International tournaments such as the Summer Universiade in Taipei are important parts of Volleyball Australia’s plan towards Olympic qualification for Tokyo in 2020.
Integrating the younger generation of Australian volleyballers into international tournaments is an essential step, one that will happen in Taipei.
Head coach of the Uniroos volleyball team, Liam Sketcher, said the chance for these players to get more international games experience is important.
“Taipei is a bit of preview of the guys who might play a role in the next two years, it’s mostly a chance to see what the bigger squad can do,” Sketcher said.
“Obviously in the next two years we are looking at the process of Olympic qualification so it does play a part.”
Volleyball is a sport that provides lots of chances for junior players to represent Australia, but there are less opportunities the older they get.
This is another reason tournaments such as the Summer Universiade are so important for their development.
“For a lot of guys, there’s a lot of opportunity at youth and junior level but once you age out, those opportunities are harder to come by,” Sketcher said.
“While they might be playing at university or some of them are playing professionally, the chance to play for Australia and represent your country is basically the senior team and that’s about it.
“So it’s pretty tough to get these chances.”
The Summer Universiade is an opportunity for the players to show the full extent of their abilities.
“This is a chance to play a high level of competition, it’s in between junior and senior competition so it’s a bit of an audition for future senior team activities.”
There’s proof that this ‘audition’ works.
Over half of the Australian team that played in Gwangju in the last Summer Universiade have played in a senior team since the event in 2015.
After not qualifying for the Rio Olympics in 2016, the Volleyroos have made some changes in the year following.
While introducing some younger players into the fold is one of the changes, the most significant one is the appointment of Mark Lebedew as head coach.
Sketcher said this was great for the team, “he is probably the most successful Australian coach in history.”
Management of players is another aspect that has changed.
“We had a bit of a change in philosophy in how we are managing players through the full cycle,” Sketcher said.
“We had a few guys who needed a break for this international season, to find time for personal things.
“So it’s about fitting the calendar around our senior team activities so we can get the best of people actually being healthy and happy and therefore playing the best volleyball for Australia.”
Australian men's volleyball team at the 2017 Summer Universiade - Click here for full schedule.
National Tsinghua University Gymnasium
August 20: Australia v Czech Republic
August 21: Australia v Russia
August 22: Australia v Hong Kong
August 24: Australia v China
August 25: Australia v Romania
National Taiwan University Sports Centre
August 27: Quarterfinals
August 28: Semi-finals
August 29: Final
The 2017 World University Games will begin on August 19 and run until August 30, information about the event can be found here: https://www.taipei2017.com.tw/home
Article by FISU Young Reporter Kirralee Thomas.