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Less fear of being unprepared

Josine Koning with hockey stick

Earlier this year, we spoke with hockey goalkeeper Josine Koning about her resolutions and, above all, her drives. Now, three-quarters of a year later, we are speaking with her again, and in the meantime, the goalkeeper for HC Den Bosch has added another major price to her list. She played in the European Championship final in August in Mönchengladbach and won her fourth European title with the national team. In this blog, she discusses how she has developed over the past year through insight into her drives.

How do you look back on the European Championship?

“I had a great time. The atmosphere in the group was good, and there was a lot of room for everyone’s personality and personal preferences. Additionally, I found it exciting. In a general sense, because we took a new direction with the team. We had a new coach (Paul van Ass) and a new playing system. The question was whether we could maintain our lead over the rest of Europe.”

The Pro League in June was already a good test. We successfully completed that test, but ultimately, the European Championship is a title tournament, and it was an Olympic qualification. That adds more pressure. On the other hand, in the Pro League, our opponents were able to analyze our new system and develop a response.

A personal element was that a first goalkeeper would be chosen after the group stage. Although I had confidence, it was incredibly suspenseful. My efforts and developments paid off as I became the first goalkeeper.”

In 2017, you played your first tournament for the Dutch national team after Rio, the EK in Amsterdam. Since then, you’ve played in a total of 4 European Championships, 2 World Cups, a Champions Trophy, and 3 Pro Leagues. You only ‘lost’ one of them, the Pro League in the Olympic year (second place). What does that mean to you?

“It’s quite special when you put all these figures side by side. People sometimes ask, ‘Do you get used to winning?’ No, you don’t. Expectations keep getting higher, and with them, the pressure. It’s amazing that we did it again, especially this past European Championship where our goal was to win and to qualify for the Olympics. But our higher goal was to show that we had advanced beyond the rest of Europe. I dare to say we succeeded.

The Belgian national team’s coach, Raoul Ehren, said something like that on, that Belgium made a step, but the Netherlands made 2 or 3 steps. Belgium was our challenger, and it’s great that we were able to increase the gap.”

The first 2 matches weren’t as impressive as in the Pro League. Why was that?

“The European Championship is a title tournament, which is different. Opponents adjusted their tactics against us after the Pro League. While we attacked without fear, they adapted their game by falling back as a team. The smaller field means less space for us to play the flashy and enjoyable game we like to do. Against Belgium, for example, the final result was close, but they didn’t spend much time in the circle in both matches.”

Earlier, you mentioned personal tension due to the goalkeeper selection. How did you cope with the impending choice by the coach during the tournament?

“It was challenging and uncomfortable. You’ve embarked on a journey with the entire team, hopefully to a medal. But you’re also restless because you don’t know your role exactly. I had quite a bit of confidence. I had trained well in the weeks before the tournament and had a good season. I showed my skills in important matches. On the other hand, I didn’t really know what this coach was looking for in a goalkeeper. That made it suspenseful.

I knew I had done everything, reached my level, and played consistently. I never fell below my lower limit. When you’ve done everything, you can approach it with confidence and see where you end up.”

You’ve secured your ticket for the Olympics. How will your journey to Paris look?

“Starting with HC Den Bosch. We have some things to fix. We lost in the semi-finals of the playoffs to Amsterdam, missing the final for the first time. We hope to take revenge in the upcoming season.

With the national team, we’ll be working towards the Olympics. It’s always very exciting. There will be selection moments, individual interests at play, as well as team interests. There’s a lot of pressure. And we’ll also be playing a lot abroad for the Pro League. It’s going to be very enjoyable, but also quite tense, I think.”

On a personal level, will you maintain your place within the Dutch team?

“I will persevere as I’ve done in previous years. My strength lies in performing consistently. My goal is to keep getting better and, consequently, more important. And I’ll approach it with the same mindset as now: to do everything I can and see where it leads.”

Last time, you mentioned that you had analyzed all the shootouts. Did you have a similar document ready this time?

“Absolutely! I had prepared well again, but I was challenged by the new coach. He is less focused on structure and relies more on intuition. The idea is that if the foundation is good, you must dare to set yourself free. I actually found it quite challenging to find that mode. I previously told you that my pitfall is ‘over-controlling.

In the end, for example, we didn’t practice that many shootouts, but I watched them all. I think I genuinely gave myself the chance to play intuitively, which made both the preparation and the European Championship enjoyable. With a plan and preparation, but at the same time, with a certain confidence to go onto the playing field. Even if something different happens, I know what to do because I’m confident about my skills.

I’m still ‘blue’ in that sense, but over the past year, I’ve been able to let go of the need for control more and more. I’ve had less of a controlling urge. That’s a beautiful development. The coach’s coaching style has helped in that regard. It also comes through in the way we train. Sometimes, I don’t have time to think and have to act intuitively. I noticed that it went very well, and that gives you confidence.”

Where does the preparation end and the confidence in relying on your intuition begin?

“Good question, and it’s difficult to express concretely. Before the European Championships, I still watched videos and wrote down my plan for each player. But I didn’t analyze it too extensive. I noticed in myself that I no longer had the fear of being unprepared. I found it less nerve-wracking to be surprised and that’s my most beautiful development over the past year.”

Management Drives collaborates with TalentEmpowerment to support top athletes in their personal, athletic, and societal development.