devo's volleyball – Australian volleyball: news and views

Bring back VTAW funding. Proper Funding.

Posted by Hugh Nguyen on August 19, 2009

It’s becoming depressing for me that whenever VTAW play, their competitiveness is limited by the fact that we can’t support them to be the best they can be.I don’t know exactly how the VTAW programme at the AIS got canned but I assume it had something to do with not qualifying for 2004. This sucks, because before that we had infrastructure that developed players and coaches that then trickled down to make the sport better. Without a proper programme, there’s not much we can give our athletes to strive for.

An AIS programme for VTAW might not deliver medals, trophies and Olympic appearances. Who Cares? It would be among the least of the ineffective things that our Fed government has thrown money at, and as voters, we should be able to influence any manner of things we want.

Elections are coming up next year. Last time, I lived in the electorate of the Minister for Sport (Kate Ellis). If this pisses you off and you live in her electorate, let her know about it.

30 Responses to “Bring back VTAW funding. Proper Funding.”

  1. getting better said

    Agree completely about the lack of funding but I’m not sure it has anything to do with not qualifying for 2004 Olympics. I think it had more to do with not really getting any better for 8 years.

  2. Well, if they didn’t get better for 8 years, things are certainly worse now. didn’t the Oz women used to have a ranking of 28 or something during the AIS years?

  3. MarissaC said

    I have been a part of the volleyball community for practically my entire life. I watched a lot of volleyball from the Women’s Program at the AIS, and in my opinion it is totally understandable why it was cut. Not only did the team fail to qualify for international tournaments, but the standard dropped terribly and those who were a part of the program appeared to become more and more unmotivated with each game. At the time, I was disgusted to learn that those athletes effectively had a free ride at the AIS, with the government paying for all accomodation and food and other expenses involved with intensive training in the form of a scholarship. One can only imagine the volumes of money that this would have added up to with an athlete who was at the AIS for two or three years. In a similar situation, I attend university training to be one of the best in my field, just as those athletes attended the AIS training to be the best in theirs. Only difference is that when I am finished university not only will I owe the government in excess of $25,000, but I will be able to contribute back to Australia with the expertise that I have gained. The athletes that were part of the women’s program left the program owing $0 and have contributed absolutely nothing back to Australia or even volleyball. A bad investment if you ask me. At university, if I don’t continually live up to standard, I will get kicked out. So why should the women’s AIS program have been any different? When the government funds something, it is on the basis that that money will somehow benefit the community that it is going towards. The AIS women’s program did no such thing for women’s volleyball.
    I don’t claim to have a perfect solution to the failing of women’s volleyball in Australia, but history tells us that an AIS program does not work.

    • edbinnie said

      I think its a little unfair to compare attending uni and going to the ais. The vast majority of AIS athletes (across all sports, not just volleyball) don’t earn any money after finishing their time at the AIS. And the athletes continue to have out of pocket expenses for their sport – touring costs etc.
      To say that they don’t give back to the sport? I think that that’s pretty harsh.
      Here is the list of AIS athletes at the end of the programme.

      Tamsin Barnett (VIC)
      Louise Bawden (VIC)
      Jacinta Debnam (TAS)
      Anne Ehrenberg (VIC)
      Melanie Hopkins (SA)
      Tolotear Lealamanua (NSW)
      Adrienne Marie (NSW)
      Anna Maycock (SA)
      Rowena Morgan (NSW)
      Jessica Peacock (SA)
      Eileen Romanowski (SA)
      Priscilla Ruddle (VIC)
      Caithlin Thwaites (VIC)
      Christa Vogel (NSW)
      Rebecca Walter (VIC)
      Maggie Watts (QLD)
      Tara West (WA)

      And poor Erin Ross who was selected to start, only to be notified of the end of the programme before attending. Similarly, Rachael Rourke was on her way, or something of that ilk then too.

      Any names there familiar?
      That’s right – many of these players are in current beach or indoor national team programmes. And the current national team programme is a huge expense for each of them. So to say that they aren’t giving back is plain wrong.

      Yes some have drifted away from the sport. But then how many players from State U17s teams in 2004 are still active in their state leagues. Different scale, but similar principle.

      The other key point is that many of these athletes are still so young – back in 2004 many were only just starting to get driving licenses, and were living out of home, training 30 hrs per week, and attending school or uni.

      Could the money from the live in nature of this programme have been better spent in other ways? I think it probable, but this style of programme seems to be working for the men’s team. When the men “graduate” from the programme, there is more money available to them in Europe that for the women, which means the men can stay active in VTAM as high level athletes for longer than the women, who have to choose between employment in AUS or training.

      I’d back Hugh’s original call to fund Women’s Volleyball. The programme is working to get camps and tours happening – but its costing the players huge amounts of money to be involved. They are still having to choose between work and training/competition. I’m sure plenty of the players are having to take unpaid leave for a lot of their volleyball, and are paying for their trips. The gotta pay their living bills at some stage though, and until there’s a cash injection the top tier of women’s volleyball simply won’t be able to afford the time or money to play/train/improve.

  4. We’re talking about apples and oranges when it comes to how the government funds (or not funds) higher education and how it funds sporting programmes.

    If there were athletes there for a free ride, i’m sure there were ones that were not abusing their scholarships.

    The problem is since AIS women’s went a lot of the infrastructure we had for training athletes and coaches isn’t around anymore. It’s not just about the top but what trickles down to the grass roots.

  5. Manser said

    Australia has been ranked as high as 17 i believe, maybe even higher. This was achieved when the first AIS program was established in Perth in 93 – 97. The program has always been the poorer cousin to the mens program in terms of funding. Unfortunately money buys better quality coaching, more competitive opportunities and opportunities to support athletes in their development as well rounded human beings. The AIS situation in my eyes provided very little support for a bunch of very young girls, with no leadership from older players, which set it up for failure. The mens program was running for at least 10 years with substantially more funding before it became competitive internationally and 2004 was the only time it has qualified in its own right for the Olympics. I believe if the womens program was given the same amount of support for that period of time there would quite possibly have been greater performance outcomes. Just look at success of the women on the beach.
    Anyway, i guess all i am saying is the history and reasons for the so called failure of the centralised womens program is a lot more complicated than any one person would understand. As part of the female volleyball community, i am looking forward to using the opportunities we now have to build a strong foundation for all developing femaile volleyballers so that when the next crop of ‘international’ quality athletes surface we can provide a solid pathway and training environment in each state for them to achieve whatever they want to in VB. Ithink we also have to accept that we cannot treat female athletes like we treat our male athletes. They require a very different environment to thrive, and my opinion is that a centralised model isn’t the answer for womens volleyball, however strong state based training environments with plenty of opportunities for camps and competition experience is the only way the aussie womens team will be an international threat.

  6. Steve said

    Women’s volleyball deserves a program, but let’s be realistic about what the objective of that program should be. Much like the men’s program and the programs for basketball, netball, soccer etc it should simply be a feeder program that develops players for either college ball in the US or professional leagues in Europe/Asia.

    If the national team proper is sitting in Canberra training then the team will never get anywhere (I respect the efforts of the players who worked hard to reach 17th in the world, but honestly if that is a lauded pinnacle then goals need to be reviewed). The only way to have international success is to have players playing week in, week out in tough leagues. We can’t provide that in Australia so players have to go overseas. A properly structured AIS program can help facilitate those moves.

    A ten year horizon is a reasonable one to see results, though getting a funding commitment for that long given how poorly the program was managed previously may be tough. If you had a bunch of 16-18 year olds go in this year, they stay in for up to three years (the 16 year olds) at which point in time the program helps them get into a college or a pro team where they develop further (college would be used as an interim step for those players not ready to go direct to the cut throat pro league environment). If a player isn’t deemed good enough by overseas outfits then the program should say goodbye to them also to make room for another junior to come through. For those players who do get overseas it is going to take 7 years post-AIS experience for some of the players to be internationally competitive and over that time horizon you would hope there would be 10-12 players good enough.

    I have to disagree with Pauline re whether you need one central program or multiple state based programs. The multiple program environment caters to quantity over quality noth in terms of players and coaches. Get the best players with the best coaches in one place and have them get to business. If netball and basketball girls can handle it then so can volleyball girls.

  7. MarissaC said

    I use the comparison of uni only to put some perspective on the issue. If you are passionate about being the best at something, regardless of what that is, you almost always need to make sacrifices, most of the time monetary. It is just a fact of life and volleyball is no exception to this. The women’s program had its chance. It had its opportunity to make a big impact, but never did. Yes I agree that some of those players who were part of the final year of the program have gone on to some really amazing results in volleyball, but is this really “giving back” to the sport? In 2004 if you had have asked U15 or U16 female volleyballers who was apart of the women’s program, most would not have a clue that the program even existed. So keeping in mind that one of the benefits of a women’s program is the trickle down effect onto grass roots volleyball, did these athletes really give much back to volleyball? No doubt they were good and trained all the time etc, but in no way was their profile used to encourage more girls to strive to be the best at volleyball. A few coaching clinics at schools, anything really that would get those athletes out there exposing young people to volleyball would have given something back to volleyball. But that never happened.
    I agree totally with Pauline in that girls require a different training environment to prosper than boys. Boys tend to respond to the older role models and the competitive nature of training, and can adapt quicker to living away from home at a young age. Take a young girl away from her parents and put them into a new city at a new school with a sudden wave of freedom and independence and most won’t cope. And if you believe these girls lived in a highly supervised environment, maybe we should rewind to 2004 and you can visit the local shopping centre on a school day. No disrespect to the girls there at the end as I think most girls put in that environment will not make the most mature decisions.
    Can you understand my frustration with the women’s program? They had their chance, they had the money. I saw a lot of young girls getting all this stuff for free in order to become better at what they love doing, and totally abusing this money. Yet for me to become better at what I am passionate about I will be in tens of thousands of dollars of debt.

  8. Perhaps a de-centralised model is better. There is more duplication of resources, and a bit of money is lost in adminstration and bureaucracy, but you do get a lot more innovation into the mix.

    Maybe Perth and Canberra weren’t good places and a centralised programme in Melbourne might have worked better.

    whichever way, it needs more money. At least to get better coaches working on it and so players can get the international exposure they need without too much personal expense.

    • bad assumption said

      while i agree that the program needs more money… i think it’s a pretty poor assumption that money buys better coaches. Steve identified a problem of the old program of player management and I tend to agree with him, but if you were part of any of the old program and perhaps international volleyball at all you would understand that money doesn’t always equal quality coaching.

      international exposure takes time. it doesnt happen over night and doesn’t necessarily fit the circumstance of every player straight away.

      let’s be real. we all want more money for the program. we all want the best for the girls.

    • Steve said

      A bit of money Hugh? I would say a lot of money is lost of you duplicate the programs, or alternatively you compromise the quality of the programs.

      What is better … 20 targeted kids with two good full time coaches and a proper support network or 6 programs with 6 part time coaches and a volunteer support network. I think the choice is pretty clear.

      Also, in the junior space if we are going to see results (and let’s face it, continued funding demands results) then the Australian squad needs to be together day in day out rather than coming together for a week’s training camp before Asian juniors.

    • I’m sure money does buy you better coaches – Stelio DeRocco and Jon Uriarte wouldn’t have come cheap. Imagine having the $$$ to get someone like Lang Ping to coach?

      At the very least, it’d be nice to have more money for the coaches and athletes we’ve got now.

      And yes, more than “a bit” of money is lost in duplication of resources. But that isn’t always without some benefit – innovation and different ideas.

      • Steve said

        And yet our current coaches are getting results comparable to those that you just mentioned…

        It is as much about the system as it is about the big name coach, and in a resource constrained environment I would prefer to use the money to have an extra local coach and to provide athlete welfare and competitive opportunities (I know those coaches mentioned used their networks and did get us invites that we may not have otherwise got, but hopefully we have moved past that to some degree).

      • paying it forward said

        For your information Hugh, it’s worthy to note that 2 out of the 3 coaches with the current Senior Team have been coached by Lang Ping.

        • I didn’t know that! How did they get that opportunity? would love to hear their stories.

          • Graeme said

            Are you sure you dont mean Ying Jiang?

            • paying it forward said

              no, I mean Jenny Lang Ping..I think we can all learn a bit from where we have been and who we have worked with and taking on board some of those lessons can only assist the current women’s program. it’s unfortunate that changes take time.. but i get a sense that they are coming.; you can tell from the energy of the players and the individuals involved.. it’s starting to evolve.

  9. devo said

    Yes you will be in debt. But you will eventually have the job to repay the debt. That is the theory behind the HECS. Most young athletes, especially volleyballers, will not make a lot, if any money. Perhaps enough to survive from week to week in Europe.At the end of playing for Australia, they will be where you are now. Accumulating a HECS debt. They will have had time in Europe, which is fantastic. But abusing money? Not giving back? Blame those who had the supervision of the young girls.

  10. MarissaC said

    Make no mistake, I do not wish to discredit any of the athletes and apologise if I have. They did the best they could in that situation and did all that was asked of them. Those responsible for dealing with the everyday life of the athletes and supporting them in every aspect of their life are to blame. But regardless for who you blame, it is one of the reasons the program failed, and something that cannot be ignored.

    It’s all well and good to get the money, but actually trusting that that money will be used wisely is a whole other matter.

  11. Frank said

    It is not a fault of the athlete to receive an AIS scholarship, nor is it an obligation to the athlete to give back to the community once their scholarship is over. To say they abused money by taking a great opportunity presented to them is extremely unfair and reeks of sour grapes. Also it has absolutely nothing to do to explain the current state of the national team.

    Let’s put some perspective on success compared to other top Australian sports. Volleyball is a massive sport around the world, much much bigger than Cricket, Netball, Rugby, and of course Aussie Rules. These teams have to be better than about half a dozen countries to be considered elite. Volleyball is a global sport. Somehow in Australia we expect all of our national teams to be the best in the world but this is a ridiculous thing to expect.

    The reality is the National Women’s Team comes up against some seriously strong, well funded, well organised, well trained, well supported (check out references to crowd atmosphere in VTAW blogs from Vietnam) competition in Asia and would expect more of the same in Europe and the USA. However, to eventually get to an elite level you have to get beaten by the best teams to learn and to motivate yourself to get to that level. This is nature of any sport.

    Our national soccer team was battered from pillar to post for decades and in recent years with a new structure, vision, hard work, and a bit of luck has seen great success.

    There is absolutely no reason whatsover why our national women’s team cannot start to re-build a successful program. Funding will definitely help but a positive attitude and resolve and community support is just as critical. It’s time people (especially volleyball people) looked to the future with a purpose rather than the past to point fingers and keep blaming others.

  12. MarissaC said

    See my above post re blaming the athletes. It is definately the fault of the program developers who overlooked key issues, and it is those people that abused the money. Well done to the athletes that managed to get scholarships, they definately deserved them and as I said I am not trying to discredit the athletes. Yes, you could say that I am sour. Pretty much because I watched a sport that I absolutely love playing get totally destroyed by a poorly run program.
    No, it is not obligatory for players to give back to the community once their scholarship is done. But where does that leave the sport? If this is going to start working, someone has to get up and do something. Who better than an elite athlete? After all, it is them that will benefit from it in the end. Volleyball relies so heavily on the work that people do, not because they are obliged to, but because they want to help.
    Yes, it is great to look to the future, but if you don’t analyse where it all went wrong in the past you will just make the same mistakes all over again.

  13. Steve said

    There needs to be a way for these people to give back though Marissa. Is anyone at VVI/VSA/AVF etc actively pursuing ex-national team players to do sport development? Are there paid opportunities to do so? Are training opportunities provided to these athletes to ensure they are good at sport development – there have been plenty of awesome players in many sports who were crap at coaching.

    It is a bit unfair to judge players for not giving back if they are not given a pathway via which they can, and especially if there is an expectation that they will do this for free. If Devo’s assertion that when some of the athletes come back they go to uni is accurate then surely that is a prime opportunity for state associations or the AVF to put them through a coaching course and a presentation skills course and then flip them $30 an hour to go out to schools and do coaching on their days off.

    That has to be better for the athletes than flipping burgers for half that, plus from a reintegration into society standpoint perhaps the AVF owes ex-national team players this sort of opportunity?

  14. Manser said

    last comment, lets be realistic.. Fulltime national womens indoor program is pie in the sky stuff at this point. No way is 17th internationally good enough, and i would never say that was, my point being is all that money was invested and we didn’t get much higher than that.. Lets be smarter with the resources that are available and yes take advantage of US, pro league when we have exceptional athletes coming through. But if we don’t provide something of value in each state, for those athletes to develop before they enter into college or pro league we will always struggle to attract and retain top quality athletes. Once we establish quality training environments in states, with $$ support we then have to prove ourselves at the senior level to attract more money. Our grassroots system needs to get better athletes into the game NOW… Then we need to find smarter ways to pool resources at the senior level to get more opps to train and play together. I still don’t believe at this point in time a centralised program is the answer!!

  15. Outsouring... said

    Why don’t we let the USA fund the development of our players?

    If girls are seirous about being volleyballers they should head to the states and play college.

    If 20 young athletes did this, in 4 years time we would have 20 highly experienced volleyballers to choose a national team from. The Year after we would have 40, then 60 etc

    The US team have 1,000’s of athletes to choose from.
    Australia have to squeeze 8 players into 12 spots!

    If we can’t get funding in Australia, why don’t we let the USA fund the development of our players?

    There are thousands of scholarships availiable.

    It should be apart of WVTA’s job to assist 18 year girls get scholarships instead of asking them to train one weekend every six months, which, could almost more expensive for the athete that completing a 4 year degree on scholarship.

  16. Manser said

    why don’t people talk to the coaches of VTAW??? you may be suprised that we are pushing the US, we are also asking them to camps when they are already in one location, like the end of avl to reduce costs. In fact if you looked at the workload of the headcoach in the volunteer role, you may reconsider what you believe is their job.
    If people want to be supportive of VTAW happy to answer questions, not criticsm through this blog…

    How about we look for ways to build support for the program, rather than spending so much energy finding fault with what is happening??? Just a thought

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