In Grosbasket we hosted the younger basketball players of KK CINKARNA CELJE and the ambassador of the Women’s European Championship Divna Brkič Hendrickx

A conversation with Divna Brkić Hendrickx

During the Women’s EuroBasket, we hosted women basketball players and one former basketball player – Divna – at our Grosbasket store in Ljubljana, who gave the young up-and-comers a glimpse into her time in basketball and today’s connection between business and the orange-ball industry.

Kick-off story for KK CELJE basketball players

I used to play in a basketball club in Kranj. Today it is KK Triglav Kranj. As an EP ambassador, I would like to start by giving one encouragement to all of you young players… I would like to tell or show young people what basketball can give you later in life.

When I was starting out, it was still Yugoslavia, the time of Dražen Petrović, we were all playing basketball. Ježica was the most popular club, we all looked up to it. Soon I was invited to join the national team, at that time in the junior categories. And when I came back from national team training to a my club training session, I tougt I was a star.

I opposed the trainer, did the exercises my own way and relied solely on my talent. Soon, talent alone was not enough and I started to stagnate in basketball, and shortly after that, I stopped playing competitive basketball at the age of 20. Moral of the story. Talent is not enough, it takes work, will and perseverance.

My second story is related to the time I stopped playing basketball. There came a time when I said to myself that if I didn’t make it in this industry, there was nothing from now on that I would not make it in. And that message carried me forward. We must always work hard for ourselves and go beyond all obstacles. If we don’t know how to do something at the beginning, we will always learn!

How did your passion for basketball start and how has it influenced your life path?

As I said in my introduction, very early on, in primary school. I had a lot of talent that kept me afloat. I did a lot of “fooling around” on that account. But basketball still has an impact on my life today, even in business. I immediately find the link between basketball and business, and when I do, I know I will make it work.

What was the most important moment or achievement in your basketball career and why?

One memory I have left, it was in the indoor arena in Kranj, when the handball players came to watch us play. There was one guy in the stands who I liked, and I started to fool around on the court, which the coach noticed. He immediately sent me to the line, in the middle of the game. Everyone was wondering what was going on. On the coach’s instruction, I had to run sprints along the court. Everyone was watching, I was terribly embarrassed, but I did my best. Why that story… there was no huge success, apart from being called up to the junior national team, and that was such an experience – a lifelong experience.

Basketball is a team sport that requires good cooperation and communication. How have you transferred these qualities to the business world and how have they helped you succeed?

The girls’ basketball one two step is one of the hardest elements in the world of sport. Don’t you agree? I want to say that basketball is a sport for extremely intelligent people – dear ladies, you are intelligent girls! For the business world, basketball teaches you a lot about perseverance, about pushing on, which I think is extremely important, but at the same time, defeat doesn’t knock you down. It teaches you to endure these things.

What are the key lessons or values you have learnt while playing basketball and still
still apply in your business life?

Look, girls, you won’t all make the Slovenian national basketball team, but it’s not all about that. Building relationships and keeping in touch is also important. You will meet again in a couple of years, you may lose contact in the meantime, but that relationship will remain. That is how my former friend suggested me to you today. Now we are business partners, once teammates but also opponents on the field. As I said – in business you find common ground, in my case, if it is basketball related, I will get the deal. Remember to build a relationship.

As a successful woman in business, you face different challenges. How do you do you cope with them and what advice would you give to young women who are trying to succeed in sport and in business?

I don’t even like to give advice very much, because I learn more from experience. The hardest part is choosing your path, even to study. I tell my children to try as many as they can. To choose and try as much as possible. That way you will know what works for you. The future is a step-by-step thing. You have to be creative. I once asked myself, what would I rather do in life, what I am happy doing or what I am good at? An expert said that it is preferable to do what brings you money, but at the same time, in your spare time, do what makes you happy. It energises you. Let us perhaps choose that combination.

In your master thesis, you researched the personal brands of athletes in the
Slovenian media. What role does the media and social networks play in building athletes’ personal brands? Do you have any advice for athletes on how to present and manage their public image through these platforms?

During the European Championships, I went to see how our female basketball players manage their privacy on social media. Not one of ours has a public profile. I have to tell you that many basketball players around the world get contracts also on the basis of how marketable they are! This aspect is also very important. Again, I would suggest to my children, and I would also suggest to you, that you have two profiles. One private, closed, one business, open. In our region, Janja Garnbret is an excellent example of a that. She has as many followers as, say, Primož Roglič. That is remarkable!

How did you stay connected to basketball after your professional career ended? Do you still work with basketball organisations or young players?

I am proud to say that I am one of the most active players and promoters of my veteran women’s basketball club – ALL STARKE Kranj. I don’t get involved with the younger players as much, because my daughter is active in basketball, so I don’t get involved as much here.

What do you think is the key to encourage more women to participate in sport and business? What changes should be made?

There is no magic wand. In Kranj, once a basketball town, volleyball has taken over – at least for girls. Basketball and volleyball both need more female players. Women are more gentle and don’t look for contact as much, which is ideal for volleyball. There is also beach volleyball, which is more attractive.

What advice would you give to young girls who dream of a successful career in sport and in the world of business? What steps and approaches would be crucial for their growth and development?

I think girls always bite, more than guys, so I’m not worried about them at all. And that is the genuine advice I like to give and all the others that we have talked about already.

Check out the video of the event: