Marieke van Wanroij is a Dutch retired professional cyclist, a sports podiatrist and also a former student of the Johan Cruyff Institute.
Now, Marieke runs her own business called MvW Coaching, where she supports young atletes to develop both physically and mentally as well as helping people to move more, eat better, and generally live a healthier lifestyle.
We wanted to ask a little about Marieke career as she kindly answered our questions via email in her second language of English.
Can you tell us a little about your experience of being an elite road cyclist? What were the biggest challenges you had in your career and what were your biggest achievements?
I have been a professional cyclist for 10 years and have been able to see, experience and learn a lot during my sports career. I discovered that I was a team player and often did more to make the others in the team better than I did myself! I really loved the teamwork.
In my last year as a pro-rider, I was a coach in the field for the youngsters from the Boels Dolmans Cycling Team. During the time I was a professional cyclist, it was not yet possible to make enough money to live off, so I had to continue working and studying. It was a shame I had to do this because it took a lot of organisation and commitment to fit it all in, but ultimately it did teach me skills that I use today.
I also had a big ankle injury, which meant that I was unable to cycle for a few months. This process has also taught me a lot and gave me many insights that help me today as a coach.
Why did you decide to become a coach after you retired from being a competitor?
As an athlete, I was already active as a coach in the field, because I was a listening ear for my teammates, and as mentioned above, was helping the youngsters in the peloton. Coaching was a natural role for me because I had eye for the team process. I was also used to working with others in such a way because I have been a sportspodiatrist for 15 years and used to listen to the patients by showing curiosity by asking.
Here I also noticed that coaching was a nature role for me. You are trying to get people moving. Whether it’s a patient or your coaching, for me it feels quite simular. When I noticed that and I wanted to become a coach in the sport and continue with this, I contacted the Johan Cruyff Institute to start with the Master in Coach course.
What advice would you give to other retired cyclists who would like to become a coach as you have? And can you tell us about your expierence of taking part in the Master in Coach course at the Johan Cruyff Institute?
The transformation from competing in sport and moving into normal life takes time. You have to find out who you are without sport and what you really want in life.
The Master in Coach course was very important for me at my time of retiring as it helped me a lot in this process. Beside it’s important first to know who you are before you coach others because it has an impact on the way you coach your athletes.
You also have to know what you need as a coach to function well but also important you can put your ego away. In the past I have seen enough coaches coaching ?with their egos and not coaching what the group or athlete needed. The course has given me many insights and I learned a lot.
Are there many female coaches in Cycling?
In cycling, there are still not many women coaches, it is a conservative world! Change is slowly happening however, which is good news for women cycling! It would be nice when there will be more cooperation in future between men and women coaches.
As well as being a coach, you are also a Sportspodiatrist, can you tell us about this?
The sportspodiatry has given me enormous insight into human functioning, injuries and mental well-being. This knowledge and experience I can apply in my work as a coach. ?For example; you need to be curious to find out why your patient is injuried. But this is also important to make the patient aware of his/her responsibility in this process to cure for 100%. Ultimately you wanted the same in sport, you want to get the best out of the athlete and make them ownership of his or her process.
What are your ambitions in your future coaching?
For the time being I see myself coaching young talents. I just started with this young team and that is enough of a challenge. In future it would be good if men and women work more together and youth development team forms a permanent part of a bigger team. And I would like to contribute that part in future.
I hope that I inspire more women to become coaches and in future we will have more women coaches at the top!