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Where have all the young girls gone ?

Posted by devo on June 19, 2009

worlds_women_2010Round 2 of the Women’s Asian qualification for next year’s World Championships has been completed. You can see the progress of teams at the fivb site.

Going on to the third round to play off for one of 4 Asian places at the finals in Japan are New Zealand, (Yes, they may have been lucky that the Maldives pulled out and they progress just by competing) and Fiji. And how did the Aussie women go? Well they didn’t enter!

Why? Firstly, it was an outcome of the 2006 Review into Women’s Volleyball in Australia that although there was an ongoing obligation to participate in Asian Senior Championships every two years, it was felt that there was little value in engaging in the World Championships Qualification process until such time as the performances of Australia’s Women’s Team in international competition had improved significantly.

Initially there was to be no Oceania zone playoff in the qualifiers. Our women’s schedule was committed to fit their budget. After much lobbying on Oceania’s part, the FIVB agreed to host a Level 1 tournament for Oceania which was allocated to New Zealand.  Australia then sought permission for Australia to be a late entry but this was denied, despite several approaches.

Volleyball Australia CEO Joan Perry says, “It is important to understand that the women’s review in 2006 made recommendations about national and international competition schedules after having identified that it was important not to be continually putting athletes into high-profile competitions where they stood to get smashed and have their confidence badly bruised as a result. This is what was happening in the final years of operation of the former AIS/National Women’s Program.

“Now that the qualification process for the World Championships has changed (i.e. to incorporate an Oceania zonal qualifier first/also) this decision may have to be reviewed.”

So what is the bottom line? Confidence and cost?

Cost is always a consideration. But not the first consideration. The chance to represent your country in the second biggest tournament in the world is worth considering. The chance, however slight, of playing in a World Championship is worth considering.

Confidence?

  • “Fijian head coach Adi Varanisese Marai said that she is very happy with her players’ dramatically improved performance.”
  • “The qualifiers gave us some highlights of our weaknesses and we hope to work on it before we enter the third round.”
  • “THE Fiji women’s team believes they have learnt a lot from their loss to Thailand”
  • “Their experience from round two against the Asian teams will go a long way. They would have learnt a lot and now know what to expect.”

And then there are individual goals. A chance to be seen, to add to the highlights reel.

  • “Captain Anaseini Seniloli finished as the second best spiker of the tournament with 28, one behind leader Chun Yi Lin of Chinese Taipei.”

I can’t help but wonder if Volleyball Australia has got this all wrong. I understand where their thinking is coming from, but is it missing the point? If we are to have a solid Women’s program then surely we must have constant international experience. If we expect our international players to come home to play, the level of competition needs to be high enough to make it worth their while. If we expect our players to get international contracts, we need to get them into competitions that allow them to be seen, to allow them to show that they can compete at the highest level.

Australian Women’s volleyball has possibly missed a chance to compete at the third round of the World Championships. That’s a pity. It would have done a lot for their confidence.

16 Responses to “Where have all the young girls gone ?”

  1. ross said

    I just re-read the report and could not for the life of me find the bit that said our athletes were worried about ‘getting smashed and having their confidence badly bruised’.
    I did find the bit that talked about issues of ‘level of funding, leadership and support from the AVF and athlete retention’ as being identified areas.
    Not entering International Competitions does not help our girls get the necessary ‘experience’ that they need.
    I would be loathed to tell our girls who are playing in the AVL competition that we are protecting them from the likes of NZ or Fiji.
    Let us stand up and give them some support and provide them as many opportunties as we can.

  2. Alan said

    One of the major criteria for success is finding reasons to, rather than finding reasons not to.

    A pathway needs to have a start and a finish and the finish needs to be provided by the AVF.How can the coaches at grassroots level look developing athletes in the eye and tell them that they could represent their country when we do not have a team that represents.

    As for our team getting ‘smashed’- so what! The reason Australia is respected and feared in so many spheres is because we are resilient and we learn.It wasn’t that long ago our Swim team took a few canings at International level and look where we are now.Our Soccer Team was in the wilderness for 25 years and at the last World cup we were an “Italian Dive” away from being very close indeed!

    Come on AVF you have to do better than that!!

    • Robbo said

      very well said Alan. Soccer is definintely a prime example. Look what happens when you suddenly do well at a world cup, support for the sport spreads dramatically. There is hope for volleyball in the media yet……

  3. Big Ren said

    Lets get serious here AVF and not cover our athletes in cotton wool. Saying we cant go into a tournament because athletes would get smashed is possibly one of the dumbest things i have heard from a national body in volleyball.
    If we all took this approach then how would we learn, how would we improve our level of play and how would our international athletes react when faced with adversity in any other competition? Their are countries throughout Europe, Asia, Africa and South America that enter into tournaments that know they are not going to win, but will develop. These countries often become success stories and develop further into international threats. We dont play world league, we dont play world gran prix, we dont qualify for olympics and now dont enter World Champs. So what comp are we going to play in for experience and international exposure???
    Its a real disappointment for me to hear all of this because i know a lot of the gals that are in the team and girls coming up the ranks in the junior competition. You wonder what they have to aspire to if there isnt going to be a chance to represent your country on a regular basis.
    I hope things change!

  4. Alexis said

    From what I’ve seen of the ‘post-funding’ program there has been a remarkable amount of effort put in by a number of passionate people in order to develop a credible ‘part-time’ program from scratch. So to start with lets keep in mind that this program is only 3 years old.

    Firstly, I have to admit that I haven’t read the report but I certainly remember hearing about the issue of developing an internationally competitive team while only playing against clearly superior teams.

    Having said this, it is always good to question. But I think the question that should be asked is not whether or not a team has been entered in a tournament, rather, are the short and long term plans which were put into place after the review in 2006 working in the way in which they were intended?

    • Amanda said

      I agree Alexis. It is always good to question where we are at and what processes are in place. I also agree that the 2006 review is an important basis for movement and development with both junior and senior women’s volleyball.

      The decisions made in 2006 feel like a lifetime ago and unfortunately, New Zealand qualifying for the World Championships opens up old wounds for a number of us.Whether I as the current Head Coach agree with what happened in the past at this stage is irrelevant. But it does not and should not change the focus of us as a group of in the current team.

      I have to question the validity of a few of the comments when you are considering and questioning the ability and level of the coaching staff of the Senior Team and in particular the comments related to the ‘to and fro’ and changes. WHile you may not understand my history as both a player and a coach, I find it hard to understand how anyone with any understanding of volleyball in Australia could fail to understand the importance that someone of the calibre of Pauline Manser could contribute to the team.

      What you should know is: as a group of players and coaching staff, regardless of the limited funding – which is indicative of the sports environment in Australia and not the efforts of AVF, is that there are group of coaches, players and staff that are committed to the development and advancement of women’s volleyball in Australia. While it is a long and slow road, it’s one that each of us feels is extremely important.

      As a group we are also celebrating the history of women’s volleyball in Australia and are building a program based on respect versus fear. Our tournament in 2008 in Abu Dhabi gave us an excellent introduction to volleyball outside of Asia and was a fantastic opportunity for the girls to experience international volleyball. We were not fearful of losses or being smashed, but certainly embraced the opportunity. the stats and results have absolutely no reflection on the actual play and passion displayed by the girls that incidentally have to pay to play state league, national league and internationally.

      I also think it’s important that you understand that it is quite difficult for the players and coaches to remove themselves from the criticism displayed by some members of the volleyball community when comments are made inferring that the program is at a 20 year low. As an individual having been involved in volleyball as a player and coach for almost 20 years I find this incomprehensible and misinformed.

      What is most important is that we understand where the program is at right now and the progress we are making.

      Again, as a coach, I’m not happy that New Zealand, a team that we beat last year has an international opportunity that we do not. But I am acutely aware that we need to fight the right battles and fighting against ourselves doesn’t help anyone. What we are doing is step by step creating an environment in Australia that Women’s Volleyball becomes sustainable and a viable product.

      You will find the Women’s Program to be alive with strong independent women that understand that being the best is hard and that the training they do in their own state becomes instrumental in the results that they will have competing for their country.

  5. Yankee Boy said

    There are 2 important aspects to the women being successful, daily training and high level competition. At this point we have neither and the standing of our women’s program internationally reflects this. The AVF pays lip service to women’s volleyball at best. The Program Head (Jenny Becker) has resigned and the to and fro with a variety of coaches with limited to no international experience has just left the program at its lowest point for a good 20 years. Let’s all get together and thank the AVF for showing such decisive leadership!!
    The statement from Joan Perry is embarrassing, I would highly doubt she has a clue what the players think and to make a juvenile statement like that shows she has limited or no understanding of what it takes to be an international level athlete.
    Joan needs a little history lesson in regard to how the women’s team developed over the last 12 years. If you cast your mind back to 1997 when the women’s program relocated to Canberra with a few 16 year olds and a couple of raw athletes, then went on to qualify in its own right to the 2002 World Championships I think she may understand just what it takes and just how uninformed her statement is. They didn’t get their playing low level competition that is for sure. If she honestly thinks that playing AVL and getting a team together for 2 weekends a year and then playing the Melbourne “sisters of the blind” in a three match series will give our players confidence and make them better, then she seriously needs to sit on the couch and have her sports psychologist talk some sense into her.
    Time to get off my soapbox.

    • Tex said

      I can’t help but agree with your “soapbox” spray. It is certainly a problem when the people like the CEO and the AVF’s High Performance Manager i.e. the people making important decisions about our sport and its National teams, have no background in Volleyball at any level. You can argue that you don’t need it, but it would help if someone had that knowledge and a perspective of World Volleyball (and what is required) as a basis for these decisions, or at least a background in high performance sport somewhere.
      We can’t blame them for making poor decisions when they don’t have the required knowledge and background. But the Board of the AVF (with a President also with no background) who employ them and endorse their decisions must take some of the blame.

  6. Manser said

    Mmmm the age old debate… It seems that little has changed in the 23 years that i have been involved in elite Volleyball in Australia. Currently, I would say there is less money invested in the Womens National Team than there has ever been in the 23 years that i have been involved. We could argue forever about what competitions, type of training environment and the quality/experience coaches must have for us to succeed at an International level. Unfortunately, without the resources and the long term support from the Volleyball community, like that of the Men’s program or Soccer Australia or numerous other sports, we will fight an uphill battle. Suprisingly to some, the current head coach – ‘with little international experience’ has been able to create an inclusive, positive, transparent culture amongst the players. You can only work with what you have, and it may appear to be doom and gloom for the Womens National team into the future, without a serious injection of resources, but for me this environment now is certainly one i would have wished for as an athlete, regardless of the perceived lack of quality coaching.

  7. Yankee Boy said

    I am sick of reading about how transparent a program is or how we are building a program based on respect not fear, what the hell does that mean. It is about results and the results just have not been there. To be honest the blame lays entirely with the AVF in my mind. The womens program is woefully under-funded and does not have the athletes that can necessarily compete at the highest international level. This is not a criticism of the athletes or coaches but simply an observation. I know too well how much money it costs and how hard they work however Abu Dhabi was over 12 months ago, and since then just how much how high level competition and training have the women had? Please explain to me how we could ever be competing at a high level with the structure we have no matter how transparent or respectful it may be. I am happy that everyone feels included and positive and whatever else feel good adjective we can think of, but in the end if we want a womens program that can compete at the highest level then what we have now just does not get the job done.

  8. Big Ren said

    Countries ranked above Australia:
    Senegal
    Azerbaijan
    Cameroon
    Algeria
    Kenya
    Havent competed in an event that increases rankings since 2007.
    These countries named above clearly cant be seen as a greater sporting nation than Australia. How can the Kenyan Volleyball program be putting more money into the program and AVF give nothing. Crazy if you ask me.

  9. Manser said

    No, you are right Yankee it won’t get the job done, but how dare you forget the well being of players and the importance of keeping athlete interested, passionate and involved in the sport for more than 4 years… It does matter that the program be transparent, inclusive and all the airy fairy stuff!!!! Without that we would be back in the days where athletes only want to play for Australia when it doesn’t cost them, or require much sacrifice !!! There is a long list of athletes through the past 10 years that once the $$$ were gone and the ‘BIG CARROT’ disappeared they were no longer interested. While we don’t have much in terms of resources, and on the road back to that I BELIEVE we must care about the athlete (always) as a person and not some physical specimen that must perform….. We must build a foundation that allows the National team to draw on numerous athletes, whilst managing other opportunities for development that now are essential to the Female players pathway.. Because we have a number of athletes coming through the college system that will in 1-2 years provide a huge boost to the overall level of the team and put us in good sted to climb the International rankings.

    • whosin said

      great to see some positive attitudes shining through….. i have been getting a little sick and tired of people complaining. Amanda, Manser, and others – keep up the positive attitudes.
      We as a community need to keep focussing on the positives and let those people who want to complain do so directly to the AVF / Board rather than a public forum. This won’t help in the future when and if our sport begins to gain credibility and more media exposure.

      • devo said

        Great to see some positive attitudes shining through….. i have been getting a little sick and tired of people complaining. Amanda, Manser, and others – keep up the positive attitudes.

        I thought the original post was positive! I thought that I was suggesting that our girls were very capable of doing well; of getting through to round 3 of the World Championships.

        We as a community need to keep focussing on the positives and let those people who want to complain do so directly to the AVF / Board rather than a public forum. This won’t help in the future when and if our sport begins to gain credibility and more media exposure.

        When the forum was taken down on the Volleyball Australia site (some of the comments were beyond the pale) we were promised that a forum or some other open method of commenting would be provided on the new revamped site. That never happened. It is the nature of sport that fans want to be involved. Fans want to have a say about how their sport is going. We may not always agree with them. But that’s sport. It is parochial. It is just not realistic to expect anyone except those few people at the top of the sport to be heading off to the board. A thousand page views a day suggest that fans want to have a say.

        If Volleyball Australia don’t want this sort of forum, then they need to do more to keep people informed. They need to see the average fan as a client; and not just the state bodies who do little to keep us informed beyond the day to day runnings of state tournaments and competitions.

        I have given up on the when and if. I have given up on the one day. I just enjoy volleyball whenever I can get to a match. But when I feel grumpy, I just love to share it around. I’m a fan. I’m passionate. I’m gonna have my say.

  10. Yankee Boy said

    I am not forgeting the well being of the athletes, but when we start to describe the program in terms of transparency, respect instead of fear etc I think we are well and truly missing the main point and that is about the real issue of how do we really get better. We need to start focusing on the positives, sure we do, but lets not lose sight of the fact that the program is doing very little and once again I say this blame lay at the feet of the AVF. In all honesty how can we expect to do well with minimal training and playing opportunities? The commitment of the athletes and coaches is not in question, and yes, we realise you are doing as much as you can with next to nothing.
    There is simply no way we will climb the world rankings unless there is a significant injection of resources/money from the AVF. The flipside is that the AVF wont invest (to any significant level) if the team stays where it is.

    I am sorry to sound so negative but we are talking about our National Team and just because we all want to be positive doesn’t mean things will get better, just because the players are committed doesn’t mean they are at the right level to get the job done. I agree that the disappearance of the “Big Carrot” probably filtered out the players that didn’t have the commitment however commitment alone (without the talent) is very noble albeit a little naive.

    So do we have the talent, and how do we get them up to speed with all the other countries that are ahead of us?

  11. Toddy said

    This may be a little off topic, but the responses imply that someone will have an answer.

    What are the AVF’s priorities. It is clear that they are not concerned with supporting state based development. I don’t know about other states to be fair but there is nothing in NSW. There is little interest in promoting AVL (still not a single word about 2009 mens avl plans) and the clubs that are interested in progressing and helping out are often ignored and left to themselves without being able to put in anything valuable.

    I am talking purely from my own experiences over the last couple of years, however to me I don’t see much that the AVF does to actually promote and improve the grassroots volleyball.

    It is clear there isn’t money for anything, we all know that, but what is there that is important enough for us to care about.

    Being crushed by opponents clearly doesn’t matter, or else why would we have entered a womens team into the 2000 Olympics?

    Anyway, i may be off track but I am just curious to see what people with more knowledge on the topic have to say

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