Hurdler Koen Smet is studying the Master in Coaching with the support of a Telesport scholarship. The scholarship application period for the academic year 2021-22 is open until July 5, 2021
The Dutch newspaper Telesport will be offering two Telesport scholarships for the 2021-22 academic year: one for the Master in Coaching and one for the Master in Sport Management at the Johan Cruyff Institute Amsterdam. The scholarships will be granted to two (former) elite athletes or coaches, in line with Johan Cruyff’s legacy, because, as he said: “Who better to serve the best interests of sport, than someone with the heart of an athlete?” The application period for a scholarship for the 2021-22 academic year is now open to coaches and (former) athletes who, like Koen Smet, would like to further their career in sport.
Koen Smet has been a top hurdler for more than 10 years. He has many titles to his name, but also had a difficult period in 2016 when his progress stagnated: “My identity faded,” he says in the Telegraaf, “because I mainly saw myself as a hurdler, but I didn’t run fast.” With the help of therapy, he rediscovered the pleasure of practicing top sport —“the Games are now a goal, but no longer a sacred goal”— and he also set faster times.
“This year started well with the European Championship final and equaling my fastest time ever in the 60-meters hurdles. It’s an Olympic year and I’m in good shape right now. An improvement on my best time ever or qualifying for the Olympics would be fantastic,” says Koen.
What Koen mainly does differently now is that he is also developing in other areas. He runs his own business as a personal coach and is studying the Master in Coaching at Johan Cruyff Institute, with the Telesport Scholarship.
What is important to you as a top athlete, in coaching?
When you build a career as an athlete, you go through different stages of life. A coach is a passer-by, who must be able to read the needs of the athlete at all times. While at the beginning of their career an athlete still has to learn a lot about their sport, in later of life other things become more important, for example mental guidance, injury prevention or motivation.
“While at the beginning of their career an athlete still has to learn a lot about their sport, in later stages of life other things become more important. As a coach you must be able to read the needs of the athlete at all times”
I am now in a phase of life where I have been training in the same specialization for over a decade. In this phase it is important for me as an athlete to remain motivated. How does the coach keep me sharp or how can I learn something new? But other aspects of my life are also becoming more important now. How does the coach help me adapt the sport to my private life?
What have you learned from coaching during your sports career?
As an athlete, you come across many different things in your career, many good things but also many bad things, such as manipulation, emotional intimidation, inappropriate behavior, being put under a lot of pressure or being excluded. As an athlete, you also learn from these difficult things, if this is done to you personally or to a fellow athlete.
“For example, Is it the athlete’s or coach’s responsibility to make that initial contact after a training?”
Some aspects you take over, other aspects you really do differently. An example is the personal connection. Why did a coach not ask how my training went if that coach could not be there? Is it the athlete’s or the coach’s responsibility to make that initial contact? Or, if you observe that an athlete’s state of mind is not right, do you continue with the training program scheduled for that day, or is it more convenient to incorporate 10 minutes, for example, to sit down for mental coaching?
In the Master in Coaching you are encouraged to develop your own coaching style. How does that work for you?
I am in favor of building a certain ‘database’ that you can pick from as a coach, instead of adopting a certain style or ideology from another coach. The Master in Coaching mainly makes you more critical and analytical about your approach, and that of the coaches around you. You also get information, but the biggest learning moments are when I see a coach do something or I hear them say something, and my warning bells go off. Then I instantly think: I would never do it like this.
What I especially benefit from in the Master in Coaching is practicing, doing, stepping out of my comfort zone, in order to achieve self-development. The fact that we have a fantastic group with a lot of diversity and many different stories is an extra nice side effect, which has accelerated the development.
Where would you like your coaching career to go?
I would like to further expand and professionalize my work as a coach. I am at the start of my career as a coach, as I once was in my sports career as an athlete. As a starting athlete, I never thought I would realize all these achievements. As a coach, my career is now also just beginning. There is still a lot to learn, and I have a long way to go, so we will see where the future takes me!
HOW TO APPLY FOR A TELESPORT SCHOLARSHIP?
- You are a (former) elite athlete or coach, living in the Netherlands.
- You have the ambition to fulfill a management or coaching role in the sport sector, or you are already working in sport and would like to have greater knowledge and skills.
- Please send us your CV and motivation letter (maximum 350 words) for the master’s program of your choice —Master in Sport Management or Master in Coaching at the Johan Cruyff Institute Amsterdam— before July 5, 2021, to email@example.com.
- Note: Please send your documents in Dutch, if you are interested in the Dutch edition of the Master in Coaching.