Football analyst Leonne Stentler: “I plead for more women in football”

Former international footballer Leonne Stentler is working hard within the football industry. The former Ajax player is currently studying the Master in Coaching at Johan Cruyff Institute, is a football analyst and runs her own businesses focused on women’s football

Since last year, the face of former international footballer Leonne Stentler has been appearing on the screens of Dutch football fans every week. Starting as an analyst of women’s football at FOX Sports and the NOS, the former Ajax player is now the first woman to analyze men’s football at the NOS. Something that has never been her goal, but which she has grasped with both hands. “I now do things I never dreamed of. Analyzing men’s football has never been a goal, but something I can now do to further develop the entire sport. And also to show the next generation that there are more opportunities and possibilities than they ever thought.”

The enterprising Stentler wants nothing more than to take women’s football to a higher level, both nationally and internationally, and at every level. To this end, she has founded three companies in the past four years: XI FC, VV Kicks and ESC Sports Group. From strategy development to sponsor activations, and from creating her own media content such as podcasts to helping American footballers realise their dream of playing professionally in Europe. No bridge is too far for the former football player. “In terms of policy, we work hard behind the scenes to help develop women’s football in the Netherlands. It would be amazing if we could also achieve this internationally by, for example, talking to organizations such as FIFA and UEFA. I want to continue working for the sport and everything that comes along with it. Both in the Netherlands and abroad.”

Women’s football is the fastest growing sport in the Netherlands and is gaining more and more prestige worldwide. Visibility and investment are crucial to further professionalize the sport. Both FOX Sports and NOS broadcast the women’s Eredivisie and international matches of the Dutch women’s national football team, the viewing figures are increasing, ING has recently committed itself to women’s football and sponsorship deals between, for example, ICI Paris XL and Telstar Women are being concluded. “So you see that by making sports visible, the interest also grows,” the analyst notes. “By putting even more attention into it, the interest only increases, so that a major name sponsorship for the competition is about to happen. Now it is important that all clubs, in addition to PSV, FC Twente and Ajax, also create an environment in which players can focus full-time on the sport. Moreover, the competition becomes more attractive to more foreign top players when there are full-time contracts and structural attention. I also plead for more women in football. On club boards, in managerial positions, as coaches and as referees. There are plenty of well qualified intelligent women who could contribute to the football industry.”


On the quality and development of female football coaches in the Netherlands, Stentler goes on to say: “I think we have some extremely capable women who are respected as coaches all over the world. That says enough about the qualities that women have to coach. There should just be more! Of course it helps enormously that there are now more opportunities because women’s football is more accepted, women are more accepted in football, and that there are more financial resources and professional clubs. It makes much more sense now to do the coaching courses and to obtain the right qualifications than in the past, when there were hardly any career opportunities for women in the football industry. The more we increase that and organize the coaching pathway for women, the more women will also develop in the profession.”

In addition to her TV work and running her own businesses, the former defender started her Master in Coaching at Johan Cruyff Institute last September. “I had completed the ‘Mental Trainer in Sport’ course the year before the Master and wanted to learn more about performance in top sport, the mental aspects and group dynamics,” Stentler says. “The teaching method, the Cruyffian approach to  education, was also a trigger for me to start. Because the teaching method is mainly focused on practice, I have been able to literally experience many situations and match them up to my experiences as a professional football player, as a result of which I have acquired a lot of useful baggage. It’s a challenging program.”

Whether Stentler will ever start as a coach, she leaves in the air: “Who knows?” But there is no doubt that the Cruyffian program contributes to her social career: “In my work as a football analyst I have to indicate different moments. Obviously, this often concerns coaches, team processes and performance. Thanks to the Master in Coaching, I now bring some extra knowledge to the table. Communication is also an important. Observing, listening and feeling without judgment, and being curious, are things that I can apply on a daily basis. In addition, I mainly went through an individual development process, which brought me closer to where I want to go.”


Leadership in Coaching

The Leadership in Coaching Program in Amsterdam is developed for everybody (in or outside sports) who seeks self-knowledge and self-development with the aim to improve oneself as a (sport) coach and/or manager. This 10-month program is delivered in Dutch and based on the vision of Johan Cruyff in which sport coaching is more than using tactical and technical knowledge. It is about knowing yourself and developing your own unique coaching style, and to apply that to the players / staff, the team and the environment. We believe that you can only coach others, if you know how to coach yourself.

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