Vienna, Austria. The Austrian men’s national team spent as many as five weeks at the VIVA Sports Centre in Steinbrunn – just like their colleagues from the women’s squad. This was the first training camp under the guidance of recently appointed head coach Radovan Gacic (pictured) – divided into two main blocks. All players and members of the coaching staff had to adhere to a strict hygiene concept and many other rules in place to curb any possible spread of the novel coronavirus.
“Although there are no international matches this summer, it was very important to get together in Steinbrunn over a longer period of time. This gave me the opportunity to get to know all the players better. We were able to create a good basis on which we can build in December, when the actual preparation for the CEV EuroVolley 2021 qualifiers begins,” says Gacic. In the first half of the training camp, the players worked mostly on their physical condition, with Volleyball action following only afterwards. “Because of the lockdown, ball training was not possible for around two months. Of course, the players lacked that. I would say we worked very well!” the coach continues.
Team captain Peter Wohlfahrtstätter echoes the same feelings: “It was super weeks, staff and team did get along well from the first minute,” says the 31-year-old middle blocker. Test games would of course have been welcome. “I would have liked to see how the coach / team coordination works in match conditions, but in such special times you have to accept that not everything is possible. In any case, I am looking forward to December when we – hopefully without restrictions – will prepare for the EuroVolley qualifiers.”
Gernot Leitner, President of the Austrian Volleyball Federation (ÖVV), takes many positives from the experience as well. The two training blocks in June and July have fully served their purpose. “Not only did the new coaching team and the established players get along very well,” said Leitner, “but also the integration of our young hopes for the future worked great. Everyone is very motivated for the competitions ahead, which hopefully will take place in winter, but of course, they are also looking forward to the first test matches that we plan as early as possible.”
ÖVV Sports Director Gottfried Rath emphasised that Volleyball was the first indoor sport in Austria to be able to start training again. “I spoke to a number of my colleagues from other countries. We are one of the few nations that have already trained so extensively and intensively,” Rath says with satisfaction. Why the big effort? “Clearly, we want to go to the European Championship with both men and women and of course we also expect a competitive advantage for the European Championship qualifiers in January.”
The general conditions in Steinbrunn were ideal, despite the unusual circumstances. “The close and constructive partnership with the ÖVV, which has existed for years, has enabled us to create a safe training environment for athletes in times of coronavirus crisis. After this experience, we want to continue working together for the development of the national teams in the future,” explains VIVA managing director Bernd Dallos.
Austria will be playing twice hosts Israel and Volleyball heavyweight Bulgaria at the EuroVolley qualifiers in January. The seven group winners and the five best second placed teams will qualify for the next edition of EuroVolley, which will be taking place in Poland, the Czech Republic, Estonia and Finland in the late summer of 2021.