Eva de Goede, three-time Olympic field hockey champion, resumes her sport management training with the Master in Sport Management at Johan Cruyff Institute Amsterdam, while she ponders whether to extend her sports career until the Paris 2024 Olympic Games
Eva de Goede is still a world class hockey player, but gradually her life has entered a new phase. The three-time Olympic champion put her international career on hold after a very difficult year, and went back to college at Johan Cruyff Institute, with the support of a Telesport scholarship. Meanwhile, Eva will also be thinking about whether she should prolong her career until Paris 2024.
The playmaker of the Dutch national team once wanted to say goodbye to her career as a top athlete after Tokyo, in the summer of 2020, and was curious about what else life had to offer. A trip around the world would be the start of a new life full of expectations and challenges, but Covid determined otherwise.
De Goede, on the hunt for a third Olympic title, decided to prolong her career as a professional field hockey player for a while. That career stretching turned out to be a loose concept: after two and a half years, a period in which she helped the team to win Olympic gold and the World Cup, she still plays hockey. But now the Dutch athlete finds herself in a quandary: will she hang up her stick on the wall for good, or will she hold on until Paris to join the list of national sports icons?
On November 10, 2021, the career of one of the most successful field hockey players of all time suddenly seemed to be over, after De Goede tore the anterior cruciate ligament of her right knee, including a meniscus injury, in a match against Belgium. However, she refused to give in and made an all-out effort to make it to the World Cup “against all medical advice”, she remembers in an interview with Steven Kooijman for Telesport.
“For me it is more about whether I can still get satisfaction from top hockey, that is far more important at my age, whether I feel like I can get any better and add something to the national team. All of that outweighs that option of a fourth gold”
“I thought that I should at least try. The healing period for a cruciate ligament injury is between nine and twelve months, while I only had seven months. But I thought: I am a top athlete with a top sports body. My body has always recovered well, and my example of a quick recovery was Memphis Depay. And I would have been even more disappointed if I didn’t even try. Afterwards it has helped me enormously, when I got through that difficult time. And it has worked out well too.”
The rehabilitation, the intense race against the clock and the successful World Cup turned out to have taken their toll mentally and physically. De Goede, in possession of an extensive trophy cabinet, longed for some peace and quiet. “It had been a very tough year, in which I had a really hard rehabilitation to reach the World Cup. Really, I’m super happy that I did it and that it went well. That we, as a Dutch team achieved a good result together, after a not-so-nice period together. But the World Cup then transitioned seamlessly into the new hockey season with my club HGC. That became too much for me,” she comments.
“That’s when I decided not to play with the Dutch team for a while. To give myself more time and space. I also started with the Master in Sport Management at Johan Cruyff Institute, so I wanted to focus on that. After high school graduation, I hadn’t opened a book for 15 years. I’m not exactly a college girl,”, she says with a smile.
“After high school graduation, I hadn’t opened a book for 15 years. I’m not exactly a college girl!”
Those choices still had to be made known to the brand-new national coach Paul van Ass. “I wanted to call him before the national team got together. We hadn’t started with the team and Paul hadn’t got in touch with us yet. I didn’t find it difficult to call him, but I did hope he would understand me well. It turned out to be a nice and very open conversation. I was very happy with it. It was immediately clear that Paul appreciated what I was saying. He was understanding and also said there wouldn’t be many matches this year, except the Pro League games and a training camp. Nevertheless, there are risks associated with the break, and I am very well aware of that. Other players will continue to grow and develop, for example. And there is a chance that I will find life without hockey very enjoyable. He is absolutely right about that. But I accept that risk.”
No field hockey player in the world has ever won four Olympic gold medals. In a year and a half, De Goede can gain eternal fame in Paris and join the ranks of Dutch legends, like Fanny Blankers-Koen, Inge de Bruijn and Leontien van Moorsel. But she insists that, if she does decide to return to the Dutch team, that will not be her biggest motivation. “Of course, it’s nice to work towards it, but for me it is more about whether I can still get satisfaction from top hockey, that is far more important at my age. Whether I feel like I can get any better and add something to the team. All of that outweighs that option of a fourth gold.”
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That decision needs some time. “Continue or stop, there is something to be said for both. I do believe in my own abilities. If I really want to make it to Paris and go for it, I’m still good enough. On the one hand, I want to experience and enjoy everything for as long as possible, because it’s a beautiful life. It’s wonderful to be able to represent my country for so long. But I also think it would be a shame if I go on too long. I want to believe that I can go on for years to come. But at my age, other things become more and more important. I will think about it very carefully in the coming months and give it some very careful consideration,” Eva says.
Telesport: 14 years of scholarships with Johan Cruyff Institute
Telesport has been supporting top athletes and former top athletes for more than 14 years to study at Johan Cruyff Institute, so they can become the next generation of leaders in sport management and in the world of coaching. “In our view, Eva de Goede deserved the 2022 scholarship the most, with her enormous experience and excellent motivation,” says Telesport chief editor Marcel van der Kraan. “She’s internationally acclaimed and a role model in her sport. Johan Cruyff wanted more athletes like Eva to lead sports organizations. At Johan Cruyff Institute, the passion for sport is also the driving force for education and talent development,” he says.
One of the objectives of Johan Cruyff Institute is to help athletes transition from their sporting career to a second career through sport management training. Their incorporation into the various study programs we offer also allows us to bring together an interesting mix of students, with different backgrounds who nurture each other: recent graduates who choose to specialize in sport management and coaching, professionals from the sports industry who want to update their knowledge and boost their future in their profession, and athletes whose experience on the playing field is extremely valuable when they decide to retire but want to continue to be linked to sport from a management position.