On-Campus Interview Series: A Dutch Defender

In her day job, Assistant Professor Anita Elberse teaches the first year marketing course at HBS, and researches fascinating topics such as the motion picture industry. Her sporting career is no less interesting. A fierce competitive spirit and a strong national pride (and stronger kick) has seen Dr Elberse conquer the world of Women’s Soccer. From the highs of winning the Dutch Championship to the lows of losing to NC in the IM Championship (despite a somewhat sickening foul on Rafa “The Maestro” Guida Masoni (NC)), Dr Elberse has seen it all. The Harbus caught up with the Dutch Defender to hear more about this brilliant career.

Fact File: Assistant Professor Anita Elberse
Height: 5 feet 9 inches
Weight: Undisclosed
Eyes: Blue
Hair: Blonde
Marital Status: Married with no children
Favorite Food: Italian food
Favorite Drink: Cranberry/Raspberry Snapple
Favorite Film: Fargo
Favorite Band: Lots of R&B/Hip Hop/Soul –
like 50 Cent and Outkast
Nickname: None

Harbus: How did you first get into soccer?

Anita Elberse: I started playing when I was 5, and I was always playing – all my first memories are of soccer. I played with a boy’s team until I was 12 or 13 when it was obvious that I was not a boy.

Harbus: What position did you play?

AE: I started off as a Striker, and gradually moved back to play in the Midfield or the Defense. You discover what you are best at, and I was at my best when I was coming up the field from the backline.

Harbus: Who were your soccer idols growing up?

AE: Paolo Maldini and Marco Van Basten. Maldini was an awesome defender and has been dominating the game for ever. Van Basten was incredible and a very gifted player, and came from the same region (Utrecht) as I did. He was the most complete player I have ever seen.

Harbus: How did you progress from the little leagues to the big time?

AE: First, I joined a girl’s team, and then I made the women’s team in Nieuwegein, who were playing in the highest division across the whole of The Netherlands. I stayed with them for the duration of my career and made the Dutch Youth Team at age 17. After high school, I went to college, and they didn’t have a college teams system, so I kept playing until I was 22. Eventually I had some problems with my knee, and I couldn’t really combine training with my studies – we were training four times a week and playing one or two games.

Harbus: Sounds like a tough balance. How would advise today’s HBS students on this issue?

AE: I would encourage them to play serious sports if they can. It makes you a better team player, more well-rounded, and more diverse. This is especially true if you play in clubs – I played with a bunch of people from very different backgrounds from my own. Serious sports also make you more focused and efficient with your time.

Harbus: What was your best moment on the pitch?

AE: Playing with a Utrecht team in the final of the Dutch Championship. I scored the first goal in the final, and scored it from inside my own half. It happened very quickly – I was just trying to clear it, and it happened to go in. We won that game, and the Championship.

Harbus: What was your worst moment on the pitch?

AE: Every time I lost.

Harbus: What was your best moment off the pitch?

AE: Being invited to play with Section E – they are all geniuses, every single one of them.

Harbus: And your worst?

AE: It was very sad having to come into Section C’s classroom after they beat Section E in the IM soccer final. I’m sure that next year Section E will win.

Harbus: Apart from helping Section E become Runners-Up, do you still
play much soccer?

AE: I occasionally play with friends, but I haven’t played for a while with my injury.

Harbus: What other sports interest you?

AE: Running, cycling, snowboarding and skiing.

Harbus: How about some free advice? Put on your marketing hat. How would you advise the Women’s Soccer movement to promote the game?

AE: I’d do three main things here. First, I’d put more of an emphasis on star players. The only one most people know about is Mia Hamm, and she won’t be the best for long. I’d single out some top, younger players in a marketing effort and focus on their careers. Second, I’d see if certain changes would make it more attractive. Things like a smaller field, different rules, no offsides, and so on might help. Marco Van Basten continues to think about these issues and could be a useful resource.

Finally, I’d think about any other ways I could make it more attractive for television. And if they want to know more, they are welcome to call!

Harbus: Thank you for your time today

AE: My pleasure.