Does Zoff in the sand lead to a super meltdown?
Power struggle in beach volleyball escalates
By Felix Meininghaus
07/26/2022, 8:07 p.m
The dispute over the allocation of a beach volleyball wildcard ends in the resignation of sports director Niclas Hildebrand. But that’s not all of the homemade quarrels in the German Volleyball Association: Now “goldsmith” Jürgen Wagner is also threatening to throw in the chunk.
There are incidents that sound so absurd that you can hardly believe them when you tell them or write them down. Like this, which happened in the beach department of the German Volleyball Association (DVV) and caused a tremor in the beach volleyball scene. The protagonists of this story are Niclas Hildebrand and Julia Frauendorf. One was responsible for the most successful department of the DVV as sports director for more than four years, the other came to the association in November last year as a full-time board member.
It is difficult to shed light on the confused events because those involved do not want to talk for reasons of labor law or other reasons. In this respect, some details remain nebulous. However, one thing is certain – one can say with certainty: Ms. Frauendorf and Mr. Hildebrand don’t see each other.
The power struggle between these two antipodes, which had been brewing for a long time, came to a head over the question of who should receive a wildcard for the top international tournament in Hamburg from August 10th to 14th. While Hildebrand wanted to provide Olympic champion Kira Walkenhorst and the five-time “Volleyball Player of the Year”, Louisa Lippmann, with the free ticket, player representatives Victoria Bieneck and Julia Frauendorf spoke out in favor of the youth team Leonie Klinke and Lena Ottens. When they outvoted Hildebrand, the dispute escalated, the sports director was released from his employer despite a permanent contract, the relationship of trust was broken.
“Should have given wildcard to Kira and Louisa”
Hamburg’s tournament organizer Frank Mackerodt is annoyed by the wildcard decision and personally addressed the Olympic champion who was invited out on Facebook: “Dear Kira Walkenhorst, we in Hamburg, the beach volleyball spectators and the media would have been very happy if you shared the wildcard with your partner would have received. It would certainly have been a win-win situation for everyone involved – especially for beach volleyball.”
The fact that the duo Lippmann/Walkenhorst was allowed to play with the wildcard a little later at the European Championships in Munich, which they were denied in Hamburg, caused additional shaking of the head. Jürgen Wagner, Head of Beach at the Hamburg federal base, is “100 percent on the side of Niclas Hildebrand” in the dispute. The wildcard “should have been given clearly to Kira and Louisa in terms of performance optimization,” says the man who led Kira Walkenhorst to Olympic and World Cup triumph and who has been a sports advisor to Louisa Lippmann for years: “That’s exactly what wildcards are for but there: to give lateral entrants or returnees from injury and baby breaks a chance.”
Now the internal complications threaten to have a pull effect, because Wagner is also thinking about leaving. He presented his competitive sports concept “provided that Niclas Hildebrand is sports director. It can’t be done without him, I’m totally in solidarity with him,” reports the man, who has earned a worldwide reputation as a “goldsmith”. he led the Brink/Reckermann and Ludwig/Walkenhorst duos to the Olympic summit in 2012 and 2016.
When the situation finally threatened to get out of hand for the DVV, President René Hecht rushed from Berlin to Hamburg to prevent the successful coach from throwing down the chunk. Apparently, the top management of the association was caught unprepared that the man who had been introduced as boss less than two years ago also wanted to leave the flag. With a little expertise one could have known that Wagner and Hildebrand define themselves as partners who cannot easily be defined separately. In June, Hildebrand reported on the sidelines of the World Cup in Rome that “Jürgen and I had a hundred percent technical agreement on how we want to go together until Paris 2024”.
“A Loss of Quality”
Wagner emphasizes that with World Cup bronze for Svenja Müller and Cinja Tillmann, “proof has been provided again that our structures work”. He will “emphatically urge that Niclas’ exemption be withdrawn”.
Julia Frauendorf should now take over the discussions. It is intended to prevent the precarious situation in which the association has maneuvered itself from escalating into a super meltdown. If the DVV were to lose Wagner, the most renowned head that beach volleyball has to offer in this country, it would be “a loss of quality that cannot be quantified,” emphasizes Olympic champion Julius Brink, who cannot understand “why the structures in allow this federation to make other sporting decisions besides the sports director and the head of beach who do not have this competence”.
The DVV President, René Hecht, also played an inglorious role in this affair. At an indoor World Cup – according to the prevailing opinion – the record national player (385 international players) would not have made such a faux pas.
Once again, the internal climate and the external image of the troubled association are disastrous in already difficult times. Mackerodt shows the deep distortions in the DVV “once again that beach volleyball, despite all the medals that the indoor fraction can only dream of, has no lobby in this association”. Brink doesn’t disagree: “It certainly has something to do with value and appreciation.”