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V. Kuzyutkin: "I am still just a coach even after the victory in the world championship"

V. Kuzyutkin: "I am still just a coach even after the victory in the world championship"

25.11.2010 — Analysis

The Russian women's national volleyball team showed brilliant performance in the 2010 world championship in Japan. The trainees of Vladimir Kuzyutkin rolled down all their rivals and won their well-deserved gold medals, which had been just a cherished dream a year ago. In his interview to "RusBusinessNews" the head coach of the national team disclosed the secret of success and gave the cue to the question: will he go with Gamova-Sokolova to the Olympic Games to London?

- The well-known actor Rostislav Plyatt once said that with time an actor should move from the approximation to harmonious blending with his role. The performance shown by Ekaterina Gamova and Lyubov Sokolova in Japan gave an impression that they had found that harmony and were able to win...

- I think that Gamova and Sokolova showed the top level already five years ago. And in two years, they will still be able to show it in the Olympic Games in London. They are personalities in volleyball. However, not everybody can be players of such caliber. Could I do without them in the world championship? Yes, I could! But I am still thankful to them that they decided to participate in the team. Two years ago when I agreed to take charge of the team I believed that they would come back. I went to Italy to meet with Lyuba Sokolova and I communicated with Katya Gamova. But I did not try to persuade anybody. We just talked and drifted apart. I am glad that the sport component of their nature prevailed and they returned to the team.

- After their victory the athletes talked a lot about the microclimate that you were able to create in the team. What is the gimmick?

- Sometimes I agreed to their terms. Certainly, I might pig-headedly have opted for the hard line. The Russian national team already knows such things. However, there can be compromise, which eventually affects nothing. For example, we could delay slightly our arrival at the training camp and come to Zvenigorod at 21.00 rather than at 19.00. At the same time, I can say "no" when it concerns the fundamental training issues. If you do not want to obey - here is your bag and say farewell to the team.

- During the competitions you were rather laconic. In timeouts your communication with team-players came down to a couple of words...

- All the points of the future game were talked over beforehand. The girls knew what to do when they came to the volleyball court. On the other hand, if during the game there was some brain freeze, I was there to make certain adjustments. If there is a dialogue and understanding between the volleyball player and the coach, such adjustments are easy to make. For example, before the tiebreak during the final with the Brazil team. I pointed out some nuances, set the correct line of action, which the girls followed from "start" to "finish". Our team has never been apt to slogans and Komsomol meetings. I will never let high rank people come into the locker room with their declarations "you must win". No smart person will come like that, though.

- Do you mean that, in fact, the destiny of the Brazil team was already clear before the final set?

- No, it is wrong. Otherwise, what's the point of playing? However, before the match I hoped that we would win from Brazil more easily than it turned out. Doubts in our victory faded away after the fourth set when we won with the score 25:14. I was sure that I would be able to get around the rivals and we would be able to beat them.

- During the tournament the Russian national team lost only six sets in 11 victorious games. Did you believe before the tournament started that it would be possible?

- I do not know whether anyone had such achievement before. I predicted nothing; I just proved that it was possible. Nobody believed in us, though. Two years ago when I came to the national team, actually, there was not any team at all. There were people around who "felt sorry for me". And what else could be expected? After the 2008 Olympic Games, the team lost Sokolova, Godina, Artamonova, and Safronova. But I have an adventurous nature. I was sure that I would be able to persuade Sokolova and Safronova to come back; though, unfortunately, Safronova is very ill now and was not able to go to Tokyo. Today, when I went to such great lengths to build the team, the same people announce in unison that with these very players the Russian national team must always be an absolute winner. I want to ask these experts where they were two years ago? Why did they not have the team that "must always be an absolute winner"?

- But it was not possible to ignore the sixth place of the Russian national team in the European championship of 2009 and lost matches before the world championship?

- As for the 2009 European Volleyball Championship, it was not my team. Those were splinters of the Russian national team of the Beijing pattern pus the young girls whose time came now in Japan. Therefore I do not accept any claims concerning the previous results. Before the world championship everything shaped well for us. Though even then we did not have the team that played in Tokyo. We had only projection. Let's take Grand Prix qualification tournament in Cagliari (Italy). We won in four games and yielded only the fifth match to the Italian team. There was a peculiar situation: in case of defeat the hostesses of the competitions could not become prize-winners and would not be able to enter the Gran Prix final. That is why, every effort was made to drag them out. Just before the match, the International Volleyball Federation announced that three instead of two best teams would play in the final. And to get there the Italians needed to beat us. But we had already made our decision. Despite everybody's opinions I did not put key players into the game. So, here you are, take the sop! They had difficulty to win even from our "second" team. But the world championship got everything straightened out.

- Who helped you to prepare for the championship and to Japan?

- I am absolutely confident in my present team of assistants. Large work was done by the statisticians Fyodor Kuzin and Mikhail Tretiakov. They know my strict requirements to assessment of each team. In the evening before the game during several hours we analyzed strengths and weaknesses of the rivals. Based on the analyses I made an outline for the game. The coaches Andrei Kozhin and Igor Kurnosov were also not selected at random. I had been working with them before I took charge of the national team. They were good volleyball players, and now they give valuable assistance to our team rather than loaf about the court. There are many other people who contributed to the victory. I would like to express my special gratitude to Stanislav Shevchenko, president of the Russian Volleyball Federation, for his faith and support.

- Which team was the most difficult to analyze?

- There are many such teams. Each team is special in its way. Though, let's say, Korea, China and Japan have a lot in common. Their teams prefer the combination style in the game. It's difficult to crack them and to decide on the best arrangement of the trainees on the court. The Brazilian, Polish and American teams are distinguished by good "physics". However, from the tactics perspective, it is easier to understand them. Nevertheless, sometimes one review of the future rivals' games was not enough. Some episodes had to be seen several times.

- Now after the world championship mass media feature numerous opinions about the game of the Russian national team. Whose opinion is important personally for you?

- The opinion of the players and experts who I respect is highly important. However, we have a lot of "experts" in general. I am not interested in opinion of some of them.

- Is it difficult to live being always in opposition?

- No difficulty at all. I do have friends. Once Winston Churchill said very true words: "You have enemies? Good. That means you've stood up for something". If I had not climbed up, I would have been loved by everybody. So, "experts" just encouraged me. I can't but repeat that the victory in Japan gave pleasure to millions of Russian citizens, and I was pleased that I gave the push to a couple dozen well-wishers of mine.

- Talking about the mission of the coach. Do you think that it is possible to raise a good coach?

- I do not understand the word "raise" quite clearly. Who, for example, raised me? Or Nikolay Karpol? Vyacheslav Platonov? Other well-known coaches? We studied on our own, learning from each other. Today, most of the coaches look through volleyball and do not want to know anything. When I am told: "Vladimir Ivanovich, could you speak to our coaches?» I refuse. There is no sense reading lectures when a person does not want to listen, does not want to grow? There is an excellent tournament, "Boris Yeltsin Cup" in Ekaterinburg. But there is none of our coaches during morning training sessions. Only I and Nikolay Sorogin. Coaches come to see the game. But what can they be taught, if they do not even want to look at training sessions of teams? I am not talking about all the coaches in the lump. Only those will be huffy about it whose "guilt" is evident.

- How can the situation be changed for the better? Probably, we should start with children's coaches and pay them more? Then they will have motivation for development.

- That is right. Who is interested in volleyball for the monthly salary of 15-20 thousand rubles? At the same time, I am against paying high salary to all coaches. Only to one out of ten at maximum. The rest should try to reach this one or they should quit.

- How many top-level coaches does Russia need?

- I cannot give any definite number. There are very few of them in each country. But I think that a dozen professionals of such caliber will be enough for Russia.

- Did you try to discuss the situation about volleyball at the recent reception of Russian President Dmitry Medvedev?

- Such things cannot be discussed at receptions. Besides, I am sure that top executives of Russia are well aware of our sport problems.

- Have you ever thought how many sports centers should be built in Russia so that it would turn into a volleyball super state?

- There is no exact number. It is clear that the more, the better. Who can refuse? We do not compete with China. There are more people there, they don't let us breathe. Add their willingness to this. We can do nothing here. You cannot confront a billion people who have willingness when we have only millions of people and very few coaches. Moreover, they have more and better training.

- What is our obstacle?

- Bitter as it may sound, but it is laziness.

- Did you have to make Gamova do training?

- Katya Gamova and other girls from the team are personalities, but not a crowd. Unfortunately, there are not many who would like to follow them.

- Isn't Gamova a good example to follow?

- It is strange, but increasing incomes of Russian people have a negative impact on sports. Wealth is evil. If previously our moderate incomes made us go in for sports and try to achieve something, now our wellbeing holds us away from sports. If children go anywhere actively, they choose football, hockey and figure skating. TV broadcasts inform about million-dollar contracts of Ovechkin and Sharapova. And you will hear nothing about Gamova one month after the world championship. Volleyball needs promotion, PR, spectacular shows of games as it is done, for example, in Poland. As a result, volleyball is outstandingly popular there.

- Do our coaches try to go abroad to escape beggarly wages?

- We have a free country. Everyone works where he wants to work. But we do not have any mass outflow of specialists.

- The Italians, for example, train teams all over the world.

- It is trendy, mass insanity. Italy started flourishing 20-25 years ago due to the crisis in Russia, Poland, Bulgaria, and Yugoslavia. Athletes went there for the money that would be seen as peanuts from today's perspective. The club that received those athletes stepped ahead. However, at present everybody has money. The situation has slightly improved. Where are Italian coaches now? They went flop everywhere: in Spain, Germany, Poland, Turkey...

- You predecessor head coach o the Russian women's national team, Caprara, also ended in a fiasco?

- No. Bad coaches do not win world championships. However, I always insisted that we had our own good coaches. These were Oleg Chekhov, Givi Akhveldiani, Vyacheslav Platonov. We have such coaches now. I do not give ample praise to myself. Kuzyutkin has always been an ordinary coach. But my entire life path consists of good results. Yes, within two years before my arrival at the Russian national team I had failures. But my previous work was like some kind of hobby. It was not by the performance of the outsider of Balakovskaya NPP that I was appointed to the national team in 2008. I think that a good coach, like a dog, must be judged by the pedigree or resume. If you never showed up, never brought your teams to high levels - what kind o pedigree is it? Why should such a coach be appointed to take charge of the national team?

- It seems that now nothing can threaten your position as the head coach of the Russian national team. Are you going to stay?

- I do not know, I have not made up my mind yet. I think that most likely I will stay for another two years. I am going to have one month to think it over.

- Will you have any new players in the team?

- Yes, I will. We have two years before the Olympic Games. I am sure that Russia will hear new names during this time.

- Will the team of the "Japan-2010" format be very different from the team that will go to London?

- The team is not an open house, but there must be competition in it. 3-4 people as minimum will not stay in the team. I will not give any names - life will show. Some players already have problems; some will flunk in the process. There is nothing frightening about this. I can say with confidence: Gamova, Sokolova and other 7-8 volleyball players from today's team will stay.

- Will it be more difficult to win in the Olympic Games than it was in the world championship?

- I think so. Our competitors are very strong. When I saw the Korean national team on the first day of the championship, I could not sleep all night. The progress in the team is outstanding. And there is also Japan, China, USA, Brazil, Germany, Italy, and Poland. All of them want to win. That is what I should make clear to our volleyball players. I will not let them destroy the dream of becoming Olympic champions. Therefore, during preparation for the Olympic Games I will be much more demanding than I was before the world championship. Therefore, some indulgences will have to be forgotten. But that is if I keep on steering the team.

The interview by Andrei Kascha

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