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What makes a great coach?


Lausanne, Switzerland, December 9, 2013 – On his recent visit to Lausanne, had the opportunity to sit down with legendary Russian coach Nikolay Karpol and find out more about his phenomenal success in the world of women’s volleyball.

Few people can walk into a room and command the respect of those around him as effortlessly as Nikolay Karpol. The handshake is firm and the eye contact strong. One would expect nothing less from a man who has taken the Russia women’s national team to multiple continental and international titles during his 45-year career.

It’s not hard to believe that the man sipping calmly on his cup of coffee is capable of the on-court displays of emotion that have earned him the nickname ‘howling bear’ in the volleyball world.

At 75, it's evident that he still has a lot of fire in his belly.

But there is also a surprising level of sensitivity beneath the straight shooting talk.

“My style is to get all the players in the team on the same level of understanding with each other – to understand each other on an emotional level. Some players have a very high intensity level and some of the players have a low intensity level. My job is to generate this energy to make them all even,” he explains matter-of-factly. “I do have to adjust my coaching style to the different people. I need to know how to help the specific person.”

“There were some players – Olympic champions among them – who I never had to raise my voice to. But others I had to yell at everyday. But mostly when I was raising my voice, it was to help them overcome their fatigue and to go further,” he adds by way of explanation.  

While it is a personal style that is definitely not for the faint of heart, his players know his worth and reward him handsomely with their fierce loyalty.

When asked who she thought was the best coach of all time, Russian veteran player Evgenia Estes said, “Of course Nikolay Karpol. Many people find him very controversial, but I have worked with him for so many years and always I am surprised that every word he says and every action he takes has an incredible meaning. He is still full of mysteries to me but the longer I work with him the more I understand him.”

Although he retired from the Russian women’s national team after the 2004 Olympic Games, Karpol still coaches Volleyball Club Uralochka NTMK Ekaterinburg.

“I’m not planning on retiring any time soon,” he says with a laugh. “I get my energy from my family, my players, my friends and from the Russian culture!”

A good thing that is too as it’s still much too early for women’s volleyball to lose one of its most valiant champions.

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