FIVB Volleyball in the Schools Symposium 2013

By John Kessel | Dec. 06, 2013, 2:05 p.m. (ET)

For the fourth time in almost 30 years, I am lucky to be headed to the International Volleyball Federation (FIVB) World Volleyball in the Schools Symposium.  My first time was in 1985 in Tokyo, Japan, where I first met Mr. Toyoda, who would later serve as my president, as I was secretary for the FIVB Coaches and Technical Commission for over a decade. I presented again in 1995 in Quebec, Canada and most recently in 2007 in Saskatoon, Canada. I still have the manuals from Japan and Canada, happy to share if you drop by my office at USA Volleyball.  This version takes place in Bangkok, Thailand and this blog and followup links on the FIVB website will share what I learned new while collaborating with 18 other nation’s coaches from the Asian Volleyball Confederation.

I am very glad to be not only invited to keynote speak, but to work with Helgi Thorensteen, the Director of the FIVB Technical Department. Our friendship and sharing of ideas to grow the sport worldwide first began, fittingly in a tour of the schools in Iceland, over 20 years ago. They have huge gyms there, even for elementary schools, in part to have a place to be active in the long dark days of winter there, and in part as they have no problem warming such big buildings, due to all the geothermal heating capabilities their volcanic island has.  In one large clinic, I remember tying together some 15-20 jump ropes, to create kids court training opportunities.  I have done other FIVB courses for Helgi over the years, but this one may be the best ever.  I know everyone will get a kick out of seeing the adults playing on the double sized court we built and filmed in Florida last week, with the help of the USAV Gulf Shores Region leadership.

Long flights like this allow me time to catch up to reading – and this 9,000 mile journey is no different. I loved reading about Coach Briles at Baylor University, where the football team not only is averaging over 63 points a game, but is practicing at a very high number of plays per hour – quoting Sports Illustrated “at its highest tempo, Baylor’s offense will run four plays a minute during practice,” thanks to student managers who race ahead of the offensive line to spot the football for the next play.  “Our goal is toe have the ball spotted so fast [in practice] that when the players get in a game, it’s like slow motion.”  I also read about the new world champion of chess, Carlsen, whose Elo rating of 2872 was the highest ever recorded – and who prepared for the title by playing…Volleyball! 

Our hosts from the Thailand Volleyball Association were wonderful, adapting the course needs at the last minute due to political unrest at the original site. The Thai King, who has ruled 67 years longer than any king in history, had his birthday on the last day of the course, which made for a national holiday and helped calm things down.

Our coaches were guests of honor at the 24th annual Thailand Under 12 National School Volleyball Championships for Boys and Girls. We drove 90 minutes to the ancient capital city of Attuya, where the event was taking place and found time to tour the ancient tombs, catch elephant rides, and dine on the River Kawi.  The U12 event has been sponsored for the last 15 years by Aero Thai, who does the air traffic control for the nation. This partnership I found fascinating in that the sponsorship makes for parent education at the outlying airstrips all over the nation, in the area of not damaging the cabling, both above and underground – that connects their national system. Previously to this sponsorship, villagers were wreaking havoc on the cabling, to the tune of hundreds of thousands of damage and repair costs.

The coolest thing I saw in action, and brought back a portable version of, was a “digital scoreboard” that has no electricity. Made from coreplast, the pieces are bright colors on a black background and woven into the normal digital layout patterns for numbers by elastic. Here are some pictures of the stadium sized version. The portable version is very light yet still larger than any typical manual scoreboard found in the USA. You simply flip any part of the “8” sections to the colored part, to create the numbers 0-9. Brilliant You can find them here at Giant.


The other instructor is an old friend, Mark Tennant from Canada, who serves on both the FIVB and NORCECA Development Commissions, so every year we spend days together sharing ideas in the Dominican Republic for our zonal development meetings. Mark presented the Volleyball Lifelong Participation Model (VLPM) which is based on the Long Term Athlete Development Model popularized in Canada. The VLPM identifies several qualities of training and performance: skill, flexibility, anaerobic/speed, Aerobic/endurance and stamina, and strength. His presentations I am happy to email on request. Also make sure to check out my blog “LTAD Redux,” so you are current on the work the USOC and most the National Governing Bodies are doing together, especially for kids 10 and under.

The Thailand Volleyball Association (TVA) story was shared wonderfully by Shanrit Wongpreasen  the architect over the decades of the program. In 1983, the TVA had an annual income of $600 and no national teams. Now they have held U18/U16/U14 and U12 School Championships for over 20 years, and field a national team good enough to take our USA team last month to five sets in the World Grand Prix, despite a major height disadvantage. Half a dozen of the Thai women’s team play professionally in Europe now, and the rest of the team play all over Asia. Every National team player came up through their school pipeline. The players will come back Dec 17th from their out of nation pro teams, and compete in the 27th SouthEast Asia Games in Miramar, who also hosted the games 42 year prior. Their men’s team must go up against the much taller men in the Asian zone and so far are not as successful – Sangrit said their Thai men look like a primary school team in size compared to the University sized players from current zone champion Iran.

Their national scope of school volleyball allows them to have wide sponsorship for all age levels – U18 is in its 29th year, U16 in the 22nd year, sponsored by EST Cola, a Pepsi brand offshoot; U14 in their 27th year with Air Asia as a sponsor, while U12-18 Beach School Volleyball is sponsored by EuroCake, now in the 4th year. The winners from six provincial play zones – North, South, East, Northeast, Central and Capital Zone – make the national finals joining the host school and a wild card. There are 76 provinces in all, and in the outlying areas, volleyball has overtaken basketball in popularity for both genders.  Mind you, a cousin to volleyball, Sepak Takraw (foot volleyball played over a badminton net, 3 vs 3 with 6 touches, is also popular. Thailand is the current world champion – so they are getting a lot of rebound sport experience.

Then there are some of the stories of the coaches in attendance and their nations’ volleyball current situation and dreams. The course was conducted in English, which allowed more ideas to be shared than those FIVB courses needing translation. At the close of the symposium, each nation shared in groups what their action plan would be on return to their nations.  

Mongolia, Macau, Miramar, Korea and Sri Lanka – They want to teach their coaches how to use net more with beginners and use hitting to introduce the sport to brand new school children. 

Indonesia Thailand, Fiji, Kazakhstan  - Cambodia – They will improve grassroot volleyball by improving their nation’s teachers, and provide the creative equipment ideas learned with the rural areas.

India – They will work with street volleyball, bringing the sport into provinces where no volleyball currently exists.

New Zealand and Australia – They plan to create resource kits with plans for primary school teachers to follow, which are fun and easy to do and develop a parent offshoot as well.

Vietnam – There is no junior/mini – so 15 is where they start – thus the plan is to educate federation for cool and mini volleyball options.

Philippines, Malaysia, Bahrain and Indonesia all plan to bring modifications to federation as it is easy to create volleyball in school area,

Saipan – with just 50 members of the volleyball federation of a population of 50,000 (20,000 indigenous), what is needed is resources/shipping costs are huge, so help from FIVB in AVC. The shift in coaching from teaching the way they were taught. Nick wants to teach the teachers in other schools and the modification ideas.

Everyone asked for the chance to do the Symposium again – there is a scarcity of instructors for AVC at the VB at the schools level, so the next one would be designed to train and EXPAND this level of instructors in AVC. There will now be a working group in the AVC for school volleyball – with the goal to have every nation to have an officer of school volleyball.  

The photos I took while in Thailand show the event through my eyes when I was not teaching…. Check them out here.

By the way, if you can follow me on Twitter now, not just Facebook and Linkedin - @JohnKesselUSAV, if you want to get some of the reads and ideas in advance of their being shared in my Growing the Game Together Newsletter or this GTGT blog.