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10/01/2018 11:45
SLIEDRECHT Sport’s coach spreads his wings on an international scale
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Luxembourg, January 10, 2018. On Wednesday evening, Matt van Wezel and his team of SLIEDRECHT Sport will try to win a spot in the 8th Finals of the CEV Cup. The 40-year-old is currently in his last season with the Dutch champions, as he will start the summer as head coach of the Norwegian Women’s national team. Van Wezel is spreading his wings, because last summer he was in Nepal in charge of their Men’s national team.

 It was his friend and colleague Peter van Tarel, who was in Nepal as part of a partnership between the Dutch national federation Nevobo and Nepal to organise a national beach volleyball championship, who suggested Matt. As a former student of Cultural Anthropology Van Wezel has always had an interest in other cultures and religions, especially in working there and seeing which problems would arise.

Both national federations have a three-year agreement where the Dutch federation is helping in educating trainers and working together with management. Van Wezel was the first of the technical staff to go. In the summer of 2017, he spent a month in the Asian country. Beforehand he had an idea of maybe changing the culture in the players there. Traditionally Nepal has a strong sense of hierarchy. Everything a coach says, goes.

Van Wezel was not used to that in the Netherlands, where he was head coach of the Dutch junior national team before joining Sliedrecht Sport. If he could, he wanted his players to get more independent, to change their culture. If only it was for a little bit. Now looking back at that time, his conclusion is that the biggest change in culture happened is his own point of view.

“In the Netherlands we are used to having players think with the coach at a young age. Speaking their mind. In Nepal there is nothing of that kind. They’re used to operating in a hierarchy system. The players of the national team all work for the army, or police, places where structure and rank are even tighter.”

 

“I came to the conclusion that I could not change that in a month. But maybe it didn’t have to change. The systems has its strengths. I even quite like it, the modesty would suit some players in the Netherlands as well. I would like to see that Dutch players learn a lesson from the Nepalese. Invest, work hard. Show what you are capable of and then talk about what you want to do.”

“Nepal is a great country to work as a volleyball coach”, Van Wezel tells. “Every village has a volleyball court. Over 80 percent of the country is covered with mountains, so putting a football or cricket pitch in place is hard. Volleyball courts are a lot smaller.”

Last year Nepal declared volleyball their national sport. Reason for that lied in the fact that in every of Nepal’s 75 districts volleyball is being played. “But they only have three indoor venues, the rest is played outdoors. In Holland we sometimes complain about the state of some of the sports halls, but I can assure you, it’s nothing compared to the conditions Nepal sometimes faces.”

Nepal is a very proud country. Van Wezel noticed that in the way the press and media approached him and his team. “A press conference was attended by at least 30 to 40 journalists and six television crews. This is incomparable to what I experience in the Netherlands. All sorts of people wanted to speak to me, but at some point I had to say it was enough. I’m very happy to talk to press and media, because I represent my sport. Politicians are also mine to deal with, but I had to draw the line at everyone else approaching me. I wouldn’t have been able to do my job.”

 

Van Wezel will not return to Nepal this year though, in 2018 Lesley de Jonge will go in his place. “When I started this it would have been for several years. The team almost certainly will participate in the Asian Games this summer. But I have had to come to the conclusion that two months in Kathmandu were not an option. I have a wife and two young children. It’s not like it’s next door, like Oslo.”

With that, Van Wezel touches on his new job. Upon concluding the indoor season with Sliedrecht Sport at the end of May, he will start as the head coach of the Norwegian Women’s national team.

Norway are currently ranked 35th in Europe. One of the reasons Van Wezel accepted this job is that the European Championships will grow to 24 participants in 2019. With that he thinks the chances for his team qualifying in the future will be far greater. “I think it is easier to let a team improve from 35th to 25th place in the ranking than it will be getting from third to first.”

Van Wezel thinks Norway has a good sports infrastructure. “Look at the women handball and soccer teams, they are world class. Volleyball now is a bit behind, but with Top Volley Norge the necessary steps are already taken.”
In the first year, in which he will work with the team for 16 weeks in Norway, he wants to focus on getting the structure in place. “It needs to become a serious professional programme all the best players are participating in. There has to be an atmosphere of: ‘I want to be a part of that’. That’s my first goal.”

In the qualification round for EuroVolley 2019 Norway will play Ukraine, Montenegro and Greece. Van Wezel realises his team is ranked lowest, but qualification is not his first priority. “Qualifying would be a bonus, my goals are long-term. Getting the structure in place, the results will have to follow.”

On Wednesday night, his current team SLIEDRECHT Sport will have to win 3-0 or 3-1 in order to force BEZIERS VB to a Golden Set. “We will have to perform better than we did in France,” Van Wezel states. “Our sports hall will be filled, the same as when we were playing Asterix Avo BEVEREN and Imoco Volley CONEGLIANO. It can boost us to greater highs. So with their support we can be 110 percent. And that’s what we need in order to advance to the next round.”


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