Kvalen reaps benefits of Sakai Blazers training camp
The Norwegian crew, which included Henrik Mole, Bendik Gabriel Huus, Bjarne Nikolai Huus, and Jonas Kvalen, the opposite player who top scored for Norway as the men’s national team made the second round of qualifications for the European Championship last May, stayed with the Osaka Blazers Sakai for a few weeks. Haruya Indo is currently their head coach.
“I decided to drop Beach Volleyball in mid-July and to start preparing for the next indoor season,” Kvalen recounted. “I had been in contact with my former coach Haruya Indo discussing plans to visit him and the professional club he is now working with in Japan, the Osaka Blazers Sakai. The team finished third in the last edition of the Japanese national league and the year before they won the title with most of the players that are still on their roster, so you can easily say that this is one of the best teams in Japan. I was really looking forward to resume training and get extra prepared for the start of the upcoming season,” added the opposite, who spent one season in Poland’s first division with Indykpol Azs Olsztyn.
“Personally, I wanted to take the most out of my stay and in the end I stayed there for four weeks,” Kvalen said. “It was a very intense and tough period, especially at the beginning since I had to adjust to the time difference and different conditions from those we are used to at home. However, I adjusted after a relatively short time and then everything went just fine.”
The young Norwegian players, including Kvalen, were able to absorb a lot from the Japanese way of working and training: “Our programme did not include only long sessions working with the ball or weights, but also some extra exercises, including running and sprinting. Taking into account the weather conditions and especially the humidity, I almost had to give up after some runs. The weather we are all used to back in Norway is like day and night compared with Japan. At the beginning we felt like we were being pushed to our limits, but we knew it was good for us, so we kept on going.”
After two weeks of intense training, it was then time to check the outcome and effects of this hard work. “The club hosted the teams of a couple of universities to play friendly matches and I got the opportunity to join in,” Kvalen said. “It was very interesting to see how university students played against one of the top teams from their home country. They played very smart, and with some interesting combinations. It was amazing to see their potential and full command of technique. Unfortunately they lacked height and physical conditioning compared to the big guys playing for the Blazers. I could practice and play in the role I prefer, as a setter, but also played as a spiker.”
Some of his friends stayed for a shorter time in Japan, whereas Kvalen spent a total of four weeks and in the end collected around 100 hours of practice. “We also went to Tokyo and watched the training sessions of the A and B national teams who were preparing for their next competitions. We also went to downtown Tokyo to explore the megalopolis and do some shopping. In Osaka, we also visited the Universal Studios and the “Hogwarts” set from the Harry Potter movie. We went to an old Japanese temple and to the top floor of Osaka’s tallest building, which stands at about 300m, to enjoy a terrific view over this huge city.”
“I had a great and pleasant stay and would like to thank coach Indo and the Osaka Blazers Sakai for this experience,” Kvalen concluded. “I wish them the best of luck for the upcoming season and hope to visit them again next year.” Before traveling to Japan, Kvalen signed a contract with Argex Duvel Puurs, a team competing in Belgium’s first division, another confirmation that men’s volleyball keeps on growing in Norway. “I will first go back to Norway for a few days and then move to Belgium and start this new adventure.” With the fruits of this unique Japanese experience carved on his body and engraved in his mind...