Due Settimana Nella Italia

By John Kessel | Aug. 15, 2013, 1:49 p.m. (ET)

Due Settimana Nella Italia

Two weeks in Italy happened this summer, with my son and daughter as camp staff for the Anderlini Scuola di Pallavollo – my old friend, and coach of Lang Ping in Modena for several years. The best part other than being with my kids back in the country I once played professionally in, was the chance to teach alongside Carl McGown, my mentor (and so many others mentor too) and dine 2-3 times a day with him and his wife Susan.

The trip started with a big challenge, our outbound flight was going to misconnect in Chicago, so we were forced back home for 24 hours. We left our packed bags in the car, only to come out the next morning to head to the airport and find that someone had stolen all our gear. So we had about 30 min to repack before dashing to the airport, and all the gift shirts and gear I had collected over a year’s time for my old coaching/playing friends, was gone. Mac had a special bag with all her FAVORITE comfort clothes taken and Cody lost all his Princeton volleyball gear and special shoes. We vowed not to let some dirtbag thieves deter us from having a great  adventure, and we were glad they sold underware in the Frankfurt airport.

Our first week was near the sea in Cechina. We trained both coaches and players day and night, indoors and on the beach. Antonio, who now coaches Egypt’s national men’s team, took us out for amazing seafood one nite, but most the time we had lunch and dinner with the players and coaches at the hotel near the gym. The training went great, Alessandro translated Carl well, and I got to improve my very rusty Italian.  Giobbe said after the week’s coaching clinic was done, that the coaches felt that the things we were teaching them were from the dark side of the moon.  I found it interesting that they spoke often about “the American school of volleyball” which was defined as “motor learning science based.”  Despite the time taken to translate, the coaches and players got tons of contacts – or opportunities to respond in motor learning terms – and asked great questions.

Then it was a 4 hour autostrada drive into the mountains, past the trout streams and cherry capital area of Italy to the town of Sestola- home ski areas and the great Olympic ski racer  Alberto Tomba “the Bomba” Some of the Sestola camp coaches were teammates or opponents of Karch and Steve Timmons, back during the fiscal heyday of Italian pro volleyball. This second training gave Cody and McKenzie a chance to train with the boys and Carl, while I trained the girls and the coaches. A great high ceiling 6 court gym gave us lots of room to teach, with 20 meters of  1.5 meter wide paper on the wall that meant the whole camp unfolded in writing for all the attendees to see and learn from.


Cody hitting and demonstrating blocking with Carl McGown

One nite afte training I watched a replay of Iran beating Italy in this summer’s World League match. The Iranians were coached by none other than Julio Velasco, Olympic silver medal winning coach of Italy back when I was producing the indoor venue for Atlanta.   The Iranians tossed him into the air after the victory, the first ever by Asian Volleyball Confederation  Iran over a strong European Confederation team.  They will be a force, as they are big and serious and well coached, the USA men need to watch out around them.

My favorite day was a half day “break” up to the verdant ski areas above town, after exploring the 900 year old castle in town. Every athlete got a pass to the mountain park, which gave them chances to do a top of the mountain to the bottom bobsled run – with brakes, ropes course work, trampoline training and inner tube sledding on fake snow. What the hit of the day was though, was Cody and Mac teaching first 6 kids, then ALL the kids in the camp, the 1 motion movement knockout game of “Ninja”  It was so cool from a motor learning point of view to see how the kids learned by watching then doing – as both my kids speak Spanish, not Italian so the teaching was by demonstrating. Then after a fantastic dinner, the  kids had a player party late into the nite, as the coaches asked questions galore. My old coach and the club president came up to meet Cody and Mac, and reminisce until we could not stay awake and longer. It was a great trip back to one of my favorite nations, because of all the people I reconnected with and the new leaders and players in the sport I got to work with.

My old team – a picture recently shared thanks to the power of Facebook….tell me what my number is…

My MiniVolley book was translated into Italian for all the coaches, and if having a pdf copy of the book in that language would be of help, email me at john.kessel@usav.org and I will send it to you free of charge. I also did a national ParaVolley (sitting volleyball) clinic one day with over 40 coaches, which has helped FIPAV, their national volleyball federation, ramp up the disabled game. Mac took dozens of pictures of the pasta we had for lunch and dinner, and not one bowl was the same – I forgot how many noodle and pasta variations there are in Italy. The coaching book we shared is also in Italian, and if you want that, I would be happy to share it too, to grow the game together.

I took some one liner notes which speak for themselves, things from Giobbe or Carl that made me ponder….the first is from my “sister” Lang Ping, as each evening we had talks with players about the mental game and sharing stories about volleyball around the world . Giobbe told the story about how Lang Ping stunned her club by being so consistent to her statement…

We do not enter the court to win, we enter to play at our best, our maximum, and that should result in a victory… - Lang Ping.

No matter how fast you are, the ball will be faster… Carl McGown

What you see determines how you move…Carl McGown

Mark Lebedew‘s blog  http://markleb1.wordpress.com/2013/07/01/eye-work-for-coaches/  is worth looking at.

We need Generalized Specialists. – Carl McGown

A rollercoaster in Russia is called an “American Mountain,” while in Italy it is called a “Russian Mountain,:  while a Hamburger in Italy is called a Switzerland. Go figure.

The biggest bring back from the trip you will see in early 2014 – a 30 meter long net band to help PE teachers and clubs alike affordably divide the adult court into four minivolleyball courts. Proctor and Gamble is helping us make 3,000 nets to share with our USAV Regions. I think you will find it of value.

So as the scholastic season starts for most of you, hope you had a great summer too and thanks for your help in growing the game together.