“I was always determined to come back”
March 6, 2023
by Sascha Staat
Lois Abbingh is back with the Dutch national handball team almost a year after she scored the winning goal in a friendly match against Germany, in Rotterdam. After the game against the Czech Republic in the 2023 Golden League, she spoke about how becoming a mother has changed her life, the prospects of the national team and her shift to Vipers in the upcoming summer.
Good to see you back in the national team after a long break and for very good reasons. I assume you were looking forward to be back with your teammates?
LA: Yes, I have been looking forward to it with some nervousness – in a good way – and excitement. It felt really good to be back on the field and to see all the fans after quiet some time. I really enjoyed it.
I wonder if at some point over the past few months you were thinking, that’s it with my national team career. I’m a mother now. I will play for my club, but I’m not coming back to play for my country. Did this thought ever cross your mind?
LA: No. When I got pregnant, I said – okay. I thought I could be back in the following year around February or March. I was always determined to come back, yet when the moment arrived, I was a bit more cautious and asked myself: Am I really sure that I’m going to do this because I’m also leaving somebody behind at home.
As a mom, I think you always feel a little bit guilty. But, I also know that he has a great dad who can take care of him. It was also good that the first national team week was in Holland, so I actually got to see him, yesterday.
Yet, it’s very true that you’ll consider it and question yourself if this (i.e. handball ed.) is what you really want to do? To be away from your little son for a while? But, I’m still enjoying to play handball with the national team and I still have some goals and some unfinished business. Considering all, it’s still worth it.
How much sleep do you get these days with a young baby? I guess that sometimes you arrive at training and feel really tired because you’re just not getting as much sleep as you used to. How difficult is it?
LA: Luckily, we got an easy kid. Of course, there are some times where you’ve to admit: OK that was a really tough night. But, as a mom, somehow you always find some kind of superpowers and join the next practice session.
So far, it’s not a real issue, but it’s not easy. I have a lot of respect for all the other moms who are performing sports on a high level. It is a challenge, but for now, we are making it work as a family and I’m really happy. As I said, I have some great support.
Did you have to find a different mental approach as you get ready for a match?
LA: Yes – like I said, you sometimes feel a little guilty because you have your professional goals on your mind as well. I think athletes, in general, are a bit selfish because you are used to putting every hour and every minute towards your objective. But, now you have somebody else in your life, who is even more dependent on you. Finding the right balance, I think, is the biggest challenge.
On the other hand, I get to spend a lot of time with him because sometimes we have only one training session per day. So, I do get a lot of hours together with him. It’s encouraging to see that this is happening more and more. Your professional life is not over, so to speak, when you have a kid. You can continue to pursue your objectives.
Obviously, it provides some energy as well. Enough energy to make another move this summer when you will join Vipers Kristiansand after having played in Germany, France, Russia and Denmark. With all the challenges you mentioned why join another club again?
LA: Actually, it was the biggest question for me as well. In the beginning, I didn’t want to change. I wanted to stay here because I know that we can go home by car and I know we have some people near by, who support us.
But, then I also felt that my career as a professional handball player is not over yet. Yes – it is a challenge, but sometimes you also need a challenge. I should not stay put because it’s the easiest way out.
When Vipers approached me – a two-times Champions League winner – it’s always something you’ll listen to and consider. In the end, I just listened to how I felt and made my decision to join them. I was very much in doubt for a long time, but as I mentioned before, handball still is a big part of my life and together with my husband we will make it work.
Are you happy with the performance of your team after the first match of the Golden League tournament in Eindhoven? And what about your own performance?
LA: Overall, I think we were not too happy – especially with the first 40 minutes of the game. I think you could see that in defense we were just not aggressive enough. On the flip side, we managed to score 16 goals in one half. So, that was fine – we even missed out on several big chances.
Right now, it’s all new once again and the team has been working with Per for almost a year now, a period when I wasn’t around. It’s a new challenge and we try to find a way how we’ll play together. It’s nice to be back.
It seems like there are two generations of players in this team, right now. You, Estavana Polman, some of the other more experienced players like Kelly Dulfer and then there are the young guns. Per Johansson (head coach Netherlands ed.) acknowledged that he is very pleased that you’re back, that Estavana is back, because the young players are looking up to you.
LA: Yes – that’s how it is. It’s very different. Actually, we have been talking quite a bit – especially during this past week. You have to set a new focus, when you deal with two different generations of players.
We need to find a fresh approach as we are at different stages in our life. Yet, in the end we all have the same goal and we have to find a way to make it work for all of us.
It’s just another important aspect that we have been addressing. If we can find the right balance and have everything in the right order, then it’s the best thing to have. In this case, you’ll get the benefit of the experienced players in addition to the young talents. If we can find the right mix, we can reach the top and hopefully win medals again.