Meet our Braavheart #5: Under normal circumstances, it would've been impossible to find a blank spot in Hanne's agenda. In fact: Hanne had normally been at the Olympic Games in Tokyo. One benefit of corona for us: we were lucky to catch up with this Belgian Cat. This team player doesn't only stand out on the field, with a bachelor in economics and a degree in accountancy, this baller can count her three-pointers herself!
Hi Hanne, can you introduce yourself and what you do in a few sentences?
My name is Hanne Mestdagh, 27 years old, and I was born and raised in the city of Ieper, Belgium. I am a very energetic, positive-minded and ambitious woman who strives to be a better version of herself every day. My biggest passion is basketball and I am very grateful to be able to make it my full-time job and play at the highest level. I love being the little sister to my siblings and spending time with my family is very valuable to me. I have a bachelor in economics and business administration and on the side I am completing a second, online degree in accountancy. I laugh often, and I love making the people around me laugh. I believe it to be one of the most important things in life.
Do you have some sort of life motto of any kind?
“Stay close to the people who feel like sunshine” is one reminder I have with me everywhere I go. Throughout my career, I learned the importance of surrounding myself with kindhearted people who share the same values in life. People who inspire and support you, people who will lift you up is such a powerful thing to have.
I work with so many women together in a very competitive environment and to find people who are happy for your successes are the once you need to stay close to. This kind of positive energy is so contagious and if we can all feed of each other, imagine how much more successful we could all be. I love to be that kind of person to others because it truly makes me happy to see people around me succeed in whatever goals they have set for themselves.
How do you manage to maintain a healthy work-life balance?
Being a professional athlete, it is easy to feel like my life is being lived for me. I don’t know when or if I will have time off and everything I do is in function of my performance during practices and games. My practice schedule, sleep schedule, food schedule is all part of this lifestyle and I cannot just turn it off. A professional athlete is something you are 24/7, almost year-round. It’s hard to maintain a social life as well so a healthy work/life balance is tough for me.
What keeps me going, is the feeling of extreme gratefulness. I am so thankful for being able to do every day what I love the most that it makes it easier to make these kinds of sacrifices. Knowing that this career isn’t something I can do for the rest of my life, makes it also very precious. This drives me to become the best player I can be in the time that I have.
Sports has taught me so many life lessons already, and I believe these things will help me excel in life after my basketball career. So for now, my work and life balance are just very intertwined, but I wouldn’t want it any other way.... for now.
What is the ultimate relaxation for you?
A home-cooked meal with my family, a summer barbecue with friends, going for a hike in the woods are some of the things that completely recharge my batteries. I’m an extraverted person, so I really enjoy being around my people, that’s what gives me energy.
I also picked up a new hobby two years ago and I really enjoy cycling. It’s my getaway on my day off to just being outside, wind in my face and reminding myself how beautiful life can be. Especially in these very stressful times, we are living in now, it’s important to take some time and really appreciate the things that you have going for yourself.
What brings you peace after a hectic day?
After a tough evening practice, I really find it relaxing to come home and cook myself a healthy meal. It gives me time to reflect on my day and to decompress after a heavy physical effort. I like to try out new dishes so that I am not always eating the same things. I like to experiment with ingredients that I haven’t used before and sometimes going away for the recipe instructions. Cooking a proper and tasty meal that fits within my food program can give me this feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction.
What are your professional objectives for the future?
The first goal that is on my mind is the Olympic Games in Tokyo. Unfortunately, because of the challenging times we are going through, they have been postponed and I can only hope they can take place next summer. The Olympic Games is the ultimate sports events so to be able to qualify for that has been one of the biggest accomplished I have been a part of.
I would love to play in of one the bigger basketball leagues in Europe but it’s a very unpredictable market so I am always focussed at one season at the time. Sure, I can dream of winning a medal at the next European championship, but I don’t like to think too far ahead and I take one challenge at the time.
How do you combine this with your personal life?
The people in my inner circle are very understanding of the choices I make and the career path I am taking. They respect me and what I do and they know I have a very full schedule. But they also know I am only a phone call away so I really invest in having good communication with my closest friends and family. I am genuinely interested in keeping up with what is going on in their lives and support them as they support me in my career.
If you could give a 1 (ultimate) tip to other ambitious women, what would it be?
I’ll use a quote that I really like for this one; “Be fearless in the pursuit of what sets your soul on fire”. It says a lot. First, find something that you are really passionate about, that sparks you from within, a purpose that sets your soul on fire. Don’t be afraid to dig deep, and once you find that, you don’t hold back. Nor fear, nor failure, nor disappointment should stop you from going all in. These are struggles you will encounter along the way of chasing your dream or reaching your goal but that is part of the process. Despite that, you should go to bed every night so proud of yourself knowing you gave it everything you had.
Which book do you think is an absolute must-read for our Braavheart community?
A book I really recommend to the Braavheart community is "Becoming" by Michelle Obama. It talks about her life journey from her childhood to the White House and the struggles she came across combining her career with her family life. Michelle Obama is an incredible public speaker. I remember watching a video of her speaking at a women’s rights conference and she has this gift to make everyone in the room feel important. It is so inspiring to listen to her talk and you have this feeling that she’s really speaking to you. She makes you feel like anything is possible if you try your hardest and fight through the challenges that you will encounter along the way. A message I support very much.
Who do you think should be in our #Braavhearts section?
There are a lot of empowering women I look up to at the moment. But I’ll have to go with StuBru radio host and vlogger Linde Merckpoel. I had the honour of meeting her in February, as she has been following us on our Olympic qualification journey. She has such a warm and infectious personality that captures everyone’s attention in the room. She made a video about our qualification tournament and it still gives me goosebumps looking back to it. What she did with her online platform during the quarantine for the people, was just amazing. She used her voice to keep everyone accountable and she did it in an entertaining way. I really admire her creativity, and her passion to make others feel special.