Late last year the great Japanese volleyball coach Yasutaka Matsudaira passed away. A memorial service was recently held. Among his many achievements he was an Olympic gold medal winning coach, long time administrator and volleyball innovator. Under his direction Japan revolutionised world volleyball while seeking to create a uniquely Japanese way of playing. Among other things the multiple tempo attack system he developed was perhaps the beginning of ‘modern’ volleyball. (Interestingly another great revolutionary, Doug Beal, was seeking to create a uniquely American way of playing when he developed the two receiver system.) Matsudaira wrote a fantastic book that was translated into English entitled ‘Winning Volleyball’. It outlined the Japanese system and training methodology and included such gems of detail as the players cannot warm up running in only one direction around the court as it will lead to an imbalance in the musculature. I’ve tried to find the book on the internet many times, but without luck. It is definitely worth reading if anyone can track down a copy. Another little known fact about 1972 Japanese team was that it was the second tallest team at the Olympics. Yes, a Japanese coach was essentially the first to recognise the importance of height and specifically recruit tall players.
On a different but related note, the Volleyball Hall Of Fame just announced this year’s inductees. I love the idea of the Volleyball Hall Of Fame, although there doesn’t really seem to be any rhyme or reason as to who is inducted and when. However you can’t argue that the list of members isn’t pretty impressive. And includes an Australian. To this year’s list I can relate a story of playing against Peter Blange and his Dutch team in Australia prior to the 2000 Olympics. During a particularly devestating performance in which they thrashed us, one of our middles was constantly caught running in the opposite direction to his sets. Almost every time. I was convinced that he could see the middle blockers with uncanny clarity. Later discussions with him, through a third party, revealed that he never, ever saw the block. I later worked out how he did it, but it was pretty freaky to watch at the time. Of course as the winner of the Greatest Volleyball Match Of All Time, his memories of that pointless match in Canberra are probably less vivid than mine.