‘Sorry, something went wrong with my train transfer, I’m going to be a bit late. That’s not a good sign for tomorrow…’, I read in the message that pops up on my phone. For someone that moved abroad by herself for her sport, Zoë Barbier (22) is surprisingly nervous about the plane trip she’s going to take the next day, on holiday to America. We joke about when she joins me in a coffee shop at Utrecht Central Station around 15 minutes later, before we start talking ‘business’.
Big (Swedish) Dreams
Zoë is the first guest on my new series on Big Dreams (Grote Dromen in Dutch), and I couldn’t be happier. Aside from our mutual interest in sport, tattoos, and the American ice hockey player Hilary Knight (although I have a feeling for Zoë it might have a bit more to do with the sport than for me…) we also share a love for Sweden. The only difference: Zoë has already lived there for a few years, when she played ice hockey for the Stockholm side SDE from 2014 to 2016.
The reverse route
When we start talking, we realise that we have basically walked the same road, but in opposite directions. Barbier, whose life from a young age on revolved around ice hockey, has taken a step back in her own athletic career to focus on college, as she started her first year of Sport Management at De Haagse Hogeschool.
With the first year completed she is planning on starting to play ice hockey again the coming year, but is unsure if she’ll be as competitive as before. Already at age 16 she was ready to pack her things and move to the Swedish capital to play for a team there, but for her parents, not finishing high school was out of the question. Four years later and a diploma to her name she ended up at SDE via a Facebook message. She would stay at that club for a year and a half, and because of her perfomances there would even become a starter in the Dutch national team.
And now? Now she wants to have a ‘normal life’ from time to time. ‘Going to a party, or watching a movie with some friends on Saturday night. That’s something I missed when I was over there.’ It wasn’t always easy, up there in the Scandinavian north. Just like their soccer playing counterparts, many female ice hockey players can’t earn a living from their sport, so Zoë had a range of jobs on the side. From being yelled at by Russian cleaner co-workers because she hadn’t cleaned a hotel room thoroughly enough, from walking a bunch of misbehaving Swedish dogs, Barbier did it all. Everything for the sport. And in that area, we have a lot to talk about.
‘People just don’t understand that your sport is your number one priority, and that you can’t ‘just’ miss a training.’ she says, and I can only agree. ‘But I might be a bit extreme in that area,’ the Rotterdam-born admits laughing. ‘When Feyenoord won the Dutch soccer league I skipped school to go the festivities in town, and a lot of people didn’t understand that either.’
The focus and willpower she used to use in her sport has now allowed her to get all her college credits in the first year. And big dreams, she’ll keep on having those. ‘I’d love to work for a large international ice hockey federation, like the NHL in America. A lot of people tell me: ‘Why don’t you start a bit smaller? This will probably never work…’ But that’s exactly what they told me when I went to Sweden to play ice hockey, and I made that happen as well. To me, it only adds to my motivation.’
When everyone around you says that you’ll never make it, and you still do: that is the definition of a Big Dream, for the both of us. A strong conclusion after a very successful first episode of #GroteDromen or #BigDreams, if you ask me!
Thanks for reading, talk soon! 🙂