Magdalena Gleaves with her beach official accreditation
Magdalena Gleaves

Honor, privilege and persistence – first words crossing my mind when sharing my experience attending the FIVB International Beach Volleyball Course as well as being an official at the FIVB Beach Volleyball U21 World Championship at Roi Et, Thailand.

Embarking on my first journey to Thailand was a voyage filled with excitement and a touch of nervousness. As the road took me from Los Angeles through Tei Pei, Bangkok toward Khan Kean, I couldn’t help but feel a rush of exhilaration at immersing myself in a new culture and meeting new friends. Despite the month of November, I was immediately enveloped by the warm Thailand’s tropical climate, a “bit” of contrast to the chilly weather I had left behind. Stepping off the plane, I knew that we would need to take a bus for our destination – Roi Et – and make first introductions as the bus was full of other beach volleyball officials and instructors.

Roi Et translates to “one hundred and one” (a legend tells the story of a local ruler who had 101 children). Roi Et is located in the northeastern region of Thailand, known for its rich cultural heritage and scenic beauty.

Upon arrival, I was greeted by a diverse group of candidates from various countries. The course aimed to prepare emerging referees for the rigors of international beach volleyball matches, advancing the rating and polishing the right attitude toward “smoothing” refereeing skills. Despite our different backgrounds and languages, we shared a common passion for becoming the best officials we can possibly be. It was inspiring to see how beach volleyball served as a unifying force, bridging cultural divides and fostering friendship. Hosted at the Thailand Volleyball Association and FIVB, I joined referees from each continent for the theoretical and practical side of the course.

I was honored to learn from such an impressive group of experienced instructors like Mr. Jose Casanova (PRT), Mr. Alexander Steel (GBR) and Mr. Andre Trottier (CAN). Led by the pioneers of volleyball, the course covered a wide range of topics, from the rules and regulations of the game to the technical aspects of refereeing. One of my favorite classroom experiences was the opportunity to discuss the importance of “smooth refereeing.” Through interactive workshops, practical exercises and video analyses, we sharpened our skills and gained a deeper understanding of the complexities of officiating high-level beach volleyball matches.

One of the most valuable aspects of the course was the opportunity to learn from our top-tier instructors and from the group of candidates by exchanging ideas and best practices. Hearing about the different perspectives of referees from diverse backgrounds enriched my own learning officiating journey and broadened my horizons.

Outside of the classroom, I had the chance to immerse myself in the local culture and explore Thai kitchen. The organizer took care of all of us, offering a range of variety dishes, from aromatic curries and spicy stir-fries to savory food and tropical fruits. With its perfect balance of sweet, sour, salty and spicy flavors, Thai food became my favorite that left a lasting impression on my palate. Noticeable also was the warmth and hospitality of the Thai people. From the friendly smiles to the genuine kindness of locals, I was constantly reminded of the generosity and warmth of the Thai spirit.

FIVB International Beach Volleyball Course participants

With this positive energy, warm atmosphere and comfortable environment, we were ready for our practical part of the course, which was a high-level competition – FIVB U21 World Championship. We all succeeded and received the FIVB accreditation.

The most rewarding part of the practical site was the sense of camaraderie and friendship. There was a genuine spirit of collaboration and mutual support which made the learning experience even more rewarding. Constantly repeating the course mantra – “Team Thailand – feed the dream – anticipate,” I was motivated to exceed my expectations. With optimistic self-talk – “When you are prepared, visualizing every single match that you are working that is your own championship match, every time focusing with the same intensity, attention and determination– then when you will be called to actually work a championship match – you know you are ready.”

So when I was selected to officiate the gold medal women’s match as the first referee, I felt that sense of dignity and respect that comes from participating in a high-level competition, where my skills and abilities were recognized and celebrated by others.

This honor has a notable presence and impact, not only within the sports community but also in my personal and professional life. I deeply thank my family, especially my husband, John, who held the force at home while I was given the opportunity to represent USA Volleyball. My experience is not just a fleeting moment but holds significance and relevance beyond the competition itself. Loving the sport, being passionate and caring about becoming the best version of myself, is characterized by the profound sense of honor, the privileges I enjoyed, and the prevalence of its impact, making it a truly remarkable and memorable journey.

The journey of discovery, adventure, unforgettable experiences and lasting friendships that will stay with me forever.

I was very honored to be selected for this opportunity and look forward to continuing my growth as an official in the future.

Thank you, USAV – Pati Rolf, NORCECA and FIVB!