Hannover United has announced that World Champion, Mariska Beijer will be joining them for the 2019/20 season following her departure from Doneck Dolphins Trier. Rollt’s English-speaking Content Producer, Dylan Cummings spoke with the women’s MVP in an exclusive interview.
Why did you choose to move to Hannover United next season?
“Training with a bunch of tall players will be good for me. I will potentially be playing minutes in the same role for Hannover as I do in the national team. I can combine Hannover training with going back to the Netherlands to train with the girls to prepare for Tokyo 2020.”
How do you intend to fit into the team?
“I hope to easily fit into the team, I practiced with them a bit and it felt pretty good. It also helps that I already know how the team plays since we played against each other so many times when I was in Trier. I think my style of play will be a good addition to the team.”
Why did you move from Trier?
“I had to move clubs to give my basketball growth another spurt, with a new environment, team, coaching staff and challenge.”
You have played in the Rollstuhlbasketball-Bundesliga (RBBL) before, what do you think will be the major differences in the styles of play between Hannover and Trier?
“Trier is a team with amazing shooters, so of course their offense heavily relies on that – with success. Hannover is more of an inside-outside team that uses up the shot clock to create different opportunities.”
How will next season challenge you in the lead up to Tokyo?
“I have a bunch of skills to work on for Tokyo and I am really happy that Hannover gives me the space to work on that. I will be going back and forth between Hannover and Papendal quite a bit to train with the national team. I want to use every practice and game to polish the necessary skills.”
At Hannover, it is highly likely that you will be reunited with your former Whitewater-Wisconsin teammate, Vanessa Erskine; what does it mean to you to be playing alongside her again?
“I am pretty stoked about being reunited with my snake eye (class 1) from Whitewater. When I joined in the team practice it felt like ‘old times’ and we are ready to recreate some Warhawk magic.”
What are your goals for next season?
“Reaching the final four with Hannover is the main goal. I also want to improve myself, my teammates and to grow as a whole team.”
Many people have told me that the Dutch league is weak, what do you think could be done to improve the standard of the league in your country?
“One of the main reasons the league is not strong is that most talented players go to Germany or Spain. I am guilty of that too since I went to the US to improve (and get my degree) and then to Germany. Locally it is hard to get sponsorships to get funding to help the players with gas and such. I do think that the clubs and youth programs are great for developing players, they build the foundation as of why players are able to go outside the Netherlands. On the other hand, once the flow of players is outbound it is a tough task to reverse it.”
What are your thoughts on German culture and how does it differ from Dutch culture?
“The culture by itself is not much different, but there are subtle differences such as the sense of humor and directness. The main thing I had to get used was that the grocery stores are closed on Sundays. Back home I do my main shopping on Sunday so had to differ from my normal food shopping schedule.”
What do you miss most about the Netherlands when you are abroad?
“My family, friends and home. Whenever I am home, I can’t wait to see them.”
In your opinion what makes the Dutch women’s squad so successful?
“We are successful together because the team compliments each other’s skills. It is highly enjoyable to play with the girls since we have such a wide range of personalities and ages. There is never a dull moment. We have the best coaching staff to guide us in the right direction. The basketball part is important but also the help you get when fitting into the team, the right diet, injury/recovery therapy and so much more. The last few years it has all been ‘clicking’ together.”
Who is your best friend(s) on the Netherlands squad?
“Ilse Arts, she is the best! I am very lucky she is also my roommate; we often play the SNES together, Donkey Kong is our favorite. We also listen to a range of music. I love Jitske too, we have been playing ball together since the beginning.”
When I have seen the Netherlands play, yourself, Kramer and Visser are such a destructive force, how would you describe the chemistry between the three of you?
“We have individual prowess and many hours of training and video analysing together. We have a great inside/outside threat and are able to be brutally honest with each other, telling each other what is going good and bad. It helps greatly that we have good relationships off the court and are able to talk about all kinds of situations.”
How would you describe your style of play?
“Beast; I use my strength and my all-time favorite buttmove to get to the place I want to. I love to work together to get the best position for my teammates on offense and defense. This is also one of my nicknames, so I thought it would be fitting as my playing style.”
Has anyone specifically influenced you to play the way you do?
“A few people influenced me as a player. Gertjan van der Linden hugely influenced me since I have been coached by him since 2010. He saw my potential and l know he makes sure that we are the best we can be. No matter your position in the team.
Elsbeth Aalders (van Oostrom) was the main center/shooter from Team Netherlands when I came into the wheelchair basketball world. I was able to train with her a few years before she retired, and I had the opportunity to play in her national team number. Janet McLachlan was a striking force was she played for Canada. When I started playing international competitions I tried to see as many live games of her as possible.”
What piece of advice has stuck with you throughout your career?
“KISS: Keep It Simple, Stupid. I play better when I don’t think a lot, of course basketball is all about reading the game and reacting on situations. When you start overthinking it is going to be hard to immediately react to the situation.”
Many people within the wheelchair basketball world regard you as the best women’s player in the world today, how does this make you feel?
“It is a huge honor, but it never stopped me from looking forward. The last couple of years to pressure on me has increased, so it doesn’t ‘feel’ different on the court. I have got so many things to work on, which I have been working on and I intend to show everyone the hard work I have been putting in.”
If you could do a training session with three other players from anywhere in the world male or female to improve your skills, which players would you choose and why?
“Harry Brown: To do some chair skills with him would be insane. Jake Williams: He is dominant in the game; I would love to do some practices with him to learn how he gets in the zone. Aliaksandr Halouski: I love the way he plays, his overview and how he works with his teammates. A tactical session with him would be an experience.”
Mariska Beijer Profile
Date of Birth: 29/06/1991 (aged 27)
Hometown: Oosterbeek, Gelderland
Started playing: 2002
Netherlands senior debut: 2009 European Championships
Disability: Right-leg below the knee amputee with dystrophy in the lower left leg which caused nerve and lymph damage.
Future club: Hannover United, GER (starting September 2019)
- JBC/nh te Den Helder, NED (2002-2009)
- Only Friends, NED (2009-2012)
- University of Whitewater-Wisconsin Warhawks, USA (2013-2017)
- Doneck Dolphins Trier, GER (2017-2019)
- Paralympic Bronze Medalist, London 2012
- European Champion, Frankfurt 2013
- Paralympic Bronze Medalist, Rio 2016
- European Champion, Tenerife 2017
- World Champion and MVP, Hamburg 2018
Rollt would like to thank Mariska Beijer for this interview.
Interview: Dylan Cummings | Photo: Steffie Wunderl