Competing in sports at a top level, together with completing a degree program is a rare combination. The mix of daily physical training, studies, international tournaments and exams can have a toll on the athletes of Erasmus University. The nine athletes who participated in the workshop at the sports building on 2 February experience that in their daily lives.  

“Very clear planning is key”, says Babette de Leede (23), a cricket player in the Dutch national team and master’s student quantitative marketing. “I plan every hour of my day: when I train, when I study, when I see friends, and even when I do nothing, which is the hardest thing to plan!” 

Babette de Leede feb2023 topsporters_Shrey Khurana
Babette has been part of the national Dutch Cricket team since the age of 14. Image credit: Shrey Khurana

Priorities, priorities

Radu Pena feb2023 topsporters_Shrey Khurana
Radu wants to fully focus on playing squash after obtaining his bachelor’s degree. Image credit: Shrey Khurana

Speaker Madelein Mappelink argued that prioritization is essential to balance sports and studies. That is even more important if the athletes do not want sports to dictate their lives while studying for a degree. To ensure the athletes can successfully combine top sports and studies, the university provides support by granting the athletes more flexible schedules, taking exams online, delaying deadlines, and such. This way, the athletes can place their sports careers at the forefront. 

This includes Radu Pena, a Romanian second-year International Business Administration student who competes at squash. “I end up spending 60 percent of my time on squash”, he admits. “Putting 30 to 40 percent of my time on studies is enough to pass. But for squash, if I do not devote at least 50 percent of my time, then I feel like I cannot develop and become better.”


Marinde Smolders feb2023 topsporters_Shrey Khurana
Marinde deals with sports and studies from August until June. Image credit: Shrey Khurana

Among the challenges discussed when mixing top sports with studies was the impact it has on social life. The students’ congested schedules leave barely any room to spend time with family, friends, or living the ‘student life’.  

July is the only month available for clubbing, partying, and hanging out for Marinde Smolders (23), who combines Psychology with wheel gymnastics. That comes with restrictions as well, she laughs: “I go partying, but I do not drink. Sometimes I wish I could, though! You just look at your friends, and you are like ‘gosh, I wish I could also party like that!’”