Pregnancy is no longer a reason to stop the major sport, although sponsors think otherwise

There is talk of a baby boom in major Dutch sport. In the past, this was often the end of their careers, but now women consider pregnancy a temporary interruption, like judoka Kim Bolling.

Eileen van Suechtelen

Kim Polling always believed that she only wanted to be a mother after her top athletic career. But suddenly turning 30, she hasn’t finished judo but is ready for motherhood. I was in a split state. I really wanted to continue in judo, but I wanted to carry more. My friend said: You can do both, right?

She is due to have a daughter at the polls next June. She is part of a large group of Dutch female athletes who are currently pregnant and would like to return to sports afterwards. Sailors Marit Baumeister, pure sweetheart Inge Janssen, all-around champion Nadine Brorsen and handball player Louis Abing are also expecting their first child this year. The shot putter, Melissa Boykelmann, gave birth to a girl this week.

How do they do it financially? Until a few years ago, pregnancy in sports such as cycling, football and athletics was a reason for immediate dismissal or a significant salary cut. There are still major differences for each sport, but there is a shift now as more women are discovering that the sport of excellence is a profession that can be combined with motherhood.

What happens during pregnancy depends on how the female athletes make money: do they hire a club, such as handball players or soccer players? Do they live on a salary from NOCNSF, such as athletes, judokas and sailors? Or is the sponsor the main source of income, as in cycling?

In the Netherlands, most Olympic athletes rely on the umbrella sports organization NOCNSF, through a scheme paid for by the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sports. The best athletes are entitled to a monthly allowance, which is the salary, which they must secure each year by achieving a certain level. If you don’t perform, you may lose your income.

Athlete as an employee

Pregnant female athletes have been entitled to maternity leave and benefits for about five years now. “The same goes for senior athletes and pregnancy for non-athletes. If an athlete is a paid employee with an employer, they are entitled to maternity leave and maternity benefits,” says Els van Kernibeek, NOCNSF’s director of senior sports operations. This also applies to athletes who receive maternity leave and maternity benefits. a salary.

In the case of pregnancy, state A can be extended without consideration until a later measurement moment. There is no set period for this. Van Kernebeck: “The Consortium is coordinating this with NOCNSF. We are trying to direct this from a comprehensive perspective with attention to psychological impact and the role of the environment.

Judoka surveys had A status until March. She was promised an extension so she wouldn’t lose her income and health insurance during pregnancy. In team sports, someone can also be part of the team again after giving birth. “The federation can then temporarily gain additional status, so that another athlete can join temporarily and while on vacation,” says Van Kernebeck.

As it appears on paper, NOCNSF arrangements are relatively unknown in practice. Not all top athletes seem to know about motherhood arrangements. Sailor Marie Baumeister is due in May. The information about the possibility of extending her position due to pregnancy is new to her. “I think my situation will end sometime in September. I just assumed I’d be back by then to make it safe again. I wasn’t aware of this arrangement, but it’s nice to have such a thing.

Baumeister says he has yet to deal with the finances. “Money has never interested me. I do this because I have a passion for it. The sailor is afraid that you will have to choose between having a baby and another Olympic campaign.” Of course you never know if you will get pregnant quickly and if there is still enough time to arrive to the right level.” The Olympic gold, silver, and bronze winner at Laser Radal didn’t wait long. When we got back from Tokyo, I hit the spot right away.

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For diver Inge Janssen, who is expecting her first child in June, a salary based on her A status is the only income. Because of her fifth-place finish at the Tokyo Games, she was going to have the allowance until August anyway. I asked about this situation, I was told not to worry for now. Something will be arranged. This is good. At a certain point, you’ll also choose Angie as a person, and less than Angie as an athlete. I didn’t want to put off my childhood dream for another three years.

Mercamp star Nadine Porsen can no longer count on the best sports supplements. It has already lost its A status after Tokyo because it did not reach the level of previous years. She is expecting her baby in May and is now living on unemployment benefits. “It was frustrating to lose this prestige, but it was really a matter of discussion. Fortunately, I have a loyal car sponsor who is always there for me, and I am entitled to benefits because I’ve had this condition for years and have always worked with it. I don’t know what it would be like.” I think I will work alongside him again.

When athletes are employed in a club, they are increasingly receiving good guidance in the event of pregnancy. When former international Daphne Koster was pregnant in 2014, she lost her spot with the Dutch national team. At her club Ajax she continued to get paid and trained after her leave.

Then, as Ajax’s director of women’s football, Koster fought for a better collective working agreement so that footballers could become mothers in peace during their careers. Two years ago, FIFA also introduced a policy on pregnancy. Prospective players must have at least fourteen weeks of leave with medical supervision and assistance on their way back to the field.

There has also been a revolution in cycling, with cyclists sometimes losing their jobs immediately when they were pregnant. Former cyclist Iris Slapendel founded The Cyclist Alliance in 2017 to fight for better regulations. “One of our goals was maternity leave for cyclists,” Slapendael says. Top athletes who are hired by a team often fall a bit out of the law. This is madness. Some contracts were in conflict with all European regulations in this area. That has now changed.

Now some teams use mothers as role models. Elizabeth Degnan, the 33-year-old British winner of the first women’s Paris-Roubaix competition, was left without a team in 2018 when she became pregnant for the first time. Recently, her Trek team combined news of her second pregnancy with a two-year contract extension. Dutch contestant Chantal van den Broek-Black felt free to discuss her desire to have children. She has extended her contract with SD Worx until the end of 2024 and will keep her job if she has a child between them.

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Handball player Lois Abbingh is happy to play in Denmark now and is pregnant with her first child. In the past, she signed contracts stating that she would be fired immediately if she could no longer play because she became pregnant. You still have such contracts in the former Eastern Bloc countries. It is very well organized in Denmark. I’m already on vacation because I have a very precarious profession. I stopped playing at week 13 and I’m still getting paid.

In addition to national clubs and federations, athletes also depend on sponsors for their income. They don’t always respond to good news well. In America, Nike has lost credibility several times in recent years, because the company wears ultra-short clothes for pregnant female athletes. And Nike was forced to amend the contracts after intense anger until the convening of the US Congress. Since 2019, nothing has been deducted from the athletes’ salaries in the eight months leading up to the birth and the ten months after it.

Kim Bowling also lost her clothing sponsor while pregnant. The four-time European champion in the 70kg category over the past five years has been sponsored by Adidas through Double D, which operates the French licensing of the clothing brand. Her contract expired after the games. The poll wanted to continue judo in an adidas suit, but was told that talk of an extension wouldn’t be possible until she was back on the carpet.

At the beginning of this year, the player promised to get T-shirts for her growing belly. Polling continues to practice returning quickly and with fitness. There will be a coupon in store that I can use to shop. Well, that turned out not to be the case when I was there. Suddenly my name is no longer on the list. It wasn’t much I asked for. I just wanted some shirts a size bigger.”

The survey reads an email in which her contact says there is nothing to care for or support Double D during pregnancy, because there are no maternity clothes. “Our answer is clear. We can talk again when you get back to work,” DoubleD wrote.

recovery de Volkskrant Double D replies that after “redefining marketing strategies,” other choices were made “that had nothing to do with her desire to have children.” “The contract ended after the Games as it was clear before. We wish Kim all the best. Polls have now turned to competition Mizuno, who already believes in her future as a judo mom.

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