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3X3 Unites Her(o) stories Janis Ndiba Boonstra

As 3X3 Unites, we work daily to create equal opportunities for women. We do this in various ways and through wonderful collaborations, such as with Nike Made to Play and Women Win. In addition to the enjoyment of 3x3 and the warmth of our community, we also find it important to show girls that they can achieve their dreams.

Sometimes you just need to see how someone else has achieved their successes! That's why we're starting a new series: 3X3 Unites Her(o) stories. A series in which women share how they have reached where they are today. The setbacks they have faced, the lessons they have learned, and what advice they want to give young girls on their journey to realizing their dreams.

We are proud to present the first story of European 3x3 champion Janis Ndiba Boonstra.
Watch the three videos here and scroll down to read her entire story

Twenty-six-year-old Janis Ndiba Boonstra from Leeuwarden shone in the summer of 2023 as the European champion in 3x3, proudly wearing a well-deserved gold medal around her neck. Shortly afterward, she shared a personal message about the path that led to this success. A path on which she worked tirelessly, faced injuries, and even contemplated quitting basketball altogether. In Utrecht, 3X3 Leader Charlotte Naus spoke with Janis about the road to success, the people who had a significant impact on her as a person and player, and the importance of inclusivity in sports.

How did you start playing basketball?

My mother wanted me to participate in sports, and she thought basketball would be suitable for me. She took me to a basketball clinic, but I didn't really enjoy it. I saw a group doing street dance, which I found much more enjoyable. I did that for four years. After four years, my mother said, 'Okay, give basketball another try,' and I was hooked from that moment on. 

What was different that made you instantly hooked?

It was a feeling that just came up, I think.

And have you always been fond of basketball since then?

There was a moment when I seriously started to doubt if I still liked basketball. Many friends were going out, and I wanted to quit. However, my coach at the time said, 'Give it a little longer,' and I did, and now I'm here! I wouldn't have continued without him.

'When things get tough or challenging, you have to persevere and keep working hard; eventually, beautiful things will come.'
If it were reversed, and you were the coach, what would you have said to yourself?

That in moments when it gets tough or challenging, you have to persevere and work hard. Eventually, beautiful things will come. I didn't see that at the time, but now I'm very glad he pushed me. I would love to do something like that for someone else.

And now you're the European champion! How does that feel?

It still feels unreal! I had only been back on the court for three months after a major injury. Achieving this success so quickly is amazing and unreal.

Yes, you had just returned from a cruciate ligament injury, right? What were you thinking when that happened?

A lot of things go through your mind. You think, 'Holy shit, I tore my cruciate ligament!' I knew a tough period was ahead, but I also knew I had the strength to come through it. Four years earlier, I had torn my Achilles tendon, so when I tore my cruciate ligament, I knew I could find peace in the recovery process because I knew it would all be okay. Additionally, I had so many people around me who had experienced it and could help me. They gave me tips on what I should or shouldn't do and what challenges they faced in their rehabilitation. So, the period went well and calmly. There are, of course, moments when it's tough, but I knew what I was working for, and that kept me going.

Who were the people who helped you?

Definitely my mother, but also basketball friends who had experienced it before. What also helped me a lot was doing fun things with family. This allowed me to put things into perspective and keep going. It prevented me from obsessing over my knee. Despite it being a severe injury, I was able to do a lot of fun things that I normally couldn't because basketball always kept me busy.

And you wanted to go back to playing basketball afterward? It wasn't that you were doing all these fun things and thinking, 'This is actually quite nice!'

There were moments when I thought, 'Why am I still doing this?' But no, I knew exactly what I was working for and what I wanted to achieve. I knew I really wanted to play basketball again. It was different after my first injury; then, I thought, 'Why should I continue with this? I'm in so much pain!' But this time, it was definitely different.

'You have to keep going. Even when you feel less motivated.'
Winning a gold medal is undoubtedly a fantastic achievement, a clear 'success.' What message do you want to convey to people about the successes they want to achieve?

I think success is a very long process in which you will face many setbacks, especially in the beginning, and sometimes you still will. You have to be willing to work hard and collaborate toward a common goal. Something beautiful will eventually come out of it, but you have to keep going, even when you feel less motivated.

You use your online platform to spread a lot of positivity, motivation, and inspiration. What is your motivation behind that, and why is it important to you?

Because I believe it's essential in this time. Many people struggle with mental health. I enjoy sharing a good quote that inspires and motivates me to push a little harder with my followers on Instagram. Why wouldn't I do that if I can make a difference, even if it's just a little bit?

What makes someone a hero for you?

For me, someone is a hero when they contribute to society, think beyond themselves, try to help people a bit, and strive to bring out the best in themselves. I think that's someone who is a superhero for me.

If you were a superhero, what power would you want, and why?

I think I would want to be invisible and be able to do a lot of good things in the world without people knowing it's me. To help those who do bad and unpleasant things in this world without them realizing I'm doing something. Just to make this world a bit better.

So, like an invisible superhero. What would you be called then?

Invisible Jenga!

How are you currently trying to help and inspire people?

With what I achieve in sports and who I am as a person. I always try to help people and be kind. I always keep in mind that I started at a 'low' point. I'm not saying I'm 'high' now, but it doesn't matter where you come from. If you work hard, anything is possible! Or almost anything.

‘When you play sports you notice you feel better mentally. You feel free’
With Unites, we work daily to improve equality in sports. For everyone, really. What do you think of that?
Super cool! I believe that everyone should have the opportunity to enjoy sports and feel safe somewhere. It shouldn't matter who you are or where you come from. I think 3X3 Unites is doing that very well and it's also very important for young people to be able to play sports. You notice that you feel mentally better when you've played sports or are going to play. You feel free. So, I think the offering is truly crucial.