After Vangelis Koutouleas delivered a beach volleyball clinic recently in St Andrew’s, he invited our Beach Volleyball National Team coaches and our new Coaching Manager, Ioannis Panayiotakis, as Assistant Coaches to the English squad going to the World Under-21s in Cyprus.
They had also organised a training camp for their academy players at a facility in Limassol, Cyprus the week before, which we were also invited to. This was deemed to be a very worthwhile opportunity to learn from experienced international coaches, so myself and Ioannis left Glasgow on 16th July 2014, bound for Cyprus.
Once we had settled in, the players were straight into training 3 or 4 times a day, even in the heat of the day, as players had to acclimatise to playing in the heat. Andy Jones,( programme manager and Head Coach for the LeAF Academy in Bournemouth), and I go back a long way having played against each other for many years both indoors and on the beach in England. He, Vangelis and Aden Tutton (new coach at the LeAF Academy and former international beach and indoor player for Australia) were fantastically welcoming and we talked about coaching, drills and all things beach volleyball.
After 2 days training, there was a local tournament organised for some of the players playing in the under-21s the following week and also for other academy players. This was a good opportunity to practice the skills drilled during the previous 2 days. The academy lads were joined by the English representatives in the World Under-21s, Matt Hunter and Ryan Stout, who had been training for 2 weeks in Athens, played 2 tournaments and trained with the Greek national under-21 teams.
The Cyprus Federation were fantastic the whole time, including us in their plans where possible and allowing the English teams to compete in their tournament and train as much as they wanted at their 3 court beach facility in Limassol. They have a great setup and can train there the whole year if required. We had an amazing deal on good accommodation and great food within walking distance of the facility -a great setup. It was very reassuring to hear from the Cyprus volleyball president Mr Hatzidamianou that we will be more than welcome to revisit with our junior players.
On Tuesday 22nd July Matt, Ryan, Vangelis, Aden and ourselves headed over to Larnaca to investigate the competition courts, train with the Australians, Brazilians and Germans and attend the preliminary and technical meetings. This was very interesting as the qualification teams were told that country seedings wouldn’t be taken into account for the draw. Instead seedings were to be drawn out of a hat! Also interesting was that as some countries had more than one team entered, some had put their stronger team into the qualification tournament to try and get both their teams into the main draw.
On Wednesday Ioannis and I were asked to do stats on the two possible teams that England would be playing in the next round, which we gladly did. The England team had mixed fortunes in the Qualification draw, getting a bye in the first round, but were paired up to play the winner of Russia 2 and Cyprus 4. The Russians won this fairly easily and didn’t really show how good they were, however stepped up a gear when they played the English pair and beat them 21-12, 21-11 and went on to the main draw and take the silver medal. It’s tough in single-elimination qualification tournaments!
Ioannis and I took a lot out of this trip. Thanks to Andy Jones and Vangelis Koutouleas for their invitation. To the Cyprus Volleyball Federation for their hospitality and to the SVA Coaches Commission for funding this trip. It was hugely beneficial.
Men’s Beach Volleyball National Team Coach