The JOGO Line-Up with Xandra Daswani
Behind every successful company, there is a winning team. At JOGO, this is a passionate bunch with the drive to revolutionize the world of football as a collective. In The Line-Up, we would like to show off the brilliant people behind JOGO. Meet this time Xandra Daswani.
A disarming smile combined with a slight American accent, and everyone at JOGO knows sports scientist Xandra Daswani is in the house. The cheerful spirit is part of her lovely character, the American accent, a memento of her period in the United States. The 26-year-old daughter of an Indian father and Dutch mother was born in Curaçao but swapped, together with her family, the island in the Caribbean Sea for Miami when she was fourteen.
In the sports-mad US, she was also bitten by the sports bug. “In America, they are so sports-minded, especially at high school. There are not only high school sports but also club sports. As a child, you can play sports twice a day all year round if you want”, says Daswani passionately. “I played two sports: football and lacrosse. I was so good at the latter that I was awarded a sports scholarship for further education.”
The initial plan was to use that scholarship to study veterinary medicine, preferably at the University of Florida—”my absolute dream school”, adds Daswani with a dreamy far-off look. However, a nasty injury during a lacrosse game disrupted that American Dream. “It was a clear foul. A girl pushed me hard from behind, causing me to trip over my own feet. I fell full-on on my shoulder”, recalls the protagonist of the incident, fully dressed in a bright orange hoodie from the Florida Gators, the University of Florida’s mascot. The result was a fracture in the AC joint, the connector between the shoulder blade and collarbone. “It wasn’t really a tragedy, but it was a life-changer. It made me the person I am today.”
Human movement sciences
Daswani is actually the living example of the expression ‘when one door closes, another one opens’. In this case, a door to a university degree in the Netherlands. “An academic career in America had become too expensive due to the loss of the sports scholarship, but studying in the Netherlands was still affordable. Moreover, it was a nice new challenge. After an international Bachelor’s degree in Life Sciences at Erasmus University in Rotterdam, I eventually graduated as a movement scientist.”
“The fascination for the human body and its motion actually started at high school when I worked a short spell as an assistant athletic trainer for the American football team. Those people were so incredibly athletic that I constantly wondered how all that was even possible”, as she explains her choice for the master Human Movement Sciences at the VU University Amsterdam. “It made me really want to do something with the science behind how we move. So I chose the specialization of biophysics in sports, emphasizing muscle physiology, how muscles work, and the physics behind how a person moves. All in relation to sport.”
As a newly graduated movement scientist, Daswani was immediately asked to work as a JOGO sports scientist in March 2020. In her own words, an absolute dream job.” I could directly start working on something I’m particularly interested in: performance analysis (improving an athlete’s performance using data analysis, ed.). In this case, in relation to youth footballers”, she says with a broad smile. “It’s quite the challenge, but that’s what makes JOGO so much fun. It is also fascinating to see that our project has grown so much in such a short time. We have gone from a group of ten fanatics to an ambitious company of over fifty people.”
Together with Bo Ladru and data scientist Alkiviadis Savvopoulos, Daswani represents JOGO’s talented sports science team. “We provide the science behind JOGO. Everything we do as a company has to be done from a scientific basis: from selecting the right exercises and training programs for players to effectively advance a youth player to interpreting data with personalized improvement suggestions”, explains the head of sports science. “We are also working on popular papers, academic articles on talent development in football. We claim that JOGO is an essential asset in the football youth development process, but why? We want to show why we do what we do and why what we do is so incredibly important.”
Daswani doesn’t have a real hobby besides work, although she is still quite the sports fanatic – a ‘lazy but sporty’ one, as she likes to name it. She has no problem being a couch potato, watching a game of her favorite club Juventus (“thanks to my cousin, I’m a fanatic supporter”), but at the same time likes to go all-in in circuit training at the gym. Once she makes up her mind. “Before each workout, I’m traditionally a big whiner, but once I’m in, I’m always giving it 110%.”
Back to the roots
Although she is currently at her place in Rotterdam, she hopes one day to return to where it all began: Curaçao. And not just to enjoy the better climate, but to put her acquired knowledge into practice there as well. “I would love to start a kind of all-in-one health centre together with a friend. A place where people can get a clear plan to work on their health goals based on their food pattern, fitness level and other parameters. It’s a concept that they don’t know there yet and that I would love to introduce.” In any case, it would make the circle for Daswani complete.