In Partnership with Rebel Girls
Dutch midfielder Jackie Groenen has a passion for judo, but chose pro football instead. Find out how she went with the pitch over the mat —and won the Euros with the Netherlands in the process.
Jackie Groenen. Midfielder, Dutch. Born: 16 December, 1994.
Once there was a girl who was torn between two sports. At just 17, Jackie was building a career as a footballer and a judoka—someone who competes in judo, a form of martial arts from Japan.
Jackie made it onto her first professional football team when she was a teenager, and she kept competing in national judo tournaments when she could. After one tournament, though, Jackie had to tell her football coaches that she’d broken her hip during the competition and couldn’t play. She knew then that it was time to make her choice.
She weighed her options. Football was so exciting: The lights! The speed! The bond of a team! But she also felt drawn to the careful discipline of judo. In her judo matches, it was just Jackie and her opponent, no distractions.
“Deep down, I think I always knew it was going to be football.”
Jackie wasn’t sure she was ready to decide which of her two passions she’d pursue for the rest of her career. With football, Jackie knew she might be able to play in important tournaments like the Women’s Euro and the World Cup. With judo, she was on track for the Olympics.
She thought and thought, trying to picture her future in both sports. She relived the rush of slamming a ball straight past the goalkeeper and the glory of gripping and tossing her opponent onto the mat. She made her decision.
And now, jogging onto the pitch, Jackie isn’t looking back. When she and her teammates are in sync, they work together in perfect harmony, passing and scoring and laughing together after a success. She’s already gotten to (and won!) one Women’s Euro, and she’s ready to join her country for another!