Johan Cruyff Academy Tilburg celebrates 14 years of history

Johan Cruyff Academy Tilburg, as part of the prestigious Fontys university, offers the Bachelor of Science in Sport Marketing (SPECO) to elite athletes from the Netherlands, a unique program stablished in 1988 that facilitates the dual career option for Dutch elite athletes since 2009

“Developing a sports career is a long process and often a real battle, sometimes with yourself and sometimes against opponents. A small setback can make your dreams fade away. And this is not limited exclusively to athletes. In the sports industry, networking and teamwork are essential to move forward, and it is important to meet and maintain contacts.” These are the words of Jordi Cruyff in a video interview about the academic legacy of his father, Johan Cruyff, filmed for the celebration of the 14-year history of Johan Cruyff Academy Tilburg. His reflections fit perfectly with his father’s iconic phrase: “You can’t do anything alone. You have to do it together.”

“Developing a sports career is a long process; a small setback can make your dreams fade away, and this is not limited exclusively to athletes” – Jordi Cruyff

The celebration was organized on September 21 by the Marketing and Communication department of Fontys University of Applied Sciences, the institution which, through Johan Cruyff Academy Tilburg, enables elite athletes in the region to follow a dual career path. The event represented a great opportunity to “not do it alone” and to renew and establish contacts. More than 300 Fontys representatives, alumni and partners gathered at the Tilburg Concert Theater. The focus was not only on the 14 years of history of Johan Cruyff Academy Tilburg, but especially on the success of its SPECO Sport Marketing study program, which it first introduced 35 years ago.

In 1988, Fontys became the first educational institution in the Netherlands to offer business training geared towards the sports sector. This initiative grew out of a shared passion for sport and the growing demand for professionals with business, sales and marketing experience in the sports field.

With the aim of providing new professional development opportunities for elite athletes after their active careers, Johan Cruyff broke down barriers by promoting sport management training for its target group. With the support of academic partners who shared his ambitious mission, he began to forge his academic legacy. Fontys, a pioneer in sport marketing training for 35 years, joined this cause in 2009. Under its umbrella, Johan Cruyff Academy welcomes elite athletes, providing them with the flexibility and resources needed to successfully complete the SPECO sport marketing degree.

Johan Cruyff Academy Tilburg celebrates 14 years of history - Johan Cruyff Institute

Jordi Cruyff with Minou Hoeberichts, Fontys Marketing and Communication director.

Maximum value to society

Fontys is clear about its ambitions for the future,” explains Fontys Marketing and Communication director, Minou Hoeberichts. “Under the motto ‘For society’, we have drawn up a strategic agenda to ensure that the educational institution brings maximum value to society. With Johan Cruyff Academy Tilburg as part of the Fontys organization, we have put this ambition into practice. For 14 years, the training of our student-athletes at Johan Cruyff Academy has been tailor-made, flexible and talent-oriented.” According to Minou, the partnership has been a ‘win-win’ in many respects. “We as an organization, and also our SPECO teachers, have learned a lot from Johan Cruyff Academy’s way of working, adopting their more talent-oriented training approach in our other university programs, giving students more control over their own study path.”

“We as an organization have learned a lot from Johan Cruyff Academy’s way of working, adopting their more talent-oriented training approach in our other university programs” – Minou Hoeberichts, Fontys Marketing and Communication director

Nout van Beckhoven, teacher at SPECO and Johan Cruyff Academy, agrees and goes on to say that “after several years as a teacher, it is a source of pride to see how our students are developing in the professional business environment and applying their elite athlete mentality to their working life as well. Many have benefited from having done a dual career and it is very rewarding to see the responsible positions they now hold in society.”

“Many athletes have benefited from having done a dual career and it is very rewarding to see the responsible positions they now hold in society” – Nout van Beckhoven, teacher at Johan Cruyff Academy

“The strong network that characterizes SPECO forms a solid foundation for the learning environment offered to students,” adds Minou. “It is maintained and constantly expanded by the team of professors, many of whom are industry professionals. Good collaboration is reflected in almost every aspect of the program. Project assignments during the educational periods are provided by numerous organizations in the sports field. Many of these outside organizations have been hiring interns and graduates for years, allowing them to make valuable contacts and provide input to the program from the industry.”

The keys to sporting success

As part of the celebratory event, attendees enjoyed sharing inspiring experiences with members of the network. Esther Vergeer, alumnus of the Master in Sport Management at Johan Cruyff Institute Amsterdam, spoke about her transition from elite wheelchair tennis player, with seven Olympic gold medals to her name, to the world of management. “It took me a while to discover who I was outside of tennis and what people expected of me,” said Esther, now an entrepreneur (as founder and CEO of her own foundation) and director of the ABN AMRO International Wheelchair Tennis Tournament.

“It took me a while to discover who I was outside of tennis and what people expected of me” – Esther Vergeer, alumnus of the Master in Sport Management Amsterdam

Merijn Zeeman, cyclist, alumnus and personal coach of Johan Cruyff Institute’s Master in Coaching program, and currently sports director of the Jumbo-Visma Cycling team —champions of the 2023 Tour de France, Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a España— shared details about how his team achieved this success, as well as the challenges that arise after achieving all the important goals, when it is time to “forge a lasting legacy”.

Johan Cruyff Academy Tilburg celebrates 14 years of history - Johan Cruyff Institute

Esther Vergeer and Merijn Zeeman took the stage to talk about their transition from elite athletes to sport managers.

Toon Gerbrands, writer and former PSV director, gave a presentation on success and the factors that influence it, such as motivation, passion and goal orientation.

The celebration concluded with a networking reception in the bar of the Tilburg Concert Theater, where attendees toasted to a promising future for the SPECO, Johan Cruyff Academy and the alumni association.

The academic legacy of Johan Cruyff

Cruyff Education

Cruyff Education offers programs to educate athletes, sport and business professionals to be Leaders in Sport Management and consists not only of Johan Cruyff Institute (executive education), but also of Johan Cruyff Academy (Bachelor in Science) and Johan Cruyff College (vocational training), where elite athletes balance their sports with education. More than 10,000 students have been trained in our classrooms, on-campus, blended and online.

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