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The secret of the Croatian beach volleyball success

Zrinka Sutalo (back) and Sara Radanovic are one of Croatia's talented youth teams
Umag, Croatia, June 21, 2013 – The Croatian teams are doing really well on home soil at the FIVB U21 World Championships in Umag. Three out of four teams advanced to the elimination rounds on Friday, two even as pool winners. So what is the secret to their success?

“It all started three years ago with a new youth programme. The result you are witnessing here”, Grga Trimcevski (33) explained. He is the national selector for beach volleyball in Croatia and also Tournament Director at this event.

“We were going to host the U19 World Championships and we started a programme with ten young players per gender, 15 to 16 years old. Our main goal was to make some serious beach volleyball players out of them and in the end get them ready for the World Tour and the Olympics.”

'The FIVB age group concept is perfect'

This was totally new in Croatia, beach volleyball is generally seen as a recreational sport, organized at beach clubs. There is a National Tour as well, but not on a high level. “There is no money for teams to travel, so this FIVB concept with three big junior world championships a year and the CEV junior events are perfect for us.”

Until the Olympic Games in Rio in 2016 the Croatian teams will play at junior and youth events and in some satellite tournaments. “After Rio we want to start on the World Tour with two or three of the teams that play here in Umag now. They will be around 23 years old by then and will start in the new Olympic cycle.”

In the mean time Trimcevski has a new group of 15 and 16-year olds waiting. “We will try to get some young players into the qualification event for the Youth Olympic Games in 2014.”

Not losers anymore

Since 2010 Trimcevski has seen a lot of progress in his players. “In the beginning we went on these trips and did not win a set. Now they are here, top of their group. We are not the losers anymore.” He sees a lot of potential in Zrinka Sutalo (18) and Sara Radanovic (17). “At this young age they are already national champions.”

Trimcevski is very passionate when he talks about the programme and his teams. He wants them to succeed where he did not. Trimcevski played on the World Tour from 2001 till 2008, mostly with Kresimir Peric. “I did not make it, I had nothing, no coach, no support.”

Pedro Solberg

Trimcevski did have the opportunity to go to Brazil one time due to a generous friend. “He just gave us money, told us to buy balls, a ticket to Brazil and go the nearest beach there and practice. Somebody saw us and gave us the address of a beach volleyball club.” He ended up training with a very young Pedro Solberg and his sisters Maria Clara and Carolina.

“I did not realize then, but later when Pedro won all these junior events I recognized him.” Trimcevski learned a lot in Brazil but in the end his best result on the World Tour was 25th. “We had no support, we were always fighting. That’s why I want to help these kids.”

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