Coaching Argentina is a challenge and a duty, says a passionate Julio Velasco
Coach Julio Velasco took the biggest challenge and duty of his career - guiding his native Argentina in their first test - the FIVB Volleyball World League|
Switzerland, June 11, 2014 - Argentine volleyball legend Julio Velasco puts his
whole career into perspective – his influences, the golden era in Italy, the
ties with Iran, and his coaching objectives for his latest exploit of leading his
native Argentina in the FIVB Volleyball World League.
Challenge is a constant word on Julio Velasco’s vocabulary, it is almost part
of the air this Hall of Fame inductee breathes. Velasco is known worldwide
after becoming one of the most victorious coaches leading and making the
Italian men’s team a volleyball powerhouse. Velasco collected successes
wherever he worked, whether in training clubs or national teams.
keen observation of the game in his early days honed his teaching skills and
established a timeless philosophy that he constantly applies in all his coaching
The FIVB chose the 62-year-old Argentine as best coach of the 20th century. His
latest achievement was guiding Iran men’s national team to two continental gold
medals and beating almost every top squad in the world.
To his own surprise, after 31 years living abroad, he received an invitation
from the Argentine Volleyball Federation to be the coach of the men’s team.
“It is such
a great joy, but at the same time it is also a challenge and a very important
duty.” Velasco said. “I think I owe something to Argentina because my country
gave me so many things."
brilliant coach took some time out for a Q&A session to share his flight into
becoming one of the best coaches in the world and how he will start a renewed
journey with Argentina to the FIVB World League.
Q1: How did you start your career as a coach and who
were your main influences?
Velasco: “I started teaching volleyball for a group of guys in my hometown,
La Plata, at a club called Estudiantes de La Plata. Then I went to Buenos
Aires, to a local fourth division club team. Later I was teaching children to
play volleyball in two clubs in Buenos Aires - Gimnasia y Esgrima and Ferrocarril
Oeste. It was a very important experience to work with kids as a coach
because the didactic and methodological part helped me a lot.
influence was my coach Jorge Taboada,” Velasco added. “Another important
influence I remember was back in 1974, during the World Championship in Mexico,
when Argentina sent 27 coaches and three players – it was the first major exchange
by Argentine volleyball at the international level.
“My coach was one of those who returned with Super 8 movies of some teams such as
Russia, Poland, and Japan among others. I remember we had a big debate back
then, as some loved the speed game of Japan, like my coach, and others were
fond of the style used by former East Germany and Soviet Union – teams that
played with more strength, better technique, and height. I participated in
those discussions about playing fast or having good technique and strong
“I realised that I do not need to choose between the two systems. So I decided
to put together the systems of these two influences – Juan Carlos Enseñat’s orthodox
game that prevented errors and Taboada’s concept of playing the speed game.
“I started working to unite these
two styles. When I began travelling the world with the national team in 1981,
having a very significant apprenticeship as assistant coach to Young Wan Sohn,
I saw entirely what is happening in international volleyball. Back then, I
copied several teams and got the chance to know all the players – from their
training methods to their styles of play.
“Then I moved to Italy and started
my apprenticeships from coaches Carmelo Pittera and Silvano Prandi. I adapted
to their approaches and learned from them. The last major influence came from
the United States, which dominated the competition back then, with a whole new
theory of training and motor. It was very different from those used in Europe
and Argentina. Brazilian volleyball had a strong influence in Argentine volleyball.
All those years, squads such as the Soviet Union, United States, Brazil and
Poland were major influences.”
you say that the results obtained by the Italian men’s national team represent
the highlight of your career?
they were, if we were looking at the results - two World Championships, three
European titles, five World Leagues titles, one World Cup title, and an Olympic
silver medal in Atlanta 1996 – though these were not the highest moments in
terms of changing the teams’ fortunes that I truly appreciate. The experiences
I had in Spain and especially Iran were very important to me.
“Training the Iranian national team
was quite a challenge since there were differences in cultural and methodological
aspects, including the motivational and technical work that can be applied in
another environment. I think that my experience with Iran – winning two Asian
Championships in a country that had never won that tournament, entering the
World League and obtaining very good results against the best teams in the
world - is one the highest points in my
career that is comparable (to those with the Italian team) when it comes to
Q3: What would
you point out as the main achievement in each of the teams you coached?
Velasco: “I always seek for balance
in my teams. I expect them to make fewer mistakes and also be creative no
matter if they are serving or expecting to side out, using strength and
technique. I also look after the players’ individual abilities, to stimulate
their strengths and to fix their weaknesses so that they will become better
“I was able to do that in those
countries where I have worked for a longer period. I was able to do it in the
Italian League – achieving four consecutive titles without foreign players was
something unprecedented. I have always sought to combine the individual
improvement of the players with the development of the team.”
Q4: With a
career spanning four decades, what does it mean to you finally coaching the
national team of your homeland?
thought it was never going to happen, I have accepted that situation because
volleyball gave me more than I have ever dreamt of. I definitely thought it
would always be a pending situation, but then it finally came unexpectedly.
“It is such a great joy after 31
years, I can finally spend most of the year in Argentina, but at the same time
it is also a challenge and a very important duty. I think I owe something to
Argentina because my country gave me so many things such as free public
education, gave me experience and also taught me how to play volleyball, and at one point, to serve in the national team.
“I loved the idea of being able to
pass my knowledge and experience to Argentine volleyball. Just like in Iran,
where I have developed strong ties in that country, I would have never left if
it were not for Argentina. No other country in the world would have made me
give up the program with Iran. Italy is a country that I love deeply, it is
where I live, where my children and grandchildren live, but Argentina is my motherland.
Sharing my experiences to Argentina is “the challenge of all challenges” but I
will pursue this endeavour not for myself of for my career but to give back to
Argentina, which gave me so much.”
Q5: Have you
thought about accepting the call of the Iranian federation and local fans, and
continue your work with Iran instead of moving to Argentina?
Argentina gave me the opportunity, I was certain that the Iranian federation
was going to allow me to go back to my country. I think I know the Iranians enough
and they have a great love for their country and I always believed I would be understood,
the same way they would not have accepted if I went to another country because they
are truly committed and determined.
“The Iranians knew that I would get
less money in Argentina, but they realized I wanted to return to my country
after so many years. The president (of Iranian federation) Mohammad Reza
Davarzani did everything he could for me to stay in Iran, but he finally
understood. I like them very much because they were concerned about everything,
and they were very receptive to me and provided everything I needed.
“They challenged me by proposing to
help them qualify for the Olympics and make history in Iran. It hurts me a lot
because I really wanted to do that, but on the other hand, president Davarzani understood
that it was a tough situation for me.
“It is so important to me that before
retiring, I would get the chance to coach my country, which they accepted, so I
can never stop thanking them for that. We talked to Argentine Volleyball
Federation (FeVA) president, Juan Antonio Gutierrez, and he agreed that it
would be very important to also help the Iranians whenever they needed.”
Iran had already strong teams in the youth level, they had no significant
results in senior volleyball until recently. What do you think is the key
factor for this evolution, since it is a very complex transition from youth and
junior level to the senior level?
happened because president Davarzani had a very clear idea of what had to be
done in order to push the team to a higher level. They needed to change many
things about their mindset, organisational methods, international competitions and
training. However, you must find a combination of these factors and also
incorporating other ingredients such as being sports-minded, and improving the
quality and quantity of practice. Development takes time, the first year in
Iran was very difficult. There were many issues that I did not know but then
the process speeded up and I think that Iran will continue to improve.”
was one of the sensations of the 2011 season, but did not do so well in 2012
and 2013. Do you think Argentina will be able to surprise the powerhouses this
year? What can we expect from the teams in the World League and in the FIVB
Volleyball Men’s World Championship?
think Argentina have many strengths and weaknesses, as some of us believe we
are better than we really are before proving that. I think we have very
interesting players, young players who have done well at the youth and junior
level. Establishing very high goals before seeing what is possible and before
generating partial achievements that bring us closer to those goals is just
useless. It will only cause us confusion.
“Before we even start thinking of
beating some opponents, we must focus on our own difficulties first. When we
begin to beat our own flaws, that when we start having a winning mentality.
After getting that winning mentality, we can face the strongest opponents and
we may be able to beat them.
“First off, we should focus on the players’ individual abilities and their
capacity to fix technical flaws in their game, which we can later do with the team.
We cannot start setting goals until we do not produce this qualitative leap on
our game. The goal I established for 2014 does not have much to do with results
but with the possibility of developing the capacity of our young players. I aim
to develop them to their best form. Everyone has to get one or two technical flaws
fixed, so the team is going to grow quickly. It will depend on us whether it
will take more or less time to develop.”