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Ana German: Being a Volleyball Coach Gives Me the Opportunity to Make a Difference in Kids’ Lives
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The Volleyball society is a special one. And I do like other sports! Don’t get me wrong! But the Volleyball community thinks and moves in another way, most of the time in the context of the societal changes and impacts. I would define it as a metaphorical place where not only great spikes can happen, but big ideas can be born.
This is why becoming a coach is not only a decision but a mission that you dedicate yourself to. Even though we like examining the success stories of great athletes and coaches (learn from Heynen, Ivanov and Suxho), we also want to show you the other perspective, taking you on a journey to meet coaches like you, who are working on a national level to make the sport grow.
Unfortunately, on a global level, not many are the women who are leading top teams, even in domestic leagues. This, however, has nothing to do with their qualities (see here our Interview with Greek coach Palavratzi and her opinion on the matter).
Israeli coach Ana German is the right example of doing things right. Bringing up her immense passion for Volleyball, Ana is leading the team of Maccabi Hadera, who compete in the higher women’s Volleyball league in Israel. She also shares the knowledge with the girls team, and on a national level she has worked in the U17, U18, U19, U20 teams as either assistant coach or head coach.
Looking for an inspiration on why to become a coach and how Volleyball can help you to accomplish your mission and have a positive impact? Read on and Meet Ana German!
As in almost every Volleyball story, Ana’s no different, and the love for the sport was born first in the family. The fact that Ana’s mother was a volleyball coach was a special boost for her to decide she wanted to become one. “I started training relatively very early. My mom is a Volleyball coach, and as a child, I was watching her. I started loving the game and just wanted to practice with the other girls. I started at the age of six, training with all my mind. The first time I got into coaching was at the age of 19 when I was coaching young girls. What called my attention was, that to me, coaching was much more interesting than playing.”
As in each new career path, becoming a Volleyball coach has its challenges on the way. Apart from the technical part, that each coach should be constantly working on to improve, not to underestimate is the role of the coach as a psychologist of the team. This was actually one of Ana’s first big challenges when she started coaching. “Every girl, every athlete, they have a different personality. As a coach you need to understand what their needs are, how can you help them to reach them. As a new beginner, this was the biggest challenge for me. However, once passed this period and adopting this approach, everything works out fine and the team can start working as a well-oiled machine.”
Gaining experience through the years, Ana realizes there is a huge difference in training different age groups, women’s team and girls’ team, for example. ”The main difference lies in the working methods. With women’s team, you can implement more tactics, enter in more detail, make the training more complex. However, in both cases, with women’s or girls’ teams, there are some similar things you cannot and shouldn’t omit. You should always teach your players that they need to remain united and work together. There aren’t any stars on the field”.
Building up this relation among players is a continuous work that requires once again to step out of your shoes, and to get closer to your players not only as their coach, but as a person first. Having coached women’s teams mainly, Ana sees also this special but challenging beauty of it. “Coaching a women's team is not easy. From my point of view, women are sensitive, do not always want to listen, and act according to emotion. But once you manage to come to an understanding, the player would give everything to succeed on the field. It is very challenging to balance the moods of 12 girls during training.”
Despite the challenges along the way, the profession of a coach gives Ana many wonderful memories and many new goals set high. One of the best moments in her life, she recalls, is winning the school championship with a team that no one expected to. “These girls were considered a mediocre team, statistics were not in their favor. However, they showed great spirit, defeating teams much stronger than them, and won the gold. I will always remember something that the girls told me after winning it. ‘We would not have won this championship without knowing that you trust us! Until the very last moment, you were giving us the feeling that we could win!’ This is something very special to me and I bring it to my heart”, Ana says reminding us once again of the mission of a Volleyball coach to inspire.
Volleyball is fun, and we all know it! Being part of a team gives you a great deal of nice moments, and one of its powers is that you start feeling part of the group. Besides of the trainings, travels for matches and more, Volleyball means laughter and, sometimes, pranks. This is something that makes Ana fall even harder in love with the whole process. “We were at a training camp just before leaving for an international tournament. On April 1 (April fool’s day), we talked to each player individually and updated whether her if she would be part of the team or not. One of the girls, was celebrating her birthday that day … and as a prank, we decided to tell her that she was not good enough and that she was not joining us for the international tournament. In addition, we said that she might be sent ‘on loan’ from the team ...Of course, she cried a lot! But we immediately asked all her teammates to come in with a birthday cake and balloons, and we told her it was all a prank ...She played good at the tournament!”
Having a look at the Israel women’s national team, Ana has experience with the young squads (U17, U18, U19, U20). She has started as an assistant coach, and now acting as a head coach. She doesn’t believe that the difference between being and assistant coach and head coach is that big. “. In my opinion, the assistant coach is a little closer to the players. They are more ‘open’ to the players, compared to the head coach. A good assistant coach is vital for the team, on both technical and mental levels. Usually, the head coach is the one that has a stronger character, they are more demanding looking for constant improvement of the quality. It has to do with the greater responsibility the head coach has taken.
Ana was born in Belarus, but at the age of 18 moved to Israel, where she continued playing volleyball while attending university. With no doubts, she had chosen the career of a coach. While adapting in a new country, she had to learn about Volleyball in Israel, its level of popularity and who plays it more: boys or girls? “It is difficult to say, but I believe there are more girls who play it. There are many projects that promote Volleyball for girls. Another way to promote the sport is through the social networks and thanks to the federation, they broadcast some games of the national league. There is still a room for improvement though, and the future looks bright!”
Ana explains that there are professional and amateur Volleyball leagues in Israel. The professional league has three levels: Women's and Men’s first league, this is the National league; Women's and Men’s second league, and Women's and men’s leagues. In the amateur league, men and women play together. “This league has been created some years ago, and it is very popular.”
There are some specific things about Volleyball in Israel, Ana agrees. As in the USA, where the focus is on the college Volleyball, Israel has adopted the same strategy for youth’s Volleyball.
“Everything related to youths’ Volleyball is based on the school league. There are many schools that participate, and it is very important for them to succeed in this league. Every two years there is an international competition - the World Schools Championship. And Israel takes a great honor participating in it. The boys and girls in Israel train for hours every day to win it. In my opinion, this is a very special thing, I don’t know if any other country has it with such power.”
The power of Volleyball is what has Ana spending so many years on the field. “Being a coach is the place where I most enjoy being. If I had to choose again how my life would go, I would not replace anything. The feeling at the end of every year, when I realize the impact I had on many children, is something that I am not willing to give up on! I hope that they have learned from me both how to be better Volleyball players but also how to become better people.”
If you yourself are considering the options of taking up on the Volleyball coaching profession, Ana has the ultimate message to you: “Being a Volleyball coach, I have realized that I have the chance to make differences in kids' lives, to influence them positively. Every day, I see my girls learning and working hard t be better, this is my greatest motivation to continue on doing what I do!”
We have already talked what Volleyball gives us outside of the court, and, to no surprise, Ana agrees to that statement. “Volleyball like any sport connects people from all sorts of places. You cannot speak the same language but those who understand the game do not need words. Volleyball is a sport that has no borders, no wars, no quarrels. It is a game that connects different people, that come in with different life experiences and characters. When you play everything is gone. You just want to do what you love.”