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Sato appointed Japan coach in bid to bring back the glory days


Gary Sato has been given the task of taking Japan back to the top of world volleyball after he was appointed as their new head coach.

The 58-year-old was previously the assistant coach of the USA men’s team from 1984 to 1988, a brief period in 1992 and then from 2009 until 2012. In being appointed he becomes the first non-Japan born coach of either the men’s or women’s national teams, but he does have ties with the country as he is a fourth-generation US citizen of Japanese descent.

“It’s a great honour,” Sato said. “I have tremendous respect for Japanese culture and Japanese volleyball. There is lots of work to be done in a short period of time and I look forward to getting into the task.”

“I think the Japanese players have a lot of technical skills and abilities. I think there are some areas where they can improve and I would like to spend some time with them to see what their strengths and weaknesses are.”

Sato was part of the USA coaching team that won gold at the Seoul 1988 Olympic Games and bronze at the Barcelona 1992 Olympics. He was head coach at the 1985 FIVB World Cup and was voted the most valuable coach after guiding the USA to gold in Japan. 

He comes from a family with a proud volleyball heritage. His brother Eric was part of the USA team that won Olympic gold in 1988 and bronze in 1992, while his sister Liane won bronze at the 1990 FIVB World Championship, having played in the 1988 Olympics.

The Californian certainly has a tough job ahead of him to revive Japan’s fortunes. They failed to qualify for the London 2012 Olympic Games and the last time they did reach the Olympics was in Beijing 2008, but they lost all five pool matches.

The last time Japan won an Olympic medal was when they won gold at the Munich 1972 Olympic Games. Head coach Yasutaka Matsudaira and playmaker Katsutoshi Nekoda were their driving forces behind the success that came after bronze at Tokyo 1964 and silver at Mexico City 1968.

Currently Japan are ranked 19th in the FIVB world rankings, but with the Asian Championships coming up in Dubai in September, the hope is that Sato will start to lead them back towards their previous heights.

 “Japan’s men’s national team has not won a gold medal since the 1972 Munich Olympics. The team are currently 19th in the world rankings and have stagnated. In order to step forward, we need to forget the glory of the past and think from a new point of view,” Japanese Volleyball Association president Taizaburo Nakano said.

“That is why we have appointed a foreign head coach for the first time in the team’s history knowing that Mr Sato has achieved solid results with the world’s leading teams.” 


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