05. 11. 2019

INTERVIEW: Mark Lebedew for WoV - "My first goal is always to make volleyball better"

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After another international season, the experienced coach Mark Lebedew barely had a few days to rest before joining his team in Poland.

 

We contacted him in order to make a summary of the international season and to see what are the plans for the competitions in which Aluron Virtu are taking part.

It was quite a busy international season in which you took part in several FIVB tournaments and Asian Championship. Would you say the silver medal was a success and what Australia lacked to be crowned as Asian champions?

The silver medal at Asian Championships was a big success. It was the first time we have won a medal since 2007, so it was very pleasing to receive our medals even if they were not gold. Compared with Iran our most important players lack some experience in big moments. But this result and performance will help us a lot in the future.”

Australia is one of the teams that will have to seek an Olympic ticket through additional qualifications. How did you see Australia’s performances at International Qualifier and how do you rate your chances in continental qualifications that will be played in January?

We know that Iran will be the favorite and then China who will be the hosts. We have beaten all the competing teams in official competitions over the last two years so we are confident we will be able to qualify. It will be very hard. We won't have a long time to prepare, like China for example.”

It seems that Australia National Team is becoming tougher and tougher opponent to world volleyball powerhouses. The historical win against Russia in the World Cup proved the claim. What are the things that Australia have to improve to get to the very top of world volleyball?

All of the big volleyball nations have one or two players who can win an important match alone, who can make the difference when everyone else is have a bad day, or the opponent is playing very well. In the Olympic qualification in Bari, we played incredibly well and were very close to winning against Serbia and Italy. Against Serbia, Atanasejevic had 35 points and 7 aces. Against Italy, Juantorena changed the match when we were leading. Our strength is the power of the team and we have proved that our power is great. But sometimes you need that one guy.”

Not many people in the world can brag that their father laid the foundations of a sport discipline in some country like you. Has it ever been a burden to carry on the legacy of your father Valeriy without whom the volleyball in Australia would wait for a few more years to come to life?

I have never felt like it was a burden to follow my father's footsteps because he never pushed me to play. Despite everything, I came to volleyball by myself because I loved playing the game. Of course, when I was a young player everyone knew that I was his son and looked at me in a different way, but I never felt this in a bad way. Now it is important for me to protect his legacy. Volleyball in Australia, like everywhere in the world, does not look after its history. Now almost no one knows how volleyball was in the days of the pioneers of the sport, just like no one remembers the great players and coaches of the past. To keep this alive is important to me.”

Your blog "At Home On The Court" is truly unique because it gives an insight into how volleyball coach thinks and makes decisions but also shares many valuable tips useful both for coaches and players. How did you come up with the idea to start such a blog?

My first idea in starting the blog was to share my experiences with the Australian volleyball community, to open their eyes to the world of volleyball and broaden their horizons. If you go all the way back to the start, I was writing reviews of matches and not so much about coaching. As time went on, I started to write about different parts of volleyball and found that some people liked what I wrote, so I kept going. I really enjoy writing and find that this is a useful way to organize my thoughts and also to receive feedback on some of my ideas, especially the crazy ones. The blog has allowed me to meet really interesting people who have enriched my volleyball experience and my life. For example, John Forman with whom I started the Volleyball Coaching Wizards project and Ben Raymond who has developed all the analytics that I write about and use in my coaching. Without the blog, I would not have met either of them.

You attend international symposiums for coaches, which implies that you are ready not only to share your knowledge but also to embrace the knowledge of your colleagues. How important is for a volleyball coach, even for experienced one such as yourself, to exchange thoughts with other coaches?

Above everything else, I am a volleyball fan, and my first goal is always to make volleyball better. If volleyball is better, then there will be more interest in it, more spectators, more sponsors, more TV. And if volleyball is better it is better for all of us. By sharing whatever knowledge and experience I have, I hope to make volleyball better for everyone. Of course, I am also a professional and I want to improve myself and my teams as well.  But firstly, I owe my life, my family, everything to volleyball and I want to give back to it.”

You have started your second season with Aluron Virtu. Are you satisfied with the roster that you have at your disposal and how far can your team go in an extremely competitive championship such as Polish?

I am very satisfied with our roster. I feel like our team is a little bit better than last season, but that is no guarantee of anything. Last season everything went right for us to achieve the result that we did. I have said many times already that we could have a better season on the court, play better and more consistently, and still not reach the same result. So much depends on other teams and how they have developed as well. But we still have the best fans in Poland and a great home-court advantage so everything is possible.

 

Check out more interviews.

 

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