Carlota Brenninkmeijer wrote a remarkable letter with ‘14 lessons learned’ after a challenging year, in which she is realizing a career move into the sports industry and graduated from the Master in Sport Management at Johan Cruyff Institute
“Making the conscious choice to make a career move into the sports industry was a big step”, says Carlota Brenninkmeijer after graduating from the Master in Sport Management at Johan Cruyff Institute in Amsterdam in June 2021 . “I was dipping my toe into unchartered territory, coming from an international retail and human resources background, but sports and I go together. So, once I had made the decision to do the master, some of my friends even shouted finally!”, she adds with a smile.
“I realised how much a year can do to people. Everything was different a year ago, society wasn’t what it is today and for me both personally and professionally, because it gave me a focus on what is important to me”
Towards the end of the academic year and as part of the Applied Sports Performance Skills training, Carlota wrote a remarkable letter with ’14 lessons learned’ about her personal journey and the Master in Sport Management and the challenges she and her fellow students faced. “When I look back, I realised how much a year can do to people. In the literal sense, everything was different because society wasn’t what it is today, but for me personally it was also an important year, because I decided to do what I enjoy, and it gave me time to focus on what is important to me both personally and professionally”, she says.
For a lot of people, you have been bloody awful. A lot was taken away from us and still we are asked to live in a world that is foreign to us all. You forced me into isolation, took away freedoms I didn’t realize I had or how much I’d miss, you disrupted the way I work, live, and learn, you stole loved ones from me, and pushed me to the brink.
What you also did was that you loved throwing curveballs at me, which have taught me new lessons and at the same time proved many of my old ideas to be true. Here are a few of those:
- You taught me to look for the good that is hidden among the bad.
- You highlighted that my lifeline relied on the strength of my Wi-Fi. Connecting (online) became a priority, not only for work & school but for my social life and sanity also.
- You made me appreciate the value of being kind, empathetic, and patient even more than I already did.
- You showed me how a small word of encouragement or gesture could be the much-needed fuel to carry someone through what they were going through.
- You reignited my interest in the common good and what it means to serve my community.
- You gave me resilience and motivated me to push through even though I didn’t think I could.
- You encouraged me to not sweat the small stuff. Some things are just out of my control and that is OK.
- You made me appreciate the pause and find a balance.
- You instilled trust in my own capabilities and belief in the value that I can offer.
- You made me believe in the idea that everything happens for a reason. I might not always be fully aware of the impact or purpose it has or will have on my life but whether it be good or bad, happy or sad, this belief has created who I am today.
- You drove me to be unapologetically me.
- You reminded me to nurture my relationships, both old and new.
- You inspired me to see that life is about perceptions and that it is my approach to life that matters.
- You motivated me that although I am an individual, I am part of a larger whole and that what I do matters.
You were a challenging year, but it wasn’t all bad, because you gave me an ultimatum: sink or swim, and as best as I could, I rose to the challenge, building resilience along the way. A year ago, everything was different and now that I look back, I realise how much a year can do to people.
So, last year, you were a tale of unusual events and a tough pill to swallow at times, but you gave me a chance to focus on what I always wanted to and opened new doors for me to walk through so thank you!
Regards, Carlota 2021
How was your learning experience in such a challenging year?
During most of the academic year, classes were transitioned to online learning and many off-site visits were cancelled, but learning is for me far more than just about the content covered in class. It is about making connections between prior knowledge and new knowledge, independent thinking and being able to apply and transfer that knowledge into new and various aspects of life. With that in mind, I believe I had a full learning experience, because the skills and knowledge I gained can be transferred to my next challenge of finding a job and starting my new career path in the sports world.
“Learning is about making connections between prior and new knowledge, independant thinking and being able to transfer skills and knowledge to the next challenge, and in that sense I had a full learning experience”
Johan Cruyff’s quote that “Every disadvantage has its advantage” to a certain extent describes what the past year has been like for me, and also why lesson 13 from my letter is: “You inspired me to see that life is about perceptions and that it is my approach to life that matters.” I was just beginning my job search at the time the pandemic started raging through Europe. As arduous as that was, at the same time the pandemic gave me a chance to pause and reflect, reassess and reimagine what I wanted my future to look like. It helped me to see my situation from a different perspective and find ways to succeed that I might not have otherwise found. Without the pandemic halting my job search in March 2020 I don’t know if I would have had the clarity of mind to decide to do the Master in Sport Management in Amsterdam and or be the person I am today.
“The pandemic gave me also a chance to pause and reflect and reassess and reimagine what I wanted my future to look like”
Why did you decide to study the Master in Sport Management?
I was looking for a career shift and the only industry that made sense for me as an individual with my interests and passions was the sports industry. My thought process was “What if I can turn my passion into a career?”
This master’s gave me the opportunity to further develop my knowledge of the sports industry, meet new people with different insights and backgrounds in sports and it opened up a whole new world of opportunities. Professionally, I am still figuring out where it is exactly where I fit in within the sports industry, but I am taking responsibility for my career development and I know in which direction I would like that to go.
For me having a master’s degree also gave me a personal sense of accomplishment. Since graduating my bachelor’s in 2017, I have said that I wanted to add a master’s degree to my name. Mission accomplished, and I could not be more proud of myself for realising that goal.
Can you name one valuable experience from the Master in Sport Management?
One activity I am very proud of is Plan14, a fundraising initiative for charities in the Netherlands: the Johan Cruyff Foundation, the Mentelity Foundation, the Bas van de Goor Foundation, Only Friends, the Esther Vergeer Foundation and the Krajicek Foundation, to get the Netherlands moving again and help those who need it most. The Plan14 process, planning and execution came with its challenges, but I am extremely proud to have been a part of it. I have learnt that volunteering is the ultimate form of good karma, and the satisfaction of understanding what it means to “serve the greater good of your community” is something that is difficult to put into words.
“I am extremely proud to have been part of Plan14 and I have learnt that volunteering is the ultimate form of good karma”
What we managed to accomplish completely surpassed our expectations: over 500 people, 15 different companies from all over the world biked a total of 10.000km’s, walked a total of 4.000km’s and ran a total of 2.000km’s, and raised a total of € 31.362,33 for charity!
Can you explain what you learned from the Master Final Plan?
The Master Final Plan is an integral module at the end of the Master in Sport Management program. The challenge of this module is to bring experience, knowledge and personalities of a group together to work on a common goal namely an innovative plan that could be feasible and viable as a product or service for the sports industry, in our case: ‘Second Chance: Helping underprivileged children living in Amsterdam through collecting second-hand sports clothing & gear.’
It taught me two important lessons. The first was about expectation management; I set the bar very high for myself and cannot and should not expect that from others. Furthermore, working in groups by nature comes with its challenges, but the beauty of it is that, because of our different backgrounds and experience levels, we were able to have very insightful conversations and develop a business plan that we were all extremely proud of and couldn’t wait to share with the world.
“Another lesson learned: Building a foundation and assigning individual members with tasks and responsibilities ensured ownership and engagement from the team members”
The second lesson was: Any structure needs a strong foundation and strong foundations require investment. Creating a structure from the beginning was essential for our team, because structure enabled us to deal with setbacks on time and pivot our activities in a professional and timely manner. Assigning individual members with tasks and responsibilities ensured ownership and engagement from the team. Building this foundation demonstrated that structure offers clarity, improves decision making, provides consistency and stimulates an engaged and stable team culture.
What about the next steps in your career in the sports industry?
The opportunity I am desiring now, is to work at a company that organises large scale sporting events, and to have a decision-making role and impact at international events, such as the Women’s EURO’s 2022 in the U.K. or the FIFA Women’s Football World Cup in 2023. Long-term I would like to be in a leadership position where I can influence and impact the continued developments and legacy of women in sports on a global level.
Any last words on how we can go on from here, in sports and society?
This is a tough question to which I don’t think there is an answer yet because the pandemic is far from over and will likely never be fully over. Having said that, if the pandemic has taught us one thing it is that we live in a world in which we are very much dependent on each other. What affects one person can very quickly and easily affect others who live on opposite ends of the globe. It has reminded me that although I am an individual, I am part of a larger whole and that what I do matters.
“The pandemic taught us clearly that what affects one person, can very quickly and easily affect others who live on opposite ends of the globe”
The pandemic has brought to light many injustices and inequalities around the world and understanding the power that sports has in society and the role it can play in addressing race, gender, LGBT+ inequalities and many more, is going to be crucial in my opinion. Sports is no longer just about the performance on the field, what happens off the field is just as important, if not the most important. Society today expects sports organisations and its athletes to be more value driven, vocal and authentic in how they interact with fans and engage with brands.
“Sports is no longer just about the performance on the field. Society today expects sports organisations and its athletes to be more value driven”
Finally, from a personal standpoint I really hope the future of the sports world continues to realise that investing in women is the right thing to do for the future of sport. If you don’t believe me, take a look at a report published by The Fan Project in June 2021 titled “How Women’s Sports Will Lead the Sports Industry into the Future.” Data and statistics do not lie!