Gary Sato wants to change our players’ mentality says former Japanese star Hideyuki Otake
Otake could also wear the jersey of Team Japan and he did so also at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona where his team finished the tournament in sixth place. Twenty years later he is a member of the coaching staff of a Japanese team that is trying to perform well even though the road to the top still looks like an uphill climb. “It is very difficult to make a comparison with what we did twenty years ago because we are talking about a totally different era for our sport. However, I can certainly say that there has been a huge improvement in the consistency and quality that many teams display with their block,” says the 46-year old Otake.
The Japan Volleyball Association decided to go for a major change some months ago as for the first time in history they appointed a foreign-born coach, Gary Sato, to steer their men’s national team. Otake reveals interesting things about Sato’s approach: “He is trying to teach our players the way to display their best performance right by the time it counts the most. They all need to learn the ability to peak in the key moments of the match. They also have to take their responsibility; previously, they were used to having a coach who was telling them what to do from A to Z. Gary wants the players to realize and know that they also have to make decisions and they can’t always rely on the coach. They are those who ultimately play the game and have to be more pro-active in this sense.”
After losing to USA and Russia in Kyoto, Team Japan will play the current leaders of the competition, Brazil, on Friday night at Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium. “We all know that this is going to be a very tough game. Of course we would like to win but we also know that this is going to be very difficult for us. Brazil play strong in every single fundamental and their defence is as solid as a rock. We need to serve strong so as to break their defence system if we want to stand a chance. Of course we have to deliver a strong performance in every area of the game and it is very important that our receivers pass well. Our digging must be as accurate as possible.”
As for the women’s tournament where his daughter Riho won bronze Otake says: “I think that third place was a good result for Team Japan. I did not have much time to talk to our coach Masayoshi Manabe so I can’t really evaluate also the innovative system of play he has been testing by using only one middle-blocker. Riho was a little disappointed because she was originally included in the starting six but was not retained for the last games but I hope this will motivate her to work even harder for the future.”