Just imagine going abroad for your internship and ending up as a judo trainer at the local dojo. This is what happened to Krijn Schetters, Master’s student of Biosystems Engineering and Dutch judo champion.
From mid-January to mid-June, Krijn lived in Posadas, a city in the north of Argentina, where he did an internship in Biosystems Engineering. To be on the safe side, the Dutch champion (Krijn won gold at the National Championships in 2009 and came third last year) packed his judo suit in his luggage before setting off. ‘I didn’t think I’d do much judo, perhaps on the odd occasion at a club.’
On one of his free evenings Krijn dropped by a complejo, a sports complex where all sorts of sports are practised. There was also a judo hall and he was in luck: a judo lesson was taking place. ‘I walked up to the trainer and said in my best Spanish, “Yo soy campión de Holanda en judo.” The trainer reacted very enthusiastically and invited me to join in.’ Eventually, Krijn became one of the regular trainers at the dojo. ‘To start with, I simply joined the training a number of times a week. During the sessions I frequently gave the others a couple of tips. Now and then, the trainer would ask me to demonstrate a move. But gradually I started giving more and more of the training sessions myself.’
The sessions led by the judo champion bore fruit. ‘When I started giving training sessions, it was two months before the national championships. That seemed like a nice target to train for. I tried to help them as much as I could by sharing my competition experience. Evidently they learned a lot because the tournament went really well. They had never won as many medals as they did that time.’ Their trainer believed that was certainly due in part to Krijn. ‘As well as judo knowledge, he felt I also gave the judokas added motivation.’
The judo club Krijn was involved with also does good work in the community: now and then a couple of judokas take some mats and visit a poor neighbourhood. Krijn joined them. ‘The neighbourhoods were often slums. We’d lay a mat down somewhere, outdoors on a piece of land, and give the children a judo lesson. Children in those neighbourhoods often get led astray in life. By giving them judo lessons we wanted to show these boys that they could also invest their energy in sport. We told them that you can achieve a lot through sport. Every time we used me as an example, that I had come from the other side of the world, couldn’t speak Spanish, and yet I could become friends with my judo buddies. All thanks to judo. We hoped this would encourage them to stay on the right track. At any rate, the children responded enthusiastically, and so did their parents.’
Because Krijn did so much judo, he had extra suits sent over from the Netherlands. When he left Argentina, he gave the suits away ‘to whoever needed them the most’. ‘I gave a suit to a judoka who helped me a lot in my teaching and who is passionate about judo. Because he thinks not only of himself but also works hard for the others in the club, I felt he deserved a suit. I gave another suit to a family with three children who do judo. This family had invited me to a farewell lunch. They were so happy when I gave them the suit. With three judokas in the family, the sport is very expensive for them. So they could really appreciate the suit.’