Creatives & Changemakers

Personal durability, Part 3: Rob Haans “Whoever builds a strong team has the greatest chance to succeed”

Caroline Wendt
June 30, 2020

Individual and group success are often interconnected – both for elite athletes and for entrepreneurs. The Swedish final of the Creative Business Cup on 12th March opened with a panel discussion about personal durability with four elite athletes. In the third part of our series about personal durability we meet Rob Haans, who has won three individual world championship gold medals and has been the coach of the Swedish national team in jujutsu. He talks about, among other things, how curiosity has given him success and how important it is to create a strong team.

When competing in jujutsu, Rob Haans won three world championship gold medals and became the first to do in three different weight classes. On two occasions he won the World Games (Olympic Games for sports outside of the Olympic program). He competed for Holland but has been the coach of the Swedish national team for nine years.

What goal has driven you – is it money and medals?

– Not at all. Of course, it would have been much easier if I had earnt money, but I started with the sport because I wanted to exercise. I originally competed in judo, but an injury meant that my coach recommended jujutsu as rehab. When I started with jujutsu, I was already a trainer in Fitness and Martial Arts. I was curious in new sports and jujutsu appealed to my creative side. So, I began to compete and joined the national team and felt that I could develop as an athlete and person by continuing. My coach put the person first, then the athlete. It is a concept that I have adopted as a red thread throughout my whole career – both as an athlete and then as a coach.

How do you ‘crack the code’ for a new sport?

– Something you should never take away from yourself is to be open and curious. You should never forget your inner child. As a Dutch person this is part of our culture – to first try and then decide. You should not settle with being the best in your own world, but rather be open and surprised by what others are doing and not to close any doors.

After your competitive career you became the coach of the Swedish national team. In a short time there has been almost one hundred championship medals won. Why is this?

– I think it was important that at the first camp I made it clear that despite being Dutch, I work for Sweden and we are a team that is doing this together. Each person is on their own on the floor, but without each other we have nothing. Right from the start we set these values and created a strong culture. We lost many athletes in the beginning who did not want to go along with this, but we gained others that succeeded in winning medals. The deputy coach Michael Kuntz and I started what we called Team Sweden Jujutsu – but the official name was the “Swedish Jujutsu National Team”. We thought it was important that Team came first, as we put the culture and values of the team as the most important thing. Togetherness has always been the focus, but at the same time everyone in the team has had the opportunity to develop individually and we have always placed an emphasis on individual driving forces and personal requirements. We want to train them to be athletes instead of “just” doing what we say. We hope they have learnt to take responsibility on their own and be able to enjoy their own sporting career.

– Being a team was pivotal even in the national team management. We shared visions with the team and there was a sense of responsibility and a high-quality standard in all the coaches. I am extremely grateful that I have had the honor of working with them all these years!

– After nine years working with the national team, we hosted the World Championships at the Baltic Hall in Malmö. During the team competition it was William Seth-Wenzel who, after winning gold individually, took on a leadership role and guided the team so that they actively decided what was a good preparation for the team competition. It was a fantastic experience for us all. The athletes took it on themselves and did what felt right, finally taking home a bronze medal, which was a big deal. That we had developed a culture that gave this result felt much better than any individual medal. In doing so, we got the reward for everything we had worked on from the beginning. Team, We, Hard work, Take responsibility, Enjoy and Pride are keywords that were shared by everyone who competed in the Baltic Hall during the team competition and afterwards.

Rob, you have also worked with groups and teams as part of xPlot. What is it you are doing?

– My colleagues at xPlot have a long background in innovation and entrepreneurship and they see the link with the sport, because in many ways it places the same requirements on the individual. The answer to how to move forward with a business concept is not always envisaged alone, but it can be good to have someone that explains how to proceed. An important part is to see how you can establish a business and still have a life. You should always make it able to last.

How can an entrepreneur have a sustainable personal life?

– Those working in startups are in many ways like elite athletes with a strong desire to achieve something. You are looking for opportunities but may not have all the knowledge required. Then you get to see who can help to build a team. You cannot do everyone alone without needing other people around you. Whoever builds a strong team has the greatest chance to succeed.

Part 4: will be about the professional boxer Klara Svensson, who talks about the importance of working systematically without any side-stepping or excuses.

The Creative Business Cup is an international competition, but the 2020 final that was due to be held in Copenhagen has since been cancelled. The Swedish final was held in March 2020 with xPlot as a form of collaboration with Lund Municipality and Future by Lund. Ahead of the Swedish final of the Creative Business Cup, four representatives with experience from elite sports helped to inspire the entrepreneurs with the way they approach and think of performance. In the panel were William Seth-Wenzel, World and European Champion in jujutsu and student at KTH; Susanne Gunnarsson, with a total of 17 World Championship or Olympic medals in canoeing and now working as a coach, lecturer and treatment assistant; and Rob Haans, with several individual World Championship medals and now the captain of the Swedish Jujutsu Federation. Joining via video link was Klara Svensson, former professional boxer with several World Championship titles and now a self-employed business owner. The debate was led by Jakob Wikenstål with both an academic degree in sports management and experience as an entrepreneur through the job platform Sportidealisten.

The discussion came to be about what it is like to deliver every day to maintain forward momentum and stick to your big goals and dreams. It was also about how to work for the team to function, but also daring to be selfish and clear when asking for help to get what you really need.

Part 1: Susanne Gunnarsson – mental strength

Part 2: William Seth-Wenzel – dare to ask for help

Part 4: Klara Svensson: “It is both demanding and wonderful to be solely responsible”

Translation: Ben Dohrmann


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