, if things are going well on the playing field, and if everyone is motivated, they will see the results of that management.
What is your favorite aspect of sport management and why?
I like the way they look at the different topics of the master’s, it’s really applicable. And how much they believe in athletes working after their career on the management side. They really help you to study and achieve your goals and be sure for the next steps. This is what I like the most, and also when you get this other perspective, they really open your mind. For example, I’m now doing the sports diplomacy module and I have seen many programs with the United Nations, organizations that work on social projects, etc. It’s interesting because sometimes you want to make a difference and this kind of projects can show you the way, how to start, who to connect with. I find it very interesting.
“I really like how much Johan Cruyff Institute believe in athletes working after their career on the management side. They really help you to study and achieve your goals and be sure for the next steps”
Who would you recommend this master’s to and why?
I would recommend it to athletes and would advise them to do it during their career because it is established in many cultures that when you are playing you don’t need to think about the day after. I am playing in the highest level, in the national team and studying. Imagine what someone playing just for a club, or at an amateur level, can do. I would recommend it to athletes, to be inspire by their studies, but also to everyone who loves sport.
Johan Cruyff was convinced that, with a good academic background, athletes are the most suitable people to defend the interests of sport and lead sports organizations, because of their commitment, experience, eagerness to improve and goal orientation. Would you agree?
Of course. I believe it’s very important to have athletes working on the management side because once you have this background with a master’s degree you are able to lead people, to make handball better, which is my aim in the future. Many people in management don’t understand the sport at all, so it’s important to have someone from inside managing as well and also leading, it’s a plus. It’s the ideal, from my point of view.