Former professional cyclist Marieke van Wanroij, head of coaching at the Jumbo-Visma Women team, explains the role that the Master in Coaching from Johan Cruyff Institute played in her career in professional cycling and coaching
Marieke van Wanroij is a former professional cyclist who has ridden in the cycling team with Marianne Vos. She is currently head of coaching at the Jumbo-Visma Women team, where she now coaches Marianne and the other riders from the team. The Master in Coaching that she studied at Johan Cruyff Institute Amsterdam played an important role in her career.
“In my time as a professional cyclist little attention was paid to the personal development of —and I don’t use this word out of a lack of respect— the ‘domestiques’ in cycling, the riders who work for the benefit of their team and leader. My dream however, was to become a coach for an important sports team, but top sport defined such a large part of my life that, when I stopped doing that, I didn’t really know what I had to offer. I therefore decided to follow the Master in Coaching in 2015-16. And six years later, I was able to make the switch to Jumbo-Visma Women, which I am very happy with”, Marieke says.
How was the Master in Coaching important for your career development?
When I started the Master in Coaching, I knew where I wanted to go —to continue coaching— but it didn’t feel like something of my own yet. I already had some experience in coaching, because I had worked as a sports podiatrist and teacher, where you are coaching clients every day, for example by asking the right questions or referring them to the right professionals.
“I knew I wanted to continue in coaching but it didn’t feel like something of my own yet”
So, the coaching was already there. And all kinds of things in the Master in Coaching started me thinking, contributions of my fellow students, the coach-teachers and my personal coach. The aim of the study program is to experience that personal growth and development. For example, I learned that my strength is listening and observing, and I started to learn what I could do with that in coaching. This allowed me to develop my own coaching style, which also increased my confidence in myself, as a coach and as a person; to stand up for what you want and what’s important to you!
What was the strength of this study program for you?
The professors create a safe environment, so that all developments can take place, both as a group and at an individual level, in which everyone really learns a lot.
In addition, you see individual and different ways of responding —that is, of coaching. There is no right or wrong, or a best way of coaching. So, you learn a lot from others, but in the end, you develop a coaching style that suits you.
“A safe environment was essential to develop my own coaching style, which also made my confidence grow”
In the past when I was coaching, I often had thoughts like: “But how do you do that exactly?”, and now I am like: “Ah yes, it can be done that way too!” Through the Master in Coaching, I have developed my coaching skills and I have gained insight and confidence in my personal coaching style.
“I have developed my coaching skills and gained insight and confidence in my personal coaching style”
What do you use from the Master in Coaching at Jumbo-Visma Women?
From the Master in Coaching, I learned how important it is to create a safe and familiar environment first. The Jumbo-Visma Women team was allowed to go to Alicante, Spain for a training camp in February and that is where we met for the first time. I then put them together in a circle, where they could all focus on two things to develop this year. This not only created understanding among the group for each other’s points, but it also made it easier to discuss those points with each other. That has been very decisive for the atmosphere within the group and how openly things are discussed.
“In the end, it is not your aim as a coach to work very hard to keep the group together, but to make sure that the group gets to work”
At another moment in my coaching career, I had to deal with a completely different group dynamic once. At the same time, this was extremely instructive and valuable. What I learned from this through the Master in Coaching, was that instead of avoiding conflict and doing my best to steer things in the right direction, when something alerts me now, I tell them. Because, in the end, it is not your aim as a coach to work very hard to keep the group together, but to make sure that the group gets to work in the right direction!
Did you work with coaching themes in the Master in Coaching?
The meetings often have a theme, but sometimes it can also be about something else. It is not the intention to follow the program strictly, but that the group also has a chance to determine themes, personal things that everyone contributes in order to develop. That is what the Master in Coaching is about!
“Coaching is about awareness of what is happening and how you feel about it, to investigate what suits you best”
An example: Perhaps the program says we are going to delve into “performing under pressure”, but a student-coach suggests discussing another topic that interests him or her at that moment. This can then elicit reactions from the group, for example from students who do want to talk about performance under pressure. And that is actually exactly what the program and coaching is about: what is happening and how do you feel about it? You become aware of your behavior, your thoughts, your goals and wishes, and from there you can investigate what suits you best!
Did you notice any effects in your personal circle as well?
Well, I noticed that I sometimes overlooked myself. I learned how to better guard my own limits in such situations, how to recharge myself better, and also to give myself enough time and attention. Through the program I became much more aware of this, so I also learned how to be a better sister, friend or partner to the people around me.