Last month, immediately after AJVC, I had the privilege of participating in the 17th Asian Women’s (U19) Volleyball Championships in Taiwan as part of the Australian team’s coaching staff.
I love volleyball events and it was like I had died and gone to heaven. I thought tournaments here were a lot of fun. But this is something else… Everything is done for you. The tournament organisers provide the accommodation, food and transport. You don’t have to bring a water bottle with your name on it to games – there’s bottled water in eskies; you don’t have to organise meals – just make sure your team turns up to the buffet when it’s open. There aren’t 8 games on the same court in one day. Only 4. etc etc.
My job on the coaching team was to be the performance analyst – stats and video info on our own team’s performance as well as scouting the opponent. You are allowed 3 coaches on the bench, so during games I would sit in the stand on a 2-way radio with one of the bench coaches to tell him what I saw our opponent doing. For the remainder of the time, I didn’t spend much time with the team as I was usually out scouting. Besides that there’s other responsibilities too. You need to have the video and statistics ready at least a day earlier so the coaches can study it – that means weeding out 4hrs of games into 10 minutes of video. After the game plan, there’s more editing to come up with about 2 minutes worth of footage to show the team at the meeting… You’re also expected to set up a projector and screen just about anywhere with a few seconds notice. There’s also all the stuff you need to put together on your own team’s performance. Luckily we had another coach on the staff that focused on that stuff.
Being good at coaching school/club/state teams doesn’t necessarily prepare you to be a good coach on these tours. On tour they need people who are good at specific skills – stats/video, physiotherapy, logistics etc – all things you don’t get the luxury of spending a lot of time on when you have to do a million other things as a school/club/state coach… Anyway, here are some interesting things I sam.
The stadiums you play in are just beautiful. No multiple courts in the same space and “other lines” on them
Everything has to be of a certain standard. The organisers have to provide transport and accommodation. Everyone stays at the same hotel, eats at the same buffet and there are a fleet of buses that take teams to the games. Here I’m hitching a ride with Japan. While our uniforms lacked a coherent colour scheme, Japan were decked to in their impressive black Mizuno gear. We had 5 staff. They had 8, including a team doctor, 2 trainers and a scout. Their head coach was the assistant of the Women’s team that won the Bronze medal at the 2012 Olympics!
In Asia, sleeping in public in the middle of the day isn’t a big deal.
The tournament also gives each team a Liaison – a local who helps you navigate around the city and is your point of contact with the tournament organisers… they organise the buses for you, tell you where you can shop and get your laundry done, serve as translators etc. Often these are students. We got 2 who spoke excellent English. It’s a thankless job. Here IO am with our 2 excellent liaisons, Daisy and Johnny.
Evan and Annie – Kazakhstan’s liaisons. They had one of the tougher jobs being given a team where most of the staff and players couldn’t speak english… except Sabina…. as a scout, getting to know the other teams liaisons is useful when you need a lift to the stadium to do some scouting and your own team is going to another venue.
So the stadiums are amazing, but for the most part empty. Coaching is a people oriented activity. Unless you’re the scout. Then it’s just you, a camera and laptop, and a bag of unhealthy snacks for the 7-11. I find nuts, dried fruit, potato chips and biscuits to be the best. least mess. Crumbs are easy to get rid of but dripping liquids are not.
Me and the other scouts – from Iran, Korea and Japan. You spend a lot of time together watching games. You become friendly, swap food, share powerboards, exchange video when someone can’t film a game or their camera screwed up. Not every team has scouts, and the quality of performance analysis varies from team to team. Japan had the best scout, who worked professionally for a J-League team. One team had a coach who turned up to games with just a rolled up tournament program.
Japan setting up the performance analysis equipment before the game. While my collection of broken cameras i bought off ebay and laptop with dents is carried around in a backpack I bought from Costco because our uniform supplier ran out of bags, Japan’s gear comes out of a Mizuno trolley suitcase and includes 2 laptops (from the scout’s club sponsor – Fujitsu), a wireless modem and a small laser printer.
We took this photo before protocol. During protocol, there’s actually time allocated for the official team photo – but only those allowed on field of play can be in it. We have all the coaching staff and our liaisons in this one. We are wearing the Green uniforms. You allocate a numbered order for each of your playing strips at the tech meeting and wear them in that order – except if there’s a colour clash with the other team. That way you have 2 days to wash each strip. I always wondered how they did that.
VIP area behind team benches
There’s lots of volunteers. It’s like World League. These are the statisticians. The game info they capture gets distributed in a daily bulletin.
More volunteers – Field of play guys (Moppers, Ball-kids etc) having a pickup game before the teams come out of the dressing rooms.
I got to see Sri Lanka win a big game against Iran. This sealed them a quarter-final spot. I was the only spectator in that late game, that when i came down from the balcony to congratulate the coaches (and ask for a lift back to the hotel) they gave me a big hug… because there wasn’t anyone else around.
Besides Kazakhstan, I also hitched rides with Thailand, Iran, Japan and Sri Lanka. The Sri Lankans always sang songs on the bus – everyone together including coaches and players; Japan sat quietly in deep contemplation and focus; Thailand always felt like a party.
That’s it for Part 1… just what the atmosphere is like at one of these cool events. In Part 2 we’ll look at the best teams in the semi-finals and medal matches