As it goes with all good adventures, also this one started spontaneously. It didn’t crawl up to me slowly, nor did it send any warnings. It happened in January, one fine morning I was at work and received message from Sandy.
Sandy, January 18, 2018; 10:45AM:
“Du Valts, wir brauchen noch einen Coach für Klagenfurt. Kommst du mit? Das wäre saulustig! 21.6.-25.6. Bitteeeeeee!” (You Valts, we need one more Coach for Klagenfurt. Are you coming? It will be so much fun! Pleaseeeeee!)
I had been hearing previously form other Coaches and some kids how nice this Tournament is. Shortly after receiving some minor specifications and checking my schedule I came to conclusion.
Valts, January 18, 2018; 11:11AM:
I knew in an instant moment that I had to be there. Had to take this chance. A few thoughts ran through my mind, but the whole process took about ten minutes to make a decision – I am going. As I find myself in between tasks at work, I could take a quick glance in my agenda and determine that I had three of necessary four days free already! The fourth one I could cover with my vacation day or some of them overworked hours. So, from time perspective everything would be fine. Nothing was planned in those days also. Only thing I had to get afterwards would be my wife’s forgiveness as I was again taking decision according to basketball on my own. Fortunately for me – she is forgiving on this matter, much love my darling! Decision had been made under ten minutes. Oh boy, after four months I was happy that it was so…
The deal was that I would go with the already Organized group of Coaches and all the kids Teams. I would receive one of the U14 boys teams, look after them and coach them at the tournament. Sounded like a pretty sweet deal for me!
Now, for those who don’t know what United World Games are (I mean, I didn’t know also till I got there, haha) – that’s a multiple day tournament for kids and youth up to age group of U19 in thirteen (!!!) different sports! This year they managed to crack mark of over 10’000 (!!!!!) participants. I mean, that is one hell of a number for a youth tournament if you ask me. It includes about (or over…) 40 nations from all over the World. Tournament stands for peace, tolerance and friendship all through power of coming together and competing in different kinds of sports. Sport unites us for greater good.
Anyway, little did I know that I won’t be coaching an U14 boys team this year. As between ‘saying yes’ and departure I took over an U16 (mixed U14) girls team, it made sense to coach and look after U14 girls team instead. Now, it wouldn’t have been a biggie, but I was just getting into coaching girls and my practices consisted of finding my way in the dawn. I had yet to discover the way how to handle a girls team properly and efficiently. Well, as it turned out – this tournament gave me the opportunity to understand and grow enormously as a Coach. Not only that, I had a chance not everyone gets – to spend four days with members of a team you are going to Coach next season. That is in about three to four months we will go on the field for our first game. And this came meanwhile being in the off-season! Why is it so important? Let me explain.
My plan for the four days was to find out how the team plays, bond with the players, gain their trust and further establish my position as the new Coach. One big thing was to observe players and their habits as individuals and AS A TEAM. I had observed some of the thing in practices already, but there was just so much more to see in “game environment”, especially when on tournament mode which is faster paced as regular season games (also more stressed due to Time-Pressure and little recovery time).
Overall I was very surprised of my discoveries in only four games from which we won only the first one. Despite that I consider this as very successful tournament for our team as I managed to breakdown and achieve many things vital to our upcoming 2018/2019 season. Also there is a reason why this post is “Part 1” as I will break down the games on the later posts and share what I took out of them. We had four very different Opponents and all very strong and respectable. Each game was a gift to gather additional information and prepare for the next season.
Time of plain clothes
We departed from Hellenendome on Thursday afternoon. It took some time to gather all the necessary items and get buses loaded. From my perspective it went very good and we were soon hitting the road. It was about four to five hour trip from Munich to Klagenfurt, the actual duration depends on how crowded the roads are and if you get stuck in traffic jam (or if you don’t – how much time it takes to go around it). Trip itself was very calm and relaxing as most of us used the chance to get some extra sleep before the four day marathon together with the kids. We took just one stop to quickly hit the Whiskey Charlie and refill our mugs with fresh beverages.
We arrived in Klagenfurt am Wörthersee around nineteen hundred, getting out of the vehicle, which took us there, went smooth and even unloading of our belongings didn’t complicate things. I was pretty amazed that such a large group of kids and only a handsome of Coaches could keep logistics under the pressure with no problem and keep it running very fast. Also, right after arriving we had to move the stuff to the tents we would be spending our next three nights. This would become our sanctuary in the night to take a rest or in the daytime to get some minutes off to recharge between the games and events.
Next step was to get all the kids fed. As our friends from Romania joined us, our numbers went a bit over one hundred. Very crazy if you ask me! For this evening we had no food vouchers as we had decided to feed ourselves to spare some resources. As I was not in organizing this whole thing I was happy to see that everything was prepared and we (Coaches) just had to find some tables to put everything on to and get them kids full.
That was pretty much it. After getting evening meal, there was some football to watch on the big screen at the stadium while half of the coaches staff prepared tents for the night. That is, checked if there were right amount of beds in the tents. After that we settled in and put everything in it’s place where it would stay for the next three days. It was decided to wake up early and get some breakfast before getting into the first game at nine hundred. Some of my girls were helping the Romanian team as they needed some extra players and we just mixed it up with some boys and girls from our teams. Some of the coaches advised to wake up between six fifteen and six thirty, but as I didn’t yet know capabilities of my U14 girls team, I decided to go to safe side and get them up at six hundred. Just to be sure everything went by clock.
Well that was pretty much the last evening of plain clothes as tomorrow started the times of helmets and armor for at least two days, depending on how we would play the group stage. For U14 girls we had two groups with four teams in each and in our group we had some good opponents from Austria, United States and Greece. Tomorrow promised some tough games starting at fourteen hundred versus Team Kärnten (AT) and finishing with Katerini (GR) at sixteen hundred.
For now, it was time to rest and save up some strength for tomorrow. We had to get up at six hundred tomorrow clanging and banging – ready to roll.