Further to the announcement about the new created Brand Ambassadors roles, we have conducted interviews with the two appointed athletes, asking them several questions to provide insights into their background and motivation for undertaking the ambassadorial role.
It is time now to meet the first of our two ambassadors: Elvira STINISSEN (NED)
For those of our followers who don’t know you yet, could you please introduce yourself briefly – why and how did you start with sitting volleyball?
I started playing sitting volleyball when I was around 21 years old. Thats now 23 years ago! I was born with one leg and when I was young I did not want to play sports with other people who had a disabillity. When I turned 20 I was more open to it and a sports advisor in the rehabilitation centre talked to me about sitting volleyball. I went to the first training where Joze Banfi was the coach and I fell in love with the sport immediatly. I love the game. It’s quick, dynamic, tactical. And I love the people, very open, with and without a disability. Everyone in sitting volleyball is equal.
What are your first memories from the sport and your biggest achievements so far?
My biggest achievements are:
- World champion in 2002, 2004 and 2008
- European champion in 2003, 2005, 2007 and 2009
- Participated in three paralympic games
- Won the Bronze medal in Beijing
- Got elected in the IPC athletes council in 2012 during London Games and got re-elected in 2016
- Set up the Athletes commission within WPV
- Sat on the board of the European Paralympic Committee (EPC)
- I was the national team captain for 10 years.
I quit playing for the national team in 2018 after the Worlds in the Netherlands. My husband and I adopted our son János and during COVID time I didn’t play sitting volleyball at all. In 2020 I started playing sitting volleyball again within the club team. In the Netherlands we have three competitions and about 18 club teams.
Goals for the future?
I work at the ministry of Heath, Welfare and Sports in the department of Sports. My goal and daily work is to make sports inclusive, diverse and accessible for everyone. In the Netherlands a lot of people who have a disability, live in poverty or have a different background, do not sport at all. I know how important sports is for yor development and wellbeing and I want to make sure that everyone has the opportunity to play the sport that suits them, where they have fun, meet new people and become stronger persons.
Besides that I am the chair of the sitting volleyball advisory committee of the Dutch volleyball federation (NEVOBO) and on the advisory committee of the municipality Den Haag, where I live. So actually working in sports, whether it is sitting volleyball or the entire sports world, is my life.
Congratulations on your new role. Why did you accept the role of PVE Ambassador?
Thank you, I am very honoured to now have this role and also to have it together with Juergen. Sitting volleyball has played such an important role in my life and if you look at the development in the sport for the last 20 years it has been amazing. I want to help bring sitting volleyball to the next level. Paravolley Europe has done such a great job in making sure there are more competitions for the athletes and make it a more athletes centred organisation. Its all about the athletes, people forget that sometimes. I want to help make sure that grows stronger and stronger.
What does it mean to you being a PVE Ambassador and how do you see your duties?
For me it is important to continue the development within sitting volleyball. The competition with other sports is tough both on and off court. It has such a big potential and opportunities. I want to help bring that potential to reality.
I see myself as the bridge between PVE and the members and Europe and the other zones. By sharing our thoughts and ideas with the members, the federations, the athletes, I hope everyone we are going to talk also wants to share their thoughts and ideas. Taking the sport to the next level, building on a strong foundation worldwide can only happen as we as a sittingvolleybal community work together.
In which areas do you believe your experience and expertise as part of the sitting volleyball world, could help for the further development of the sport?
First of all I have the experience of a player and team captain. I believe that is the most important expertise. To know what is important for athletes, what there needs are, what obstacles you run into when you are a player. For example the classifications. The impact in players and teams is so big when that is not organised in a proper way.
Besides that I have the experience to develop sitting volleyball within the Netherlands. I have a wider perspective on sports, building networks and leading teams in my work. Also being part of different boards as a member, chair or vice chair makes me know the world around the athletes. What does it take to build relationships with for example the IPC. My time within the IPC Athletes council taught me so much. What does a sport needs to do to be and stay a paralympic sport, how can classification improve, how can we learn from other sports.
Why is it important to “act as a bridge” within the European community and connect Europe with other zones?
It is important to have strong zones. The zones are close to the national federations and can easily work together. Europe is a strong zone and has become stronger in the last few years, but there is still room for improvement. To connect to the other zones we can learn from each other.
What do think of the PVE community evolution over the last few years (therefore, keep on working there)? Is there a room for improvement and in which areas?
Since the last few years I saw the changes within the PVE community. More competitions, better relationship between PVE board and members, more athletes centred, stronger PVE organisation, also during competitions. The last European championships was organised in a professional way. Just by seeing the promotion or watching the matches online.
One message to our followers – active players, athletes considering taking up the sport and fans?
There is always room for improvement. We have to work on getting more countries participate in sitting volleyball with both men and women teams and make sure other countries return their teams on court. For example the womens team from my own country!
Enjoy being part of an amazing sport, work together and have the will to improve as an individua,as a team and as a sport!