Getting to know: Belgium “Yellow Tiger” Valérie Courtois


Courtois won bronze with the Belgian national team at the 2013 CEV Volleyball European Championship

Belgium, April 21, 2014 – Among the “Yellow Tigers” – who won a historic bronze
medal for Belgium at last year’s European Championship and will compete at the
FIVB Women’s Volleyball World Championship Italy 2014 – libero Valérie Courtois
has a very special story to tell.

sister of Thibaut, Atletico Madrid’s goalkeeper who will be playing in the
semis of the UEFA Champions League, shares in this interview more about her
background, passion for Volleyball, and plans for the future.

with the Belgian national team, Courtois won bronze at the 2013 CEV Volleyball
European Championship, an achievement that totally changed the status as well
as the media exposure of the “Yellow Tigers” back in their home country.

most emotional moment for me was the quarterfinal match with France. We had
already won with them in the Pool, but in that game we came back from two sets
down to finally win at the tie-break. With this victory we made the final
weekend in Berlin and the bronze medal we won after beating Serbia is of course
something that we will never forget.”

from that bronze medal, Courtois also received the award for the “Best Libero”
of the Championship, another first-time accomplishment for a Belgian player.

scoutman Kris Vansnick came up very enthusiastically to inform me that I got
the prize; well, I just could not believe that it was me,” she said. “This
literally drove me crazy because I realised that this award would change my
life. Normally a libero does not draw the attention of many clubs, but that has
changed after I won the award at the European Championship, so next year I am
most probably going to play abroad for some foreign team.”

One Season Off

her popularity literally boomed after the European Championship, Courtois
decided to skip the 2013-14 season to focus on her studies, and only performed
at the World Champs qualifier in Lodz where Belgium downed Poland to claim a
ticket to Italy 2014.

is a decision I had already made in January 2013,” she said. “I could have
changed my mind after the European Championship, but I stuck to my original
plans because I wanted to finish my studies in bio-engineering by September
2014. I do not think that this has impacted on the quality of my performance
because in the meantime I have been practicing with several teams here in
Belgium. Now I am more motivated than I have ever been; I am more relaxed, my
batteries are fully loaded and I am ready for new experiences.”

2014 World Championship looming

only played in early January in Lodz where Belgium confirmed their status of
rising power to rout the home heroines of Poland and qualify for the 2014 FIVB
Volleyball World Championship.

course I still cherish the memories of our victory over Poland,” she said. “We
knew we could beat Spain and Switzerland but Poland was playing at home and on
top of this, all of their big stars were back in action. It was an honour to
play such team but we knew that we stood a chance. We are very proud of our 3:0
victory, the more because we qualified for the World Champs and Belgium is
returning back for the first time since 1978. This way we can make another step
forward and this is a very important leverage in the development of our team.”

Drawing of Lots assigned Belgium to a preliminary group that includes the likes
of two Asian powerhouses (Japan and China), along with Azerbaijan and another
two teams – still to be determined – from NORCECA.

is very difficult to say what we can achieve as long as all teams are not
known,” Courtois said. “We have to wait until the end of the qualification
process for NORCECA. However, we already know that this is not an easy group
for we have to play Japan and China. Our goal is to make the second stage of
the Championship and to see then which teams we will get to play there. At the
end of June we will be playing a tournament in China where we will meet, inter
alia, also the Dominican Republic in order to get used to a different style of

Yellow Tigers and Red Dragons

their bronze medal from the 2013 EuroVolley and silver from the 2013 European
League, the “Yellow Tigers” have literally sky-rocketed to the international

may surprise someone who does not know much about Volleyball in Belgium,” she
said. “Even though both teams performed really strong last year and they both
made the World Champs, the foundations for these results were laid already over
the last few years. We have a strong group, we all know each other very well
and we know what every single player needs in order to perform at her best.
Many of our players have also moved abroad in order to improve on their skills,
something they would not be able to achieve by staying here, especially the
girls. We needed this step also in order to support our national teams.”

Brother Thibaut

brother, Thibaut, is a rising soccer star, who currently plays for Atletico
Madrid and will soon compete in the semis of the UEFA Champions League.

parents were both Volleyball players, so all of their children played
Volleyball too, including my little brother Thibault,” she said. “He played for
a Volleyball team for one season when he was 11. However, he started playing
soccer already by the time he was 8 and four years later he decided to focus
only on it. However, he still loves our sport and during summertime he plays
Beach Volleyball with our family. He is very skilled and you wouldn’t say that
he is not a Volleyball player too.”

and Thibaut are very close and support each other as much as possible.

keep following our respective careers and if I have a chance to follow one of
his matches in Madrid, I try to be there,” she said. “That was much easier this
year because I was not playing during the club season and so I have been there
many times. I was there when they beat FC Barcelona in the quarterfinals of the
Champions League, and will be there once more when they play their semi-final
game with Chelsea. These Champions League matches have got an extraordinary
appeal. On the other hand, last December when he was in Belgium, Thibaut came
to see me when I played in Kieldrecht.”

A Volleyball Family and Plans for
the Future

already mentioned, Valérie’s parents were both Volleyball players, but she made
the decision to follow in their footsteps entirely by herself.

both were good players, but I was not obliged to choose Volleyball,” she said. “They
only wanted us to do some sport, whatever it was. We used our summer holidays
to join some omni-sport camps, I learned to play tennis and until I was 14 I
also attended dance and ballet classes. I was even offered the chance to join
very renowned ballet schools in Antwerp and Maastricht, but I eventually chose
to opt for Volleyball because I was more talented for this sport. Anyway, there
was no obligation, it was only our choice. My youngest brother Gaëtan played
basketball until the age of 12 and then switched to Volleyball, but this was
his decision.”

does not want to disclose her plans for the next season yet.

I will play for a Belgian team, but actually I do hope I will receive some
offers from abroad,” she said. “If I can show that I continue to progress and
if I perform well at the FIVB Volleyball World Championship and at the FIVB
Volleyball Women’s Grand Prix, I am confident that my agent will find a good
option for me. I would love to play in Poland, a country where people are crazy
for Volleyball. That would be cool.” 


All the News