The Passion Of The Grizzled

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I have long thought that football (soccer) coaches do not earn nearly enough money. They must endure pressure way beyond what is appropriate for participating in a sport. They must ignore the most ridiculous criticisms, often from people with neither expertise nor background knowledge, with a smile (or more likely smirk) and never say what they actually think. And all the while attempting to organise their teams in such a way as to control what is essentially uncontrollable. Working in this environment seems to me to develop coaches with an impenetrable, emotionless façade. This is best exemplified by coaches such as Real Madrid’s Carlo Ancelotti, whose face managed to betray emotion only after his team scored their fourth goal with less than two minutes remaining in the Champions League final. I always think of these coaches as ‘grizzled’.Carlo+Ancelotti_1141_18622359_0_0_14491_300

In my mind the ‘Ancelotti’ of grizzled volleyball coaches has always been Daniele Bagnoli. Bagnoli managed to win nine! Italian championships through the golden age of the Italian League and was long considered the best Italian coach. Apart from the odd display of anger, his entire range of emotion seemed to be a slightly unturned corner of the mouth after winning another championship. For all of those reasons I was excited last month to have a chance to travel to Spain to hear him speak at a clinic. At first contact he was exactly as expected, a little reserved, very serious and actually a little frail. But all of that changed as soon as he stepped onto the court. Even though his most successful days are behind him, he is currently working with a club in Iran, and the team for the coaches to work with was a team of Spanish junior players, his passion for volleyball and for coaching was immediately evident. He immediately began to correct areas even outside the topic of his talks, with a team he will never see again. Everything had to be done just ‘so’, that was the point of the work.dani

It was at that moment that I realised that the reason guys like Ancelotti and Bagnoli (any many others) continue work despite being woefully ‘underpaid’ is the intrinsic passion they have for the game and coaching. In hindsight it is obvious. The only reason you can put yourself through the pressures and stresses and idiocy that they are exposed to is that passion: The ‘passion of the grizzled’.

On a more specific note, some volleyball lessons from Bagnoli, translated and paraphrased.

  • Keep clear what your level is and coach to it.
  • Transfer is the most interesting thing in every sport. If the coach doesn’t know about this, he is wasting a lot of time doing shit.
  • In reception, the depth of the receiver should be such that if the ball flies over his elbows in the ready position it is out.
  • The reception of a strong serve doesn’t have to be perfect. What is important is that there are no errors and no risk.
  • The coach must know what the players can and can’t do and organise his team structure appropriately.
  • Reception technique starts with the HANDS, then the elbows
  • “The bagger is the technique of lazy”.  The point is that because you can bagger (underarm pass) from outside your midline, you do that even if you have time to move. Overhead pass, must be from midline, so you have no choice but to move.
  • What is important is not how you receive, it is how you sideout.
  • For K1, receivers and setters must be calm.   For K2, they need maximum aggression in block and defence. Therefore, when you change phases, players have to change emotional state, especially libero and receivers.
  • Pay attention to the big things, not the small things. The players should control the small things, for example block cover. That doesn’t mean to ignore them just that they are not the priority.


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