The Best Player You’ve Never Heard Of

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In 1986 I saw a young Cuban opposite with amazing jumping ability and skills play in his first big event. He was obviously destined to be a star who would lead the Cuban team for years.

Four years later, the Cuban team led by another young player, who was on the bench in that tournament, reached the final of the World Championships and came within a whisker of being crowned World Champions.

The second player was Joel Despaigne. History remembers him as a legend of game. He was nicknamed El Diablo, The Devil.

The first player was Ricardo Goicochea. History doesn’t remember him at all. He was nicknamed El Agua, Water.

El Diablo was aptly named, a tightly packed ball of muscle who crushed every ball, often screaming as he did it.

El Agua, while just as dynamic, with long limbs and languid movements, the physical antithesis of El Diablo. Why El Agua? Because he always had a solution.

I always wondered what happened to Goicochea. At a young age he was better than Despaigne and yet he completely disappeared from international volleyball before he was 23. It seems that he suffered a career ending injury, a badly broken leg, and missed his chance for immortality.

I found some video of him. You can see where the nickname comes from. In the 40 odd actions here you can see a variety of solutions and tempos and heights. It’s a shame we didn’t get to see play more.

He also played defence.

Full(ish) matches from this tournament are here and here.

Tagged Volleyball History, 1986 Volleyball World Championships


The total of 82 practical Coaching Tips can be found here and here.


Read about the great new Vyacheslav Platonov coaching book here.

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