Hi there. My name is Klaudia and I grew up in Bratislava, Slovakia. At the age of twenty-six, I finally realized that I won’t become a professional tennis player. That was it. Puff. The dream was gone. I played tennis for the biggest part of my life, 20 years, and my highest WTA ranking was #575. Not too shabby but not that great either. When I was 18 years old I was around #50 in the world and I do have a couple of National Championship Titles in my pocket. Anyway, I was decent but not Sharapova decent. By the age of 19, I was completely worn out, my ranking and funds were falling down, and I was offered a full ride scholarship to play for a D1 University in California. That was the first time I realized that I am not going to be a professional athlete. Change does not happen overnight they say. Well, this felt like it. From a relatively easy life where I was living with my family, had a boyfriend, and did not have to physically attend my school at all, to a pretty stressful 4 years that would teach me some of the biggest life lessons.
Right from the start, I had problems with NCAA which did not accept me as an amateur and I was not eligible to play at any American University. So not only I could not compete but also practice or to travel with the team. That was great. Not. Getting my eligibility back was a year-long process, accompanied with a lot of tears, anger, uncertainty, my coaches determination and luck? So I sat on the bench for a year and a half and paid back a couple thousands of euros. Long story short, in my second year after 10 consecutive wins on the court, I tore my ACL. I was out for another 10 months again. Had to undergo a surgery and get back as soon as possible since my scholarship was in danger. I mean who wants a player who literally never plays. Well, I got back pretty quickly and somehow got through my second year. My third year was the strongest and finally, I got to play some cool matches. So overall my college experience was not all rainbows and unicorns but I still think they were my best four years in my life.
I majored in marketing, but I had a huge interest in a Film Degree. It is not easy to pick a major if you are a student-athlete. You have to pick a major that suits your practice and traveling schedule. I really did not have a choice so I went with marketing. Boooring. I honestly did not learn much since I believe 90 % of marketing is common sense, but I digress. So I graduated and had to think about what’s next. Should I try to stay in the US or go back to Slovakia? I pretty much had all my friends and life in the states but my family was in Slovakia. The last year of school was also very hectic so I did not even have time to properly decide. I was happy that I passed all mine exams and got a bachelor’s degree. So going back was a reasonable option, given I did not even look for a job in the US and I somewhat missed Europe.
I am back in Bratislava, Slovakia. First, the cultural shock hit me hard. At the beginning, I was the happiest person to be back, everything seemed so great and I enjoyed it. But then my pink glasses faded and I saw the reality. Jobs offers were shitty and I was not ready for an average 9-to-5 corporate job. Thus I researched some Master degree programs around Europe and Amsterdam sounded like a best viable option. I would rather go to Spain but 20 K tuition vs. 2 K tuition fee was a deal breaker.
Here I was in Amsterdam all of a sudden, studying Information and Knowledge Management, cool stuff indeed. This was another breaking point when I realized that I really don’t play tennis anymore and nobody really cares that I spent 20 years on the court. I got accepted and I came to Amsterdam with couple hundreds of euros so I had to find a job immediately. Otherwise, I would not have money for rent. Did you know they speak Dutch in Amsterdam? Nice huh? Good luck with finding a decent job in Amsterdam if you don’t speak Nederlandse.
I found a job. No not in Red Light District. A waitress in an Italian restaurant with an Egyptian owner who called himself Giorgio. Self-explanatory. He was a scam. In and out. This was a first time when the ex-athlete crisis hit me by a thunderstorm. I was serving food to people who had no idea. They had no idea what I was doing couple years ago or who I was. The internal monologues like “Imagine where would you be if only…” or “How did this happen?” or “Why me?” were on daily basis. I had to find another job. Immediately. And I found one. In Zara, the clothing retail store. At the beginning, I thought it would be great. At least I’m surrounded by clothes and folding won’t be too hard right? Wrong. I have never been treated this way. By managers, but worse, by my colleagues. But hey Zara will be a separate article. Yeah sorry, this blog is definitely not going to be about being nice just because I should. Hell no.
Anyways, the school was great, the job was shit, here I am trying to find an internship that would be something I would be interested in. I got call back from Nike inc. whose headquarters is in Hilversum, an hour away from Amsterdam and G-Star RAW whos HQ is in Amsterdam. Nike – a web analyst position or G-Star – a commercial intern. I chose G-Star because I wanted to move from sports to something completely different. I felt I need to put that sporty mindset away. To get out of regrets and living in the past. I felt I had to break through. So I worked as an intern for 6 months and then as a saleswoman for almost one year and a half. That was my very first corporate job experience. I got to work with the most exciting people I know. We were all part of the sales team for emerging markets. It was rad. It was badass, I liked it.
Then some stuff happened, as always. I did not get the position I was promised to and at the same time, I realized that I don’t want to live in Amsterdam anymore. The weather was crap and I needed a change. That autumn I took a trip to Spain and Italy to check the situation over there. Specifically, I went to check Barcelona, Valencia, and Rome. To be honest, I just did not feel it. Barcelona too crowded. Valencia too quiet. Rome too poor. I was confused as hell. Then out of nowhere, I got an offer for a strategic position in a Media Agency in Bratislava. Done deal. Took it. So here I am back in Bratislava.
So as you could see I have a lot of various experiences and stories to tell from a lot of different corners, not just sport. I am a former athlete and I think the transition process from an athlete to a normal person could be a pain in the arse. But it’s super important to go through the process and eat the frog. Just eat it. Because you don’t want to be a 50-year-old dad with an existential crisis. My last attempt at malenovska.com – Life After was about the transition and former athletes. I wanted to push it to another level and include other topics that interest me as another source of inspiration for yall.
- XA will continue to explain the transition process from former athlete to a normal human being. You can find interviews, findings, tips and what not about life after professional sport. I named it XA because Life After evoked some sort of cult or religious purpose which was definitely not the goal. Let’s keep it simple.
- WHAT I LIKE Is self-explanatory. Whether it’s a tv show, a song, some sort of activity or anything that caught my attention.
- WHAT I DO I do a lot of stuff. You will see. LOL
- WHERE I GO Travels, restaurants, good spots, maybe bad spots, again if it left some mark on me I will share it.
- SLOVAKIA Oh, I get pissed off when people outside of Slovakia can’t even locate the country and know nothing. Or they think we ride horses. Let me show some Slovakia okay? Okay.
SLOVAK LANGUAGE //
To be honest, I am not sure which language is harder for me to write in. When I was thinking about the language, I could not decide for Slovak or English. I took weeks to decide so I decided not to decide. Some articles, relevant to Slovaks will be in Slovak language and those relevant for all will be in English. I also assume that my target audience is Millennials and most of them should speak English. Also, maybe nobody outside Slovakia would go on my page so I will just switch over. Let’s see how it goes.
This website as my personal project and a creative outlet. I also consider it as a self-learning tool for HTML and CSS. All pictures are either taken by me or my friends, using VSCO filters in Lightroom CC, Photoshop CC and Illustrator CC, unless stated otherwise. All the logos, visuals and the website is designed by me using WordPress.com and Websupport.sk.