The moment: Sport

'I realized that starting a new job is the same as taking up a new sport.'
Bregje van der Bolt Bregje van der Bolt. Foto Marjet van Veelen

Text Nicole van ‘t Wout Hofland

‘Sport has always been an important part of my life and I’ve been training the WUR lacrosse team for two years now. Playing sport clears my head, makes me sleep better and gives me a way of letting off steam. At the beginning of this year, sport was also behind a turning point in my feelings about work.

‘Until 2020 I was working with mathematical models, using them to try to get to grips with how climate change affects tipping points in ecosystems. That is one particular subject I know a lot about. So I ended up kind of an expert in my own research field, and it was time for the next step. I had to look for a new job. I thought it would be exciting to go in a totally new direction and start a new study about something I wasn’t an expert on. During one of the job interviews that followed, someone asked what I learn from sport that I use in my work. At that moment I realized that I – quite wrongly – tend to see sport and work as two separate parts of my life, and that I could apply lessons from sport in my work.

At that moment I realized that I could apply lessons from sport in my work

‘I used to play tennis, and since then I’ve done slalom skiing, rowed, and taken up hockey and lacrosse. Whenever I start a new sport I feel like an idiot who can’t do anything. I’ve never minded that. After all, you are new and you improve with practice, by trying for a goal 100 times and listening to more experienced people.

‘I realized that starting a new job or research project is the same as taking up a new sport: you are still learning. That insight gave me the courage to delve into a whole new subject: the drought problem on high sandy soils. I have confidence in my own abilities, but I also accept that I don’t know everything. Now I’m quicker to ask someone for help, and I’ll say more readily if I don’t know how to do something yet.’

Turning points: sometimes you recognize them straightaway, and sometimes only in retrospect. In the series ‘The Moment’, WUR folk talk about a moment they’ll never forget. This time, postdoc and sports teacher Bregje van der Bolt, who applied a wise lesson learned from sport in her job.

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