Brno played host to the 2016 European U18 Beach Volleyball Championships in August. It was also the venue for the first ever Youth Coaches Workshop, with each National Federation invited to send coaches. I was pleased to attend on behalf of the SVA and have certainly taken a lot away from the experience.
The event consisted of 3 workshops, each delivered by very experienced Beach Volleyball players and International Coaches. Victor Anfiloff delivered the first on the topic of “Combining Volleyball and Beach Volleyball in an athlete development”. As the Head of Talent Development in Holland, Victor brought a wealth of experienced and through his workshop encouraged discussion and debate rather than a traditional ‘chalk and talk’ delivery. From the outset coaches in the room were asked whether they were solely Beach Volleyball coaches or whether they were also involved in the indoor game. The overwhelming majority coached both. The next question was whether our Junior Beach Volleyball players were also Indoor Volleyball players and, again, the majority indicated that players played both. For the next hour Victor facilitated a discussion on the technical and tactical differences between the two sports and the different key qualities and attributes for each sport. His aim was for coaches to be able to make good decisions when advising players about which discipline to focus on and for coaches to consider the best way to run a combined program to allow players to develop both skillsets. He also spoke about the need to separate the teaching of beach volleyball skills and indoor volleyball skills. Although the differences may appear subtle, understanding and being able to switch between the technical and tactical differences of the skills is key for juniors to develop in both sports simultaneously.
The second workshop was delivered by Denise Austin, Head Coach of Volleyball England’s Junior Beach Programme. She focused on the theme of “Developing Beach Volleyball in smaller countries, minority sport development”. After giving us an overview of Beach Volleyball in England she facilitated discussion among coaches from countries all over Europe on how their programmes function and the strengths and weaknesses of them. The common theme was that no country had the perfect system, and that there was nothing stopping a country like Scotland replicating some of the Junior Development approaches of other countries.
Lastly we head from Italian Beach Volleyball Coach Marco Solustri. This was the most ‘practical’ of all of the sessions. He created his own beach volleyball school in Rome and worked with a local sports centre to create an indoor facility and gave some hints and tips about how to run successful school or club programme.
The biggest thing I will take away from the event is opportunity that we have in Scotland. To compete at the top junior level in Europe, we need is 2 players capable of doing so – not the 12 players plus we do in the indoor game. Consider Austria for example, they have consistently produced top junior players that have gone on to play world tour and Olympic level and they have done so without being a ‘top’ European Indoor Volleyball country, and there isn’t a huge population gap between us and them. What we have going for us is a growing group of talented and physically able junior indoor players – that mainly come from clubs conveniently located near a coast! We also have an established and successful national beach tour that could provide regular competitive opportunities for juniors if we could only get them accessing it. The next step is getting Junior players more regularly training on the sand and competing in the Beach Volleyball Scotland Tour. Those things, running alongside an established and well run Junior National Team Programme and who knows what we could achieve.