Four marches a day up and down Cardiac Hill in Los Cristianos, not allowed to sunbathe, and banned from the swimming pool, but for the Great Britain indoor volleyball squad it’s just what they need to focus on London 2012.
Tenerife has become an important staging post for the growth of the Great Britain volleyball programme. Last year the squad came over for a week and six players went on to join CV Tenerife Sur for the Spanish league season. John Garcia the Tenerife coach was the link then, his Nottingham born mother qualifies him to play the beach variety of the game for GB. The Tenerife Sur home, Pabellon Jesus Dominguez Grillo has this week seen the latest GB development squad working out from 9.30am to noon and 5.30pm to 8pm during their six day stay.
Head coach of the development programme and assistant to the senior squad, Joel Banks is running a tight ship for his 13 players; funding is sparse and he has to squeeze every ounce of value out of this trip. “Last year we had four away training trips, this year we just have Tenerife so we train as hard as we can and Tenerife Sur are giving us regular game level opposition.”
There is no professional league in GB and the coach honed his playing skills abroad. “I was picked up at 16 by Mizuno Malory, a top London side, but went on to play professionally in Belgium with several teams. Our senior squad of 24 players includes 15 that play professionally outside GB, the others train with us at our Sheffield base and are released at weekends for their GB league teams. Our funding from UK Sport allows us to pay a little for digs and some basic support but it’s hard for most of the players.”
Last year the head coach Harry Brokking went to work in Greece to ease the financial pressure after a 50% cut from lottery funded UK Sport, but things have improved with Visa chipping in 10 million pounds to the British Olympic Association, that has given UK Sport room to review its support. The GB squad has travelled lightly with just Karen Beattie, the physio, as back up.
The Tenerife visitors are aged between 16 and 22 apart from a dual national Canadian Nathan Bennett, a senior at 32. The Olympics are a long way off but the 2011 European Championships are firmly in mind. GB travel to Azerbaijan on May 8 and play the second leg in Sheffield on 15 May in Pool B first round. Before that a senior squad of 14 players is announced on 24 March, and the Tenerife trip will play a big part in that selection.
There is a host slot available for the 2012 Olympics but the British Olympic Association have to formally decide to enter GB in the volleyball contest, they have to make sure their funding goes to the teams with the best prospects. Coach Joel is optimistic. “The Olympics competition is split into two pools of six countries, the top four go through in each and then it’s a straight knock out from the quarter finals so anything can happen.”
You might see the GB squad heading back and forth from their Paradise Park Hotel. If the red and blue kit doesn’t give it away, maybe the lack of sun tan will. The restrictions on sun bathing and swimming are part of the coaching programme. “We have to make sure they don’t get dehydration, they get some down time to themselves but it is mainly for resting, and they stay in the hotel”. Don’t go thinking the coach has it any better “my afternoon has just consisted of watching a two and a half hour video of the squad training and making a presentation.” It will all be worth it if Great Britain starts to move up the rankings and can bring Olympic glory a bit closer.