Secrets of Coaching Success: Ivan Petkov (Part 1)


Article Thu, Jan 27 2022
Author: Nikolay Markov
Nikolay Markov

If volleyball were a computer game, the players would probably be the little figures moving on the screen and the coach would be the actual gamer whose mind and fast reactions are put to the test. To help the fans gain more in-depth knowledge about the all-important job of a volleyball head coach from the first-hand source, I start this Secrets of Coaching Success series, in which I will be presenting some of Europe’s accomplished examples in this profession and trying to pick their brains for insider info about how it all gets done.

Ivan Petkov

Ivan Petkov is the first volleyball specialist to share the secrets of his coaching success with the cev.eu readers and volleyball fans.

The 45-year-old Bulgarian coach has been instrumental to Prometey Dnipro’s recent success in continental and national competitions, and as of recently he has committed to take over the Ukrainian national team from the upcoming season.

Ivan’s professional journey started at the age of 16 when he joined the Bulgarian men’s top-division team of Lokomotiv Plovdiv, but just a few years later his career as an athlete was prematurely interrupted by a heavy injury.

At 28, Petkov turned to coaching, at the helm of Maritza Plovdiv’s women’s team. He stayed with the club for 16 seasons and gradually helped it rise to its current status of Bulgaria’s dominating power. Before he took over, Maritza had never won a trophy in the club’s history, but during his tenure, they triumphed with six back-to-back national championship titles after winning three silvers and a bronze in the NVL, and five national cup trophies garnished with two runner-up finishes in the competition. Petkov also led Maritza to winning the only edition of the Bulgaria Super Cup back in 2015.

Petkov also brought Maritza to historic heights at the continental level. In what was probably the most memorable match in the club’s history, in the fall of 2017, his team survived from two sets down at Russia’s Yenisei Krasnoyarsk to mount an incredible 3-2 comeback and top it with a golden set win, which made them the first Bulgarian side in history to qualify for the pool stage of the women’s CEV Champions League, where they have been regulars ever since.

The Plovdiv-born coach achieved a similar feat with his next club project, after taking over Ukraine’s Prometey Kamyanske (now Prometey Dnipro) in 2020. In his very first season with the new team, Petkov led them to a domestic golden treble, the first trophies in the club’s history, and added a second Super Cup crown at the start of this season. In their second campaign in the Champions League, he steered the team successfully through the early rounds of the 2021-2022 season to lead them to their debut participation in the pool stage of Europe’s most prestigious club competition.

In fact, Petkov made his international break-through as the assistant coach of the successful Bulgarian squad, which made the final four of the 2009 FIVB Women’s Junior World Championship in Mexico. They also won the BVA Junior Balkan Championship title that year. In 2015, he head coached the young Lionesses to the eighth place at the FIVB U20 World Championship in Puerto Rico and to a U20 Balkan Championship silver.

Petkov’s first national team success at the senior level came in 2014, when he led Bulgaria’s B squad to the first place at the FIVB World Grand Prix Pool Q tournament in Mexico. He was appointed Bulgaria’s national team head coach in 2018 until resigning in 2021. During that period, the Lionesses won gold in both editions of the CEV European Golden League they took part in, in 2018 and in 2021, and at the 2018 FIVB Volleyball Challenger Cup in Peru, earning a spot in the 2019 FIVB Volleyball Nations League. They also finished eighth at EuroVolley 2019, ninth at EuroVolley 2021 and 12th at the 2018 World Championship.

Ivan Petkov was recently named the new head coach of the Ukrainian women’s national team and is set to lead them into the new season starting off in May with the European Golden League.

“It may sound quite trivial, but diligence and hard work are at the basis of any progress. Destiny also made its contribution. In the years of my development, I was lucky to work with patient people who gave me a chance to learn, grow, work and dream. Those were difficult years for volleyball in Bulgaria, but patience, hard work and ambition proved crucial for me.”

Ivan Petkov
Head coach of Prometey Dnipro (UKR) and the Ukrainian women's national team