Surprising similarities between judo and sport management

Deborah Gravenstijn is a former elite judoka who is studying the Master in Sport Management. Here, she talks about what judo has brought her, and the similarities between the sport and sport management.

As a judoka, I always wanted to win in style. The techniques had to be perfect and I wanted to captivate the audience. I loved the show element of judo and was always true to myself. This characterized me as an athlete, I think.

I was five when a boy next door, who did judo, invited me to go to training with him. My father said immediately: “Go ahead, because you’re already challenging all the bigger boys at school.” I liked judo from the start and people around me soon noticed that I had a talent for it. I learned the technique very quickly and I was not afraid. Judo is a varied sport, because you don’t only train judo at every session. The combination of training judo, strength, endurance and also mental training makes the sport interesting. My qualities consisted mainly of speed, agility, flexibility and strength. To be honest, I never compared myself with other athletes and I also never had a specific sports hero. I stayed true to myself and enjoyed the things that came my way.

Photo Deborah Gravenstijn Surprising similarities between judo and sport management - Johan Cruyff Institute

After I had stopped as a professional athlete, there came room for new things. I became interested in developing new skills. That’s when the Master in Sport Management at Johan Cruyff Institute came my way, which I could study with the support of Unilever. During the classes, I have noticed that some skills that I learned as an athlete, also come in handy in sport management. For example, in judo, like in chess, you have to constantly think ahead to win points. If you prepare well, you will control the match and reach your goals. During the module on Strategic Management, I noticed that these qualities are also useful as a manager.

In elite sports, you have to take risks and be open to trying out new things, and keep training them. I also noticed that during my studies: you are constantly being challenged and a lot of opportunities come to you. The teachers share their experiences in the sports industry with us, you meet interesting guest speakers and work with fellow students, who come from both elite sport and business sectors. We all have the same passion for sport, but we approach the issues from different perspectives. This broad mix of diverse knowledge and experience is stimulating and helps to give your career in sport management a boost. Just like in any sport, you have to believe in yourself and take responsibility to get the most out of it.

The Master in Sport Management is especially important for my personal growth. I want to transfer my experiences from sport and all my knowledge and abilities to a career in the sport. Every day I learn something new and I hope to find a dream job soon after I finish the Master and contribute to the sports industry!


Sport Management

The Master in Sport Management in Amsterdam is tailored for people with a passion for sport who value professional career development in the sport industry. This 10-month intensive program is delivered in English and explores the most important aspects of management applied in sport, where personal development of each student is key.

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