Despite lockdowns, canceled flights and travel bans, Wietske Overdijkink still found time to get up and go to work.
Not only did she stay in shape by practicing field hockey with her family, but Ball State’s sophomore goalkeeper also worked in a struggling bakery amid a global pandemic, wondering if her Ball State career would continue beyond 2020.
“I got a job at the bakery to pass the time and make some money,” Overdijkink said. “Before the store even opened, I helped them deliver some of the bread and the cakes with my parents’ car.”
Overdijkink has spent her entire life playing field hockey with her family in the Netherlands. Ever since she could remember, Overdijkink said, she has been involved in the sport. Having parents who played at the club level and a grandfather who played on the men’s national team, field hockey is in her blood.
Just days after the Mid-American Conference announced it would cancel all spring sports due to COVID-19 concerns, Overdijkink took a flight back home to Baambrugge, the Netherlands, a town just less than 11 miles from Amsterdam.
“Right when the university said, ‘OK, we are going online’… About a week later, I had my flight booked to go home,” Overdijkink said. “None of my flights got canceled or anything, so that went pretty well. I was more disappointed that our semester was canceled and we weren’t going to be able to play our spring games. I actually wasn’t worried about getting home. That was more of my family’s worry.”
Following a smooth trip home, it was days after returning to the Netherlands that worry started to settle in with the uncertainty of if she would have a fall season.
“When I got back home and finally understood the whole situation, I immediately thought this was going to be a lot of trouble to get fall sports back up and playing,” Overdijkink said. “I [couldn’t] really see us having a season. Obviously, it didn’t happen.”
The worry escalated even more when traveling back to the United States became a greater task than anticipated.
“[We] were planning to get back [to Muncie] in the middle of July, but then all of our flights got canceled,” Overdijkink said. “There was still the rule that the American government wouldn’t allow anyone from the European Union to fly to America.”
Ball State Field Hockey has four other international student-athletes, so this issue wasn’t exclusive to Overdijkink. Head coach Stephanie Bernthal had several instances of coaches and athletes not being able to travel over in time. She said some of them remain ongoing.
“As a coaching staff, we understood that this year was going to bring unique challenges, including potentially not having our team together or practicing with the same continuity we are accustomed to,” Bernthal said.
However, before finally getting back into Indiana, Overdijkink made the best of her situation in the Netherlands. Her home country didn’t quite have the same lockdown that came in many states. There was a period where some public spaces were closed, but many people still went to work and lived their lives.
“Everything was still kind of normal, and then about three weeks later, we went into an intelligent lockdown,” Overdijkink said. “All of the public spaces closed, but we still weren’t in a full lockdown.”
Thanks to her field hockey turf in her backyard, though, Overdijkink was able to stay in shape and prepare for her upcoming season.
“I did a lot of practicing on [the turf],” Overdijkink said. “My whole family plays field hockey, so we just played with each other.”
Overdijkink spent her first few weeks back in the Netherlands training with her family and completing schoolwork to round out the spring 2020 semester. Right when the soft lockdown started, Overdijkink said, she put it upon herself to get a job and help in any way she could. She would wake up at the crack of dawn and run bread deliveries all over town before the bakery even opened. She was then hired for more consistent work.
Overdijkink’s willingness to lead by example translates into her role for the Cardinals. As a freshman last season, Overdijkink led all MAC goalkeepers with a .814 save percentage. Her first season set the groundwork for the next three to come, Bernthal said, as she continues growing into a leader for her team.
“Weets has a great competitive spirit,” Bernthal said. “She comes from a long lineage of hockey in her family, and her competitive background from arguably the best hockey nation in the world is a huge asset to our team.”
As a sophomore, Overdijkink will lead eight incoming freshmen heading into a shortened 2021 season consisting of just 14 games. Bernthal said she has a positive outlook on how Overdijkink will fair considering the circumstances.
“She is a part of our very talented goalkeeper group, and goalkeeping is foundational to the success of the team,” Bernthal said. “She is confident in her abilities but also fits well into our culture of family and servant leadership.”
Now that she is back in Muncie, Overdijkink can put the time and energy she spent helping others during the pandemic inward as she decompresses, takes time for herself and mentally prepares for an unprecedented season.