‘King of the shoot outs’ is regular UU student

“That was a very important moment for me,” reflects Josine Koning on the highlight of her career in early August. After the official playtime in the semi-finals of the World Championships against Australia, the score was tied. The win had to come from shoot outs, a nerve-wracking one-against-one game in which a single player approaches the goalkeeper and tries to score. The 23-year-old Law student was appointed goalkeeper for the Dutch national team. She stood her own and was widely praised. Two days later, the Netherlands was crowned World Champion in London.

In café De Poort at the Ledig Erf, Josine explains why that successful shoot out series was so special for her. “For a long time, I was a second string goalie. In important games, I was never in the goal.” But during the World Championships this summer, the UU Master’s Student and her co-goalie Anne Veenendaal were evenly matched. “During the tournament, there really wasn’t one main goalie. There was only a preference for who’d be the goalie during shoot outs.”

Video of Josine excelling in the semifinal of the World Championships:

“I’m from a hockey family,” says the UU student, who’s travelling to China with the Dutch national team next week for the Champions Trophy tournament. “I basically grew up on the hockey field.” At a young age, she started playing at the local club. After having gone through all of Amersfoort’s teams, she sought out a new challenge, which she found at SCHC in Bilthoven. “I started there when I was fifteen. Eventually, I became the second string goalie of the premier ladies’ team. But after a while, I noticed I’d outgrown it there, too.” Once again in search of a new challenge, she ended up in Den Bosch, where she became starting goalie – which she still is. She and her team made national champions several times the past few years.

She has been a goalie for ten years now, and is used to balls flying right at her at high speeds. Laughing, she says: “Sometimes I think you have to be insane to be a goalkeeper.” But she’s never afraid. “You’re well-protected. And you have some bruises sometimes, but that’s just the way it is. Players have those, too.”

Still, it’s a well-known cliché, in whatever sport you do, that goalkeepers are weird people. Koning understands it can be hard to fit in as a goalkeeper. “You’re a separate part of the team. Goalies can keep to themselves a lot, be on the fringe of the group. I’m not like that, I hope. People tell me sometimes I’m a ‘normal goalie’. That’s a pat on the back, really. I do think you can point out quirks for every position, actually.”

‘I didn’t want to be different from the others’

Combining her studies with hockey has become harder throughout the years, Josine thinks. “I didn’t train as much with SCHC, and I didn’t have to play on Sundays. And I didn’t do strength training on my days off. Plus, I only had to travel for fifteen minutes.”

In the beginning, playing with Den Bosch was doable. “I was with the junior national team, then, and they only train for tournaments. I’ve been with the national team for two years, now, and I’m doing my Master’s. That makes combining studies and sport a lot harder. Suddenly you’re training on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays, and you have to stay at hotels a lot.”

For Josine, that means: a lot of talks with teachers and guidance counsellors. Something she didn’t do during her Bachelor’s. “I tried to solve things on my own. When I couldn’t make it to a test, I waited for the re-sits. I didn’t want to be different from the others.”

Now, she says, she needs all the help she can get. “A Master’s takes a year, and you can’t just delay infinitely. I discuss a lot with teachers and guidance counsellors, and with the athlete coordinator. About renewing my status as a top athlete, for example, which means I get an exception in some cases.”

‘Student life was an outlet for me’

She likes to call herself top athlete slash student. “I lived in a student house at the Joke Smitplein with sixteen others. I wouldn’t have wanted to miss out on that,” she says. “Student life was a bit of an outlet for me. I could act like a regular twenty-year-old, even if I partied a lot less than the others. I had to take into account that I had training and matches. If you have an obligation like that the next day, you can’t stay out too late the night before.”

Some things were impossible for her. “I would’ve liked to join an association. A few people in my house had joined one, and sometimes, I could join them for parties. That way, I experienced some of it.” Now that she’s doing her Master’s, she’s in a ‘graduation house’. “It’s a lot quieter.”

‘I have no interest in showbiz’

What will come after studying and playing hockey? She isn’t sure yet. Well-known Dutch ‘hockey divas’ like Fatima Moreiro de Melo, Naomi van As, and Ellen Hoog are now presenting TV shows, but Koning would prefer a job that fits with her studies. “When I quit, I want to join regular society immediately. With a regular job. I’m well aware my hockey career will end at some point, and I don’t want to fall down a dark hole. I’m not interested in showbiz. That doesn’t suit me, anyway.”