June 01, 2004 - With less than one week before the start of the 2004 World League, Japan has changed their entire coaching staff after having failed to qualify for the Olympic Games in Athens.
Mikiyasu Tanaka's three year contract as the national team head coach with the Japanese Volleyball Association has been expired and with the World League starting on June 4, where Japan host Poland, the Asian team has yet to appoint a new head coach.
During the final Men's Olympic Qualification Tournament in Tokyo, last month Japan showed several positive signs to become even more competitive.
Twenty-three-year-old middle blocker Kota Yamamura has been executing accurate quick spiking and at 205cm, he has been delivering effective blocking as well. He scored 12 spiking points in the match against the world number four France.
Another new member of the team, Hiroyuki Kai, regularly played as one of Japan's left out-side attackers with dynamic attacking and steady passing. The French captain Dominique Daquin praised his potential at the after-match press conference, "Kai delivered smart and powerful spiking," he said. "He gave us a lot of trouble."
The other left side spiker, Marcos Sugiyama, who has a Japanese mother and Brazilian father, joined the national team just three months ago. But his experience in Brazil and Italy in combination with his high moral gave the Japanese team a new psychological dimension. He is now the spiritual leader as a key passing player and a left outside attacker. Kai and Sugiyama have pushed Yoichi Kato, the former team captain, to the bench.
One of the crucial factors of the team's disappointing result at the World Olympic Qualification tournament was the extraordinarily inconsistent attacking performance of Takahiro Yamamoto. Their ace spiker made many spiking errors throughout the tournament. He seems to have lost his confidence and can not execute powerful jump serving either.
If Yamamoto regains his own quality, Japan will be competitive during the World League.