Could you share a little bit of background about yourself?
Two of my greatest passions are sports and science. I have a great interest in neuropsychology and player development and have always been fascinated by the evolution and development of human beings – why and how we become what we become. As a child, I was very adventurous, imaginative, and curious. I always asked lots of questions. I wanted to know more; I had an enormous hunger for knowledge.
From a young age, I played sports like judo, tennis, and handball, and running. Soccer was my real passion – it was my life and gave me the most joy. I was born in a little village in the Netherlands, and at the time, soccer was not really something for girls. One of my dreams was to become a professional player, but reality was different. The only role models in soccer were male, and there were no real opportunities for female players. At the age of 22, I got the opportunity to study and play soccer in Australia. It was also the turning point in my life. Australia was a great country for me – the way of life, the perception of sport. It inspired me and helped me in my growth. I focused more seriously on soccer.
I studied International Business and Psychology and went on to work for an international film company and then in the banking industry, but I kept playing at the highest level and also completed my UEFA C, B, and A licenses in coaching. I got my instructor license and became a youth coach in my club. I was also a Talent Coach for the Dutch Federation. In 2007, I got the opportunity to start working full-time in soccer as a coach and technical manager for a professional club that was starting a team in the new top women’s league in the Netherlands. At the same time, I was also asked to undertake projects for the Dutch Federation. In the first few years, this included creating learning plans and curriculum for player development. My job evolved and the last five years of my job at the Dutch Federation I was the head of Talent Identification, Talent Development, and Elite Performance for the Youth National Teams. This allowed me to provide opportunities to female players with a dream.
How would you describe your job?
Since 2017, I have been the Director of Talent Identification at U.S. Soccer, so I am responsible for identifying and monitoring players with the potential to play for the Youth National Teams. My job has two main components, which are the scouting of players and the education of scouts, coaches, and clubs. This varies from developing content for courses, developing learning plans, building curriculums, data and statistics, etc. I manage three female Talent Identification Managers and around 90 YNT Network Scouts. I also work very closely with the YNT coaches and take part in YNT camps.
What do you love about your current job?
My job doesn’t really feel like a job. It’s a way of life – my way of life. I love the variety of my work, being on the field with players, watching games, developing soccer, working with scouts, teaching and educating scouts and coaches, meeting lots of different and passionate people in soccer, sharing knowledge, talking about the game, etc.
What advice would you give to women seeking a position in the sports industry?
If you really have a dream, go for it. Connect with people who are in the business. Ask questions. Figure out what you really want and which competencies you need to develop and what education you need to have. You have to invest in yourself, and most of the time you will have setbacks. But you have to keep pursuing. Also remember that it’s your journey and yours alone. No one can decide for you what to do. If you truly believe in something you have to go for it. Don’t change your dream. Change the world.
How do you see women in sport growing in the future? What would you like to see?
I would like to see more opportunities and possibilities for female coaches, technical directors, directors of coaching, coaching instructors, etc. I would like to see us enabling and inspiring women in soccer to achieve their potential and dreams. That female coaches and leaders are really given opportunities and experiences to grow. That means offering a performance environment where they can develop and grow their potential and experience, but also give them access to an environment where they can share knowledge and competence and have a long-term pathway that is viable, sustainable, and continues to push boundaries!