As a professional athlete you pull out all the stops for the last percent of improvement. You want to perform at the top and fight for the win. FIH Goalkeeper of the year, Joyce Sombroek speaks about chasing that 1%.
To achieve this it’s important to have fun, to play with conviction and confidence and to to work incredibly hard. You should not only invest in developing your technique, tactics, fitness and strength. Most importantly you have to work on your mental development and on team building, because that usually makes the difference.
As a perfectionist I am not easily satisfied and this is one of the qualities that has brought me so far. Last year I made a list of things which I could do to become just a little bit better. Then you have to think of nutritional supplements, recovery suits and training with ‘Smartgoals’, but also of ‘EyeGym’. If I react faster by 1% through eye training, it could mean the difference between a ball stop or not … and so between winning and losing!
You can also learn a lot from professionals in other sports. So I went to see how Jasper Cillessen, the goalkeeper from our national football team, trains. Together with my goalkeeper coach, I try to constantly innovate. I challenge myself with new exercises, but also occasionally train with men.
As a professional athlete you constantly search your limits to become even better, fitter and stronger. The trick is not to go beyond those limits. Because if you do not listen to your body you quickly become injured or over-trained. The balance between rest and exercise is crucial.
No matter how important this physical part is, the mental aspect ultimately makes the difference. I am not only talking about the discipline and perseverance that you need to get to the top. It is also important that you do everything with conviction, that you can work well together and that you can perform under pressure. Expectations are high and especially when deciding matches in shoot-out series, the pressure is huge. At such times, you need to focus on the things you can influence and have confidence in yourself and your team. You perform best when you focus on your job and are not concerned with the outcome.
The key to success is the team and not the individual. Therefore, you should not only try to maximize each other’s qualities, but also help each other when it comes less. How do we do this? We invest in each other and sometimes have extensive team building sessions. We were even trained by the military, where we extended all our boundaries. This experience has brought us closer.
We had made every effort to be at our best at the Olympics in Rio. We went for gold and finally brought a silver medal home. We have mixed feelings, but we also look back at last summer with pride. We played with passion and conviction and we were really close as a team.