Madelein Meppelink: “The FIVB sees the players as a very important stakeholder”

Renowned beach volleyball player and FIVB Athletes’ Commission President shares her goals and experience as a member of the FIVB Board of Administration

Madelein Meppelink has this year taken on two important roles as she was elected the FIVB Athletes’ Commission President and, for the first time in the history of the sport, joined the FIVB Board of Administration as the representative of the commission and the athletes. The FIVB had a chat with Meppelink to talk about her experience on the Board, the goals she has set for the Athletes’ Commission and her career both on and off the court.


1.                   Dear Madelein, for the first time in FIVB history, the President of the FIVB Athletes’ Commission has become a member of the FIVB Board of Administration. What does this change mean for you and how has your experience of the role been?


I think it is a very important step. I am sure that the FIVB is really making an effort to include the players in every process. The FIVB clearly sees the players as a very important stakeholder. My experience on the FIVB Board of Administration has so far mostly been a big learning experience, listening to everybody and learning about the whole process and everything that is going on.

2.                   You were elected as President of the FIVB Athletes’ Commission less than a year ago, you are also an active beach volleyball player. How do you manage combining both roles and what are your goals at the helm of the Athletes’ Commission? How does your playing career help you in achieving these goals?

Well, the combination is not always easy. You have to balance it and prioritise at the right moment. I am happy I have a little off-season now so I can invest more time and work on setting up goals for the FIVB Athletes’ Commission.

We will need to have a meeting with the Athletes’ Commission to confirm our final goals. But I have spoken with most members and we want to focus on creating good communications platforms with all the athletes to make sure they have access to the right information and can reach us any time. It is important to ensure that everybody is well informed about what is going on, about the newly launched Beach Volleyball Pro Tour for example or about the calendar in indoor volleyball. 


3.                   You are an active beach volleyball player. Can you tell us more about your achievements in your playing career?

As a beach volleyball player, I have been playing full time for 13 years now. I started when I was 14 and when I was around 18 or 19 I decided to move to beach volleyball full time.  I am proud to be a two-time European champion and proud of my Grand Slam victory. I am also a three-time Olympian having competed at London 2012, Rio 2016 and Tokyo 2020.  Along the way, I have won 15 World Tour medals since 2008, two gold, six silver and seven bronze.

4.                   You have been playing beach volleyball for many years. How did you first get into the sport?

I got into the sport because of my dad who played indoor volleyball so he introduced me to the sport. I think many other players were introduced to the sport by their parents. I started playing beach volleyball because one of my indoor volleyball coaches set up a beach volleyball competition and asked me to join. I really enjoyed it so I never left!

5.                   Have your already thought what you might want to do after your playing career? Do you want to stay in sport?

This is always a big question, and I am not 100% sure yet. I have been looking into this more closely in the last few years as you don’t know when your career may end. I am currently doing a Master’s in Management at the Erasmus University in Rotterdam, Netherlands to develop my skills more for a potential management role.

At the moment, I am happy to be able to represent the athletes in my role on the Commission and FIVB Board of Administration, and to also have an opportunity to contribute to the development of volleyball with my knowledge and experience. This is something I would like to continue doing over the next years. But I would also like to develop myself in the business world to have other experience and a point of view outside of sports. Maybe in the future I will be able to bring this knowledge back to the sports governing bodies as well.


6.                   Volleyball World has recently launched the Beach Volleyball Pro Tour. What are your expectations for the new circuit?

I am really looking forward to the launch of the new Beach Pro Tour and the first events. I think there have been many changes. I understand that changes are not always easy, but I really believe that these will help the future of beach volleyball. It is going to be a learning process and the Tour will gradually grow.

At the beginning, we might need to figure out various aspects. For example, the point system changes are more abstract at the moment and we can understand it up to a certain point, but once the events start, we will need to experience and adapt to it along the way with feedback from the different stakeholders involved. So i am really looking forward to the Tour and I hope that in a couple of years we will all be proud of the hard work that we all put into this project.  


7.                   As a female athlete and role model, you know first-hand all the challenges around gender equality in sport. What is your vision on this and how you are promoting the case within your role at the FIVB?

I think that gender equality has never been a big issue in our sport because we have enjoyed gender equality by the nature of our sport, at least as long as I have been playing. I think we can all be really proud of this.

For the moment, we still have some room for improvement in the Board of Administration and the opportunity to attract more female leaders and role models to join the Board. There have definitely been some positive steps made in this direction and I hope in the next few years we will have more female representatives across the governing body.