CEO Mieke Verduijn: 'I am confident that the sport will ultimately be big enough and is even Olympic proof'

The final of the NK Padel took place in a sold-out Beursgebouw in Eindhoven on Monday. The sport is hot and happening. From a padel pioneer with a few jobs in Amsterdam, Peakz Padel grew to become the market leader in the Netherlands. MASTERS talked to CEO Mieke Verduijn: 'For years we have attracted every passer-by to the track to give it a try; in athletics outfit or in heels'.
Peakz Padel

Can you tell us more about your background? 

'I have a background in the hospitality sector. For example, I attended hotel school and worked abroad for a long time, mainly in London and Brussels. After my time abroad, I broadened my horizons to consultancy. In 2021 I was approached by one of the investors of Peakz Padel. That was a great opportunity for me. In that year, the company was still in the start-up phase, almost entering the scale-up phase. They were looking for someone who could help in this transition phase.'

What is your greatest passion in your work? 

'I really enjoy finding the balance in the company between our own DNA, based on courage and entrepreneurship, and implementing certain structures to create a certain order in the chaos. I also love innovation, which is why I was immediately attracted to padel. I thought: 'It's not big yet, but I see a lot of potential in it.'

“We have been pioneering for years”

Indeed, when you built the first courts in 2015, no one in the Netherlands actually knew what padel was. How did you introduce people to this?  

'We have been pioneering for years. We built the first two courts in the parking lot at the Olympic Stadium. Although the destination was actually a parking lot, the municipality still thought we should 'try' it. People actually thought it wouldn't work out. For years we invited every passer-by to the track to give it a try; in athletics outfit or in heels. We also kept an eye on the bonus offers at Albert Heijn for some beers off the track. Now padel is natural hot and happening, but we have worked hard for that, especially through community building.' 

Community building?

'Yes, what makes Peakz strong is building a community. Whether you are sporty or not, we try to welcome everyone to our club. We always say four is the magic number at padel. But it is not always easy for people to find three others to play with. So we organize a lot. For example, club sessions, for which you can register alone or with someone else.' 

Where does the sport actually come from? 

'There are different stories about where the sport actually comes from, but its origins lie in Mexico. At one point someone wanted to build a tennis court there, but didn't have enough space. This person then came up with a variation on this, which resulted in a padel cage. When the sport came from South America to Spain, it really started to become popular.'

“Of course there is a certain hype effect”

What about the popularity in the Netherlands? 

'There are currently approximately 500.000 people who play padel in the Netherlands. Of this number, 100.000 play for permanent associations and 400.000 participate Pay & Playconcepts like ours. There are about 2200 jobs, which means we have approximately 40% of the total market. I expect there is room for about 5.000 in the Netherlands.'

Why do you think it has become so popular in the Netherlands?

'First of all, the game itself is of course just a lot of fun, but what you mainly see is that many people want to stay active, but do not want to be tied to a membership or obligations, such as with football clubs, where you have to train twice a week and every has to play on Saturday. Through the Pay & Playmodel, you can reserve a court and play somewhere the next day if there is room. It is also more accessible than other sports, such as tennis for example, because it is less technical.' 

Aren't you afraid that it's a hype that will blow over? 

'Whether it will become as big in the Netherlands as in Spain, the number two sport after football, I don't know. But I dare bet on a top five. Of course there is a certain hype effect. Until 2025, there are many people who want to try it once, but may give up at some point. Still, I have a lot of confidence that the sport will eventually become big enough and even Olympic proof is. ' 

Because you have the dream of getting padel at the Olympic Games... 

'We indeed have the dream of getting padel included in the Olympic Games in 2032. In 2022, the petition for the Olympic dream was opened during the Padel as Well event. There is a clock at the track on Olympiaplein that counts down until the games in 2032 and the courts here have an orange color. This way, no one can forget the Olympic dream...' 

And? Does the Netherlands have a chance of winning Olympic 'padel gold'? 

'As the Netherlands, we certainly have a chance to be represented. Our organization sponsors Bram Meijer and Sten Richters – the number one and two in the Netherlands – who won the Dutch championship last weekend. Of course, they will still have to work hard to match the Spaniards and Argentinians, who currently dominate the world top. So it will take some time before we get there. For gold, it is very important that children start playing padel now, as they are the future of the sport. So we know what we have to do and we remain fully committed to it.'