Marina Draskovic (35) is a 6-time judo champion of Croatia, she competed for the national team as a junior, cadet, and senior. Was elected 2 times as an athlete of the city of Velika Gorica and once as an athlete of Zagreb County.
How it all started
“I was the first in the family to start competing in sports” remembered Marina. She started competing in tennis first, but then a judo club opened in Velika Gorica and as soon as she saw her coach throwing people, that was it.
She started judo when she was 8 years old and trained through the whole high school twice a day. “I was more often at practice than at school”. Marina traveled a lot around the world in various camps. Her goal was always the Olympics but she never went.
When she started going to college she moved to Slovenia and trained there up to three times a day.
At the age of 19, she started coaching children, in addition to her training. She managed everything on her own, drove to various tournaments on her own, earned money for tournaments and preparations trips.
She would study on Sundays for 12 hours in a row to make up for everything she missed during the week while she was gone. Graduated in economics, she went to college only part-time and passed each exam from the first try.
In 2008, she gave up judo and focused on finishing college, but she continued to work as a coach. “Your life is planned because you have daily, monthly, annual goals, and then suddenly it’s all gone,” said Marina.
Her goal was to become a top manager. In 2011 she finished college and until 2013 she could not find a job, that’s two years without an income.
Marina applied for a flight controller and passed the first couple of steps, but no luck there. On other jobs she applied for, she would go far in the selection, though in the end would be discounted for lack of experience.
After stopping with the training she felt lost, unsuccessful as if she had lost part of her identity. She was alone and left to herself, with her biggest frustration that she could not pass the initial stages of selection and get to the actual job interview.
Since she wanted to remain at least in some way in touch with judo, she considered opening a club for children with disabilities where they could train. A friend of a friend ran Aikido for children with cerebral palsy and he couldn’t run it anymore so he asked Marina to replace him.
In a week, she designed a judo program for children who can’t walk. These children changed her value system, her outlook on life, the separation of the important from the irrelevant.
Within a few months, the program lost funding, so she invited them over the summer to come train with her in the gym in Velika Gorica. In 2012 she founded the Fuji Club, the first judo club for children with disabilities; they started with over 20 members.
“It included down syndrome, intellectual disabilities, cerebral palsy, and others. I started learning about it, talking to physiotherapists, and it quickly became my passion”.
Come 2014 and she was the manager of sports and recreational activities for people with disabilities. She also completed training as a judo coach, had 2 years of retraining as a physiotherapeutic technician under her belt, and completed various additional educations.
In the beginning, they were financed through the city budget and everything was completely free for children.
A documentary film about the club was made and they’ve also won a “BeInclusive” EU sports award. Marina herself just wrote a book called “Judo for people with cerebral palsy” about the program she created.
A large EU project that lasted three years is now being completed, with only about a month remaining. She wants to achieve that each club has one group of children with disabilities, not just in judo.
Judo activities are one of the ten activities they have at the club and they include children who do not have any difficulties in the training. But some children have been on the waiting list for three years.
They organize excursions, performances, concerts, pub quizzes. Their assistants are children of their age who train judo.
“I want to start a project where children in kindergarten will meet children with disabilities, get acquainted with different types of disabilities, sit in wheelchairs, learn to guide the blind, and things like that”.
She doesn’t have her own training hall, but she wants to build one. Her biggest problem is financial security.
Sport & Business
“If someone can train three times a day, imagine how much they can give to the company. Former athletes:
- are accustomed to constantly receiving feedback, and have no problem hearing criticism in order to improve
- have a constant desire to be better
- will literally fight to reach the goal
- are used to training on weekends
- have no problem working outside the standard working hours
- are constantly looking for ways to cross obstacles
- have experience with multitasking
- are disciplined, focused, and goal-oriented
and yet they have problems integrating with the rest of society,” Marina reviews the current situation regarding (former) athletes.
No time to waste
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