I was once at an FIVB meeting in my capacity as Australian National Team coach. During one of the breaks in the meeting, one of the attendees, an official from one of the ‘big’ volleyball countries came up to me and told me, “You have to help us fix ‘The Calendar’!”.
‘The Calendar’ is the great problem of volleyball where the clubs, leagues and federations can’t organise a coordinated schedule of the events they would like to have in a manner that avoids overlapping competitions and allows players to play in all events. The story goes that fixing ‘The Calendar’ will instantly solve all of volleyball’s problems.
“For ‘The Calendar’ to be fixed, everyone will have to give up something. Who will give something up?”, was my reply. The official laughed, “You’re right”, and walked away.
So let us look at the current state of the volleyball calendar and assess each groups willingness to ‘give something up’, compromise if you will.
- The FIVB and CEV have programmed major international events that overlap. Literally overlap. Some teams will start the second tournament with only 8 players because their main team will be playing another event, or will play with the second (or more likely third) team.
- Nearly all leagues are programmed to start before the end of World Cup. Clubs with players playing in National Teams receive no allowances to postpone or otherwise adjust the schedule to make full use of the players they are paying for.
- Most (all?) major leagues will NOT break for the Olympic Qualification tournaments in January.
- Clubs ‘need’ their players to play in pre season tournaments that have no impact on anything at all, including future performance.
- Coaches can’t figure out ways to manage pre season with only 11 players in practice, and / or to be ready for the start of a season unless they have all 14 players for two months.
So who pays for this institutional inflexibility?
There is a narrative that it is the star players who pay the biggest price, because they are constantly tired from constantly going here and there. There is some truth in that narrative, except that star players have leverage over their programs that average national team players don’t. And they get paid for it.
Medium level players pay a much bigger price as they are pulled in every direction by the federations and clubs and coaches, none of whom can possibly live a day without them and who use all means including threatening contracts and emotional blackmail.
Of course, the biggest price is paid by volleyball. To prevent these problems requires clear vision and direction, leadership, and the ability and willingness to think globally even if there may be a short term cost to someone, or more likely everyone.
Who will give something up to make volleyball better?