This is Me: Yvette Broch
Be honest. How many professional athletes do you know who took a break from their sport to become a model? Well, we know one and her name is Yvette Broch. CSM's Dutch star has no ordinary story when it comes to her life. As she explains in her own words in the latest in our This is Me series first published in our EHFCL Weekly newsletter, Yvette lifts the lid on what it was like to press pause on the career in the sport she loves for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that was broadcast to millions of TV viewers. It's a truly unique story and it is all yours to read right here, right now. Enjoy.
This is Me: Yvette Broch
From court to catwalk and back again
I am not a handball player, I am Yvette. And I love to play handball
You probably know me from the handball court. If you tuned in for the DELO EHF Champions League, the EHF EURO or any other tournament, I was there. For some years, I really thought I was a handball player and nothing more. Handball was everything for me. But I always felt that winning a title, some of the biggest trophies in the world, would make me feel happy.
It took me a while to find out that was not really the case. And this is fine. This is me. This is Yvette. This is why I chose to tell you my story. Because it does not matter if you are a handball player or you work in some other setting. You have probably found yourself in this situation, trying to rediscover the pleasure and leave behind the pressure.
Are you ready? This will be a roller coaster for you. But it is my roller coaster, one that I am very proud of.
I was born in a village named Monster, near the Hague. The girl from Monster, right? I can just imagine it could be the start of a beautiful book. Some things cannot be explained, yet they nearly tell a story.
For a little girl from Monster, the beginnings were humble. It was not about handball from early childhood, I was invested in gymnastics. In my village, girls were going to gymnastics and boys played football. I went and tried the sport with my sisters. But I grew up quickly, I was very tall for this sport.
Therefore, the switch to handball was quite easy to make. From this point on, you probably expect the same old story, right? Talented girl wreaks havoc in the junior teams, gets quickly promoted to the senior side, makes her debut at 14 or 15 years old and then secures plenty of medals and trophies.
Okay, I advised you it was a roller coaster, so fasten your seatbelts, because this is not your usual handball story.
When I was 11, I decided to try and play handball and I really liked it. For a few years, it was pretty good. But, at that point, handball was not everything for me. As this was not a popular sport in the Netherlands, I was also trying a career in modelling, so my focus was not entirely on handball.
So, when I was nearly 17 years old, I took a break from handball. Just a small sneak peek into my future: it was not the only one.
Back to the story now. At that time, I took part in a TV show, the Netherlands’ Next Top Model. I finished second in the competition and signed a contract with an agency. Handball was not my dream back then. I am laughing a bit now, but at that time, I was dreaming of becoming a top model in the world. Crazy, right?
I had to shed down a few kilograms and the only way to do that was to stop playing handball. I was in the junior national team, we were training almost daily and it was impossible to continue both careers. I had to make a decision. Wow, I remember it now, it looked like a crazy decision, but it looked perfectly normal.
You probably do not picture me as the bona-fide fashionista, but I was crazy about everything in fashion. The trends, all the designers, what was hot and what was not, what the future was going to hold.
The glamour, the catwalks, the blitzes. It really looks like the picture perfect, right? It is not. It is really a tough world, I was also very young, I had to lose weight every time and I felt not good enough, not beautiful enough. From that point, I just had enough and then I stopped.
Imagine the paradox I was living: I had been a handball player and also model. Two totally opposite directions, two totally opposite professions, two totally opposite ways of living. Back then, I was at a crossroads. Luckily, I was living in Amsterdam, where my former teammates from the junior national team were training every day.
Suddenly, handball was back on the agenda. Ideas were flashing before my eyes: could I be back on the court? But I had lost so much weight… In my mind, the idea grew, the eagerness was too big. I had to work like crazy, to get my strength back. Yet things were looking on the up: after a season in Amsterdam, at VOC, I got my first professional contract at BM Alcobendas, in Madrid, Spain.
The plan was set: stay there for two years, come back and finish my studies in Fashion and Management at AMFI – the Amsterdam Fashion Institute. I was so into fashion then!
The funny thing is that your plans do not exactly work out exactly how you want. So, I never properly came back to the Netherlands.
And all of next experiences, from my years in Metz to those at Győr really changed me. Ten years ago, I could have never imagined wearing something that was not in the trend or fashionable at the time. Right now? You should put on whatever you feel comfortable with and not have only red clothes because red is the must-have colour of the season. I am doing it and I feel excellent.
Playing in Spain really changed me. Having contact with a professional league motivated me a lot and made me train harder and enjoying handball even more. The move to Metz, in 2011, when I was 20 years old, was another shock, because the level was just so high. But I was making my first steps in the handball world, therefore, naturally, I decided to train even more.
In my four years there, I learnt a lot. The pressure to deliver was huge and there were some difficult moments, where I could not feel like myself.
In my modelling career, the feelings were the same: you had to look beautiful, to shine every time, to own the catwalk, to have everything perfect in the photoshoots for the magazines.
I was already experienced and ready to make the next step. Győr were the best team in the world back then and I was extremely happy to sign for them. It meant that I was going to be even better, one of the best players in the world. I definitely wanted to be. Indeed, I became the best line player at Women’s EHF EURO 2016 and the IHF Women’s World Championship in 2017. Eventually, the price for all these trophies and individual awards was too big.
On one hand, I had everything. I was playing for the best team in the world, won the DELO EHF Champions League twice, the team was excellently organised. I had every reason to be happy, but after three years I realized I was not.
Because here’s what I thought: after I will win the DELO EHF Champions League, I will be so happy. And, for the first trophy, it did feel amazing. The second one though? After some days, nothing, just emptiness. I was just battered physically and mentally. The rhythm was just overwhelming, all my life was pre-planned and it was all about navigating through games and training.
I realised I pushed myself too much. Every day I needed to be better, a thing that brought me a lot over the years. But it also broke me down.
The decision to make an end to my career was a shocking one for many. Because I finally had everything, I should have been happy. I had worked so hard to be there...
But the other side inside me screaming to take rest, to find balance back, to experience other things in life.
At that time I was so done with handball. I knew I wanted to stop. But to say it out loud took me some weeks. Because, you know, it was also very difficult for me.
And I needed to stop.
For two years and seven months, I did not play handball. I recharged and finally got time for myself. I even took part in a Dutch TV show called “Expeditie Robinson”, which saw me and other contestants isolated in Malaysia.
I learnt to appreciate the comfort we have, food on the table, a soft bed, everything we need to live a ‘good’ life. There, I learnt how to make it without all these things. Things like living with the rhythm of nature. Waking up when the sun is up, sleeping when the sun sets. Finding food to eat, making fire and a place to sleep... It was amazing! The first week was difficult, but it was an experience, because here, in our ‘normal’ life, we almost are separated from nature. It was an amazing experience.
But handball is still part of me. After these experiences, I wanted to come back and enjoy the game again. Well, my career was not over. I made some agreements with myself, especially before signing for a club as big as CSM Bucuresti that I will be nice to myself. To listen to my body, and not put any pressure on myself.
At the highest level, there will always be the pressure to win. But it is not going to affect me anymore, I am not going to be mean to myself.
Of course, I am going out to win every game, it is just in my nature. From the modelling career to the handball career, I have always been like this and I will never change. However, there is a difference: I can handle the pressure from years back. I feel more secure with who I am.
So now that I am back on the court and feeling very happy, one might ask: where were you happier? On the court or on the catwalk? The answer is easy: on the court. I love this game.
Because it is always about the ego, about your pride. In handball, you work every day. But in the end, you have a target: the big title, the big trophy, the gold medal. When you get it, your ego gets pampered.
Now, at 30 years old, I can see, as a human being, how important all these experiences have been for me, to help me understand myself better, to get a grasp of this big world.
I can also see now that it was my ego who wanted to win. And “she” is only satisfied with the first place, the gold medal. She aims higher and higher. I like this part of myself, but sometimes I need to cool her down. It is always about balance.
The journey has been long, and I have learnt piecing the puzzle together step by step. I am now living in the moment, not setting targets on the long term necessarily.
It was not the easiest one, right? We were all young, we all did things to please the outside world. But what matters most is to be happy with yourself. I promised you a roller coaster and now I have taken you through it.
Would I change anything? Probably so. Everybody would do it. But I am truly happy with how everything panned out.I am not a handball player. I am Yvette. This is the most important lesson I have learnt my entire life. More importantly, I am happy this way. And I would never change it for the world.