Olsztyn, Poland, August 29, 2015 – A new way of thinking. That is the secret of Marleen van Iersel’s and Madelein Meppelink’s excellent performance at the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour, Olsztyn Grand Slam.
The Dutch pair will face Larissa Franca and Talita Antunes in the final in Poland on Saturday with a lot more confidence than in the gold medal match in Moscow in May, where they lost 21-17, 21-14 to the Brazilian stars.
The reason for this new gained confidence is a different coaching strategy after former USA beach volleyball player Angie Akers recently took over coaching the number one Dutch pair.
The 39-year old started working with the Dutch teams at the beginning of this year, but initially tended to the two younger teams, Sophie van Gestel and Jantine van der Vlist and Rimke Braakman and Jolien Sinnema, while Scotsman Morph Bowes travelled with Meppelink and Van Iersel.
“Morph is still the head coach. He is in charge of all the Dutch girls”, Akers explained. “We just wanted to try something different and it’s been great. It helped raised the level of all teams.
"As you can see Sophie and Jantine are in the semis here as well. It has given kind of new perspective to Madelein and Marleen. We are kind of using everything we have.”
The biggest thing Akers changed is giving the girls an alternative way of thinking, using her own experiences as a player on the World Tour.
“I am giving them an alternative perspective," she said. "A little more taking ownership and taking decisions for themselves, knowing why they are doing things. Really questioning like ‘why are you doing this’.
"I think there comes a better understanding of why you do something when you are really challenged and go through some hard bumps. That will really convince you of the reasons why you are doing something. It really helps to get some conviction into your behaviour and your style of play.”
Akers played 52 events on the World Tour, winning two silver and two bronze medals with Tyra Turner. She had to retire after 2012 because of injuries and then took up coaching.
“At first it was very difficult, because the reason I had to stop playing was because of injuries. That’s difficult”, she said“But I think the second best job in the world is coaching and I think I settled in quite nicely and I really love it and found a passion for it.”
In February Akers was hired by the Dutch federation to help strengthen the country’s beach volleyball team ahead of the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championships in the Netherlands.
“It’s been an amazing experience working with the Dutch girls and head coach Morph," she said. "Just diving into a different culture and seeing the way they do things. It’s very different from the way I did it in America. It’s an amazing learning experience and I love it.
"Seeing the way other people do it has been really eye-opening and informative and a really cool experience.”