Johan Cruyff Academy Groningen, inaugurated in 2015 with 15 student-athletes, is celebrating its first graduation on July 11.
Johan Cruyff Academy Groningen, part of the Hanze University of Applied Sciences, started in 2015 with 15 student-athletes who chose to combine their sport with a bachelor’s program. On July 11, they will celebrate the academy’s first graduation.
Paula Boonstra, who has continued to play volleyball at the highest level during the four-year, full-time bachelor’s degree in sport marketing, will be one of the first students that graduates. “I can’t deny the fact that it’s not easy to balance sport with full-time studies,” Paula admits, “but it’s important in sport to always be studious and learn new things, even when the final goal seems unattainable. Studying taught me to be open to unknown things and to believe in my own abilities. I learned to stand up for myself and to work together with people who want to achieve the same goal. I can apply all that in my sports career.”
At the start of her second study year in 2016, Paula Boonstra made her debut in the Dutch Premier League with VC Sneek, who won the cup. In 2018, she moved to Belgium to play for Asterix Avo Volley in Beveren, where she plays as a spiker (outside hitter). She became national champion with the club and completed her studies at the same time.
Paula was supervised by, among others, her teacher Kees Rozema who was involved in setting up the Johan Cruyff Academy Groningen. The team of teachers have also learned a lot in these four years. “We deliver customized work to athletes within a huge university of applied sciences where a lot of standards are used,” says Kees. “So you need to learn to look unconventionally at education every now and then, just as Johan Cruyff looked unconventionally at football, especially if you organize your study program ‘around’ the sport to provide appropriate solutions for the student-athletes.”
“We are constantly looking for ways to keep sport at number one, while guaranteeing the level and quality of education” – Kees Rozema, professor
“We are constantly looking for ways how to keep sport at number one, while guaranteeing the level and quality of our education. That’s why the Johan Cruyff Academy has to be at the forefront of higher professional education, because our program is not only personal, but also accessible remotely, so that students can learn from a distance when they travel for their sport. The program is set up in such a way that athletes increasingly take control of their own study and study progress, which results in greater responsibility and better qualified professionals.”
“Due to competitions and tournaments, we have sometimes moved the exams and study assignments and applied different deadlines,” Paula explains. “This allowed me to grow enormously in my sport and take important steps, including the step to play volleyball abroad. Everything and everyone encouraged me in my development, in sport and towards the diploma.”
“Coming up with innovative solutions requires a lot from students and teachers. That is only possible if you form a close team, in which students and teachers encourage each other to perform better,” says Kees. “The teachers are easy to approach, and the students help each other wherever they can, also between different study years. That’s unique. And what I like is that most athletes really started to like the study program and want to develop further in sport marketing. That’s magnificent!”
After graduating, Paula will focus entirely on her sport for the time being. “I will keep playing volleyball abroad and I hope to do this for many years to come. I want to fully focus on achieving the best possible volleyball career right now. The diploma provides certainty for later. Former teammates often had difficulty combining sport and study. When I hear that, I always think: ‘Hello! Johan Cruyff Academy!’ Not that all the worries and stress that a study program entails disappear, but it does make a huge difference!”
“Four years ago, we started a wonderful journey of discovery,” Kees concludes. “I saw terrific people walking into our classrooms, and now I see them walking out with a degree in their pocket. I would like to say to them: What a difference! And keep making that difference!”
The Johan Cruyff Academy in Groningen, the third one after Amsterdam and Tilburg, was set up to help athletes in the north of the Netherlands. And also to give new opportunities to the graduated athletes from the Johan Cruyff College Groningen to move on to higher professional education, after finishing their vocational education, to further develop their talent through sport and study.