Johan Cruyff’s initiative to provide education for athletes comes from his nonconformity. Here he tells us what training and education have in common
Johan Cruyff has always understood sport as an expression of high performance, both as a player and a coach, and also during his time as a consultant. And transferring that maximum level of demandingness and professionalism to the world of management is what took him 15 years to create a model of higher education based on the values of sport that supported athletes and their ability to continue studying with the same effort they put into practicing their sport.
There is another feature that defines the character of Johan Cruyff: nonconformity. That’s where his commitment to provide education for athletes comes from. A social initiative that began in 1999. “Maybe people might think it’s strange because I never finished my studies when I was young,” says Johan. “But it bothered me that so many people said athletes would not be interested in studying. They train very hard, they are passionate about their sport and make great sacrifices. So it’s normal that sometimes they might forget about other important aspects of life, such as education.”
Johan Cruyff University Amsterdam started with only 35 athletes, but its success proved Johan right and soon bore fruit. The academic network kept growing to become what it is today: 5 Johan Cruyff Institutes around the world, 3 Cruyff Universities and 5 Cruyff Colleges in the Netherlands, from where more than 6,000 students have graduated. The institution offers programs at different academic levels in different languages and modalities.
Kick off Johan Cruyff University Amsterdam in 1999
Johan is very involved in the study process and is proud of the achievements of ‘his students’. “I like knowing that someone who has studied with us has got that job they were preparing for. I think most athletes should lead sports organizations. They have, and transfer to the business world, a passion for sport and their valuable experience as athletes. But they have to strive to add to that passion new skills and knowledge about the world of management. I firmly believe that there is no better person to defend the interests of sport than someone with an athlete’s heart”.
In the context of the tenth anniversary of the Cruyff College Nijmegen, Johan reflects on the great qualities treasured both by athletes and teachers. “Teaching is like training. When you are a coach you have to work with the team, but ultimately it is individualities that make you achieve your goals or get it wrong. Working with athletes is like doing a puzzle and it’s fun! You have to treat each one separately, look after the details. They might have had a bad day or have just won a championship, but they have to keep their feet on the ground. It is not very different for a teacher”.
New building of Johan Cruyff College Roosendaal inauguration
In this interview, Johan speaks enthusiastically about the points that training and education have in common. “Sometimes things go well and sometimes they go wrong. You may even get annoyed because they have made the same mistake again. But then you show them again, and they repeat the same exercise over and over again until they get it right. There is nothing more rewarding!”.