With great expectations, Tatsuya Ueta's squad took up the challenge at the World Cup 2007, the first qualifier for the Beijing Olympics in 2008.
Unfortunately their results did not meet anyone's expectations – Japan finished ninth, with three wins and eight losses out of 11 matches.
Nevertheless, Ueta and those involved in the Men’s National Team were strongly convinced that despite the unsatisfactory result at the World Cup 2007 the players’ morale had been boosted and fundamental skills with combined offence had remarkably improved compared to those of several years ago.
Furthermore, the young players, i.e. Yusuke Ishijima, Yu Koshikawa and Kunihiro Shimizu, had gained invaluable experience and confidence during the tournament.
Ueta's squad was launched immediately after the huge disappointment of the Athens Olympic Qualification Tournament in 2004 - Japan has not qualified for the Olympics for successive tournaments.
After Mikiyasu Tanaka was ousted as Head Coach of the Men’s National Team, Ueta took over the position and he made a plan to develop young promising players to improve physical fitness.
Japan’s Men’s squad finished eighth at the 2006 World Championship and were quite satisfied with this result. Everyone believes that the squad has been rapidly improving since present Head Coach Ueta was appointed.
Many believed that the team had finally come out of a long dark tunnel.
The goal of Ueta's squad in 2007 was, of course, to secure a berth for the Beijing Olympics in 2008 at the World Cup 2007.
Ueta picked the best players for his squad for the World Cup as well as the World League. The training worked out well and Japan beat two European powerhouses, Italy and France, in the preliminary round.
At the Asian Men's Championship in September in Jakarta, Japan’s squad, as the defending champion, threw away the lead and finished runners-up. Ueta and his players have taken to heart that even little mistakes cause failure.
Bearing in mind that the schedule will be very tough prior to the Olympics in 2008, Japan’s squad was aiming to qualify for the Olympics at the World Cup with the support of Volleyball fans in Japan.
However, most participating teams in the World Cup 2007 were so strong that Ueta’s squad could not add to the wins. As the result, Japan finished ninth.
Immediately after the World Cup 2007 and having no time to dwell on failure, Ueta’s players have embarked on their next goal – to secure a berth at the Beijing Olympics at the Olympic Qualification Tournaments in May in Tokyo.
Japan’s Premier League lasted until the beginning of April. The team gathered in mid-April and launched the first training camp aiming at the OQTs and the 2008 FIVB World League.
The World League is the curtain raiser for the Olympics and Ueta is strongly confident that his team is almost mature and that by refining individual skills, reducing errors, making offence faster and increasing accuracy in service reception, Japan’s squad can qualify for the final round of the World League.
In 2004, immediately after the Japanese Men’s National Team failed to qualify for the Olympics in Athens, the Japan Volleyball Association appointed as Head Coach Tatsuya Ueta, then coach of Japan’s junior men's national team.
Since then, Ueta, who is considered a hardworking and progressive coach, has not only been coaching his squad very hard, but also collecting and studying lots of information from abroad. Consequently, he has built up his present Volleyball philosophy and the success of the national team so far has been entirely due to his efforts.
Tatsuya Ueta was born in Shikoku, the smallest of Japan’s four main islands. He started playing Volleyball at the age of 12 and developed into an astute middle blocker. He played Volleyball for high school and university teams and gained a reputation as a good player even in his school days. He joined Nippon Steel Blazers in 1987 and played for the national team from 1989 to 1993.
He was assistant coach of Nippon Steel Blazers from 1995 to 1998, and head coach of Nippon Steel’s successor, Sakai Blazers, from 1999 to March 2001 before joining the Japan Volleyball Association as coach of the junior men’s national team.
His goal is to compete in the Olympics in Beijing and this aspiration is the motivation for his squad. In order to achieve this goal, he has worked to improve his squad step by step and as a result Ueta’s squad beat Italy twice and France once in the World League 2007.
In particular, beating one of the Volleyball power houses, Italy, home and away has given Ueta’s players enormous confidence and enthusiasm. Players were convinced that nothing was impossible. Since the World League, Ueta’s ability as a coach has improved his reputation.
Although Japan’s squad ended up ninth at the World Cup 2007 – this result disappointed everyone, the JVA decided to let Ueta lead the national team and hopes that Ueta and his players will secure a berth at the Beijing Olympics.
Ueta has been discovering weaknesses in the team throughout all of the recent competitions and studying how to correct them and how to improve his team. He believes that Japan will have no chance to go to Beijing without solving those problems.
Ueta is confident in his squad and is looking forward to the OQT, the World League 2008 and above all the Beijing Olympics.