You actually get a feeling of: where is the time? To the period when Philip Mestdagh had his daughters Hanne and Kim under him with the national team. Papa Philip now coaches in Poland, Kim only baskets in Italy and Hanne says goodbye to professional life.
“It’s strange, but all this only came about last week,” said Mestdagh after a run. “They had already contacted me after things went wrong at Kortrijk, but I wanted to give that a place first. I thought I knew what the rest of my career would look like. We had laid a good foundation for the coming years, but it was not to be.”
Context: Kortrijk invested heavily in the women’s team last summer. In addition to Hanne Mestdagh – who retired from the national team almost exactly a year ago – it also attracted coach Philip Mestdagh and Belgian Cat Ine Joris, among others. But after a disappointing season, the Spurs pulled the plug. Much to the frustration of everyone who signed up for the three-year project. “We feel caught,” said Mestdagh after a protest with T-shirts with the inscription ‘Women’s sports matter’.
“Prefer to see it differently”
That disappointment now resulted in an unexpected end to the professional career of 30-year-old Hanne Mestdagh, known for her three-pointers.
“That is life and it must have had a reason why it went wrong. I would have preferred to see it differently,” it sounds. “I would rather have decided for myself when I would give up my professional existence. I also assumed that I would remain a professional, because that is really a beautiful life and the only thing I have ever known. But there is also a downside, my colleagues will agree. You are often lonely. It’s leaving everything behind to go and play basketball somewhere for a year. And then you start to think. Moving abroad again or the other side of Belgium? I didn’t like that anymore.”
Mestdagh started her career at the former Blue Cats Ieper, after which she went to study at Colorado State University. After one season with Castors Braine, she moved to Freiburg in Germany, followed by four seasons in Namur. After new foreign adventures with the Spanish Gran Canaria, the Polish Lublin and the German Saarlouis Royals, she played in Top Division Women last season at Kortrijk Spurs, which was trained by her father. Hanne herself collected 103 caps for the Belgian Cats, winning a bronze medal at the European Championships in 2017 and fourth place at the World Championships in 2018. Earlier she took bronze at the U21 European Championships alongside Emma Meesseman and Julie Vanloo, among others.
Now she returns to her roots, as an amateur. “I’m going to train 2-3 times a week and above all: back to basketball for fun,” says the West Flemish proudly. “I have my own place here, I feel happy here and I am now completing the circle. At the club where it all started as a five-year-old girl. Everyone knows me and I know everyone. I won a lot of cups here in the past, played champion… Together with my sister. The rest is history, so to speak. I also received a lot of support from the family. They knew I was having a hard time with this decision. But I lived five minutes from the sports hall and now only ten minutes by bike. Fantastic.”
Mestdagh is now fully engaged in her career after basketball. She has started working in an accounting office and will coach the U10 of Ypres.
“That has all been accelerated by everything,” it sounds. “And that’s totally okay. I hope to complete my training next year, but I’m already getting a taste of the practice. That is a completely different rhythm than I was used to. Getting up early too (laughs) and barely taking 500 steps after a full day of work. But the big advantage is that my day ends at 5 pm. Normally I still had to train. Now I can walk or swim or cycle. I like that life. The world is at my feet. It’s still a bit of a search, but still. That I’m only 30 years old? Oh, but I feel forever 22! So I am completely at peace with it.”
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