NEVER LOOK BACK
Motto of the coach that made
Italian volleyball great. Today
he coaches future volleyball
players, pointing out the Italian
vices and weak points
He hates being identified as a guru or
a maître à penser, but in Italy there
was the world of volleyball before and
after Julio Velasco. Now he has dual
Argentine and Italian citizenship, he
has been the coach of five national
teams (Italy, Czech Republic, Spain,
Iran and Argentina), and he represents
a point of reference for considering
sport in a way that goes beyond
the sphere of sport alone. Today, as
the technical director of the Italian
Volleyball Federation, he coordinates
the three national youth teams (under
21, under 19 and under 17) and he
travels around the country in this
capacity, without any nostalgia for his
past as an athlete. «When I make a
decision I don’t look back, and in any
case I love coaching.»
You evidently have a natural
predisposition towards teaching
«Maybe because my mother was a
teacher. Even though she always warned
me not to follow in her footsteps.»
«Because she earned very little and, as
a widow, she had to work hard to bring
up three boys.»
Do you ever think about what your life
as a philosophy professor would have
«Similar to that of many friends of
mine in La Plata. I probably wouldn’t
have travelled the world, even if I’d
Is this your principle for defeating the
culture of the excuse?
«It is not a principle, but a practical
course of action. Finding an excuse
or alibi makes it impossible for you
to improve. For example, kids learn
to use their mobile phones through
trial and error, thanks to feedback. If
his cellphone does not work no child
thinks that it was badly made. They
are perfectly aware that they’ve made
a mistake, so they try out another way.
That’s why they learn so fast.»
How did you view Italy at that time?
«Argentina is a country that was
founded on immigration, and my
grandmother came from Camogli (in
Liguria,). I viewed Italians as tough
people. On holidays whenever we
needed to buy something my mother
would tell me go to the “tani” because
they were always open.»
Is it more difficult to train the brain
than the muscles?
«I don’t like these kinds of comparison.
You win with muscles and with the
brain. Of course volleyball is a sport
that requires a lot of work with the
head, and a set is often won with the
minimum difference of two points. In
football you can win the game thanks
to a few great moves, but this is not the
case in volleyball.»
When you came to Italy was this
Partly, although I found that people had
an excessively tendency to complain...
also in the sector of sports. I tell my
children that we lack for nothing and
that if we don’t get results it’s our fault
alone and no-one else’s.»
So what is it that makes the
«I’ve been asked this question often,
regarding that Italian team which has
been defined as the strongest of all
time (the team that dominated the
world in the 1990s ed.). There wasn’t
any special secret apart from the
ability to learn, which is different from
intelligence and motivation.»
Do you think that getting into the kids’
mind is more difficult now compared to
thirty years ago?
«I don’t think so. People say that today
kids are less able to concentrate because
they are subject to continuous stimulation,
but it’s a natural process, more stress less
energy. It’s a biological mechanism.
Do they have the eye of the tiger?
«I don’t like to make generalizations,
but I stand by them because they live in
a complicated world which is subject to
fast and ferocious changes and we, as
adults, are not offering them the right
tools to face it. We keep criticizing,
saying that when we were young we were
better than them. I think we say this just
because we feel nostalgic for our youth».
You coached both the Italian men and
women’s national volleyball team, what
are the differences in your approach?
«Girls care a lot for the relationship
with themselves, they’re demanding,
and hate to make mistakes. It’s a
personal challenge. Boys want to
be stronger than their opponents.
Obviously it’s not always like that, but
I can say that these are quite general
Julio Velasco è festeggiato al rientro in Italia dopo il vittorioso
campionato mondiale di pallavolo maschile del 1990.
Julio Velasco gets a hero’s welcome back to Italy following
the victory of the 1990 Volleyball Men’s World Championship.
E allora cosa fa la differenza?
«Me lo chiedono spesso, a proposito
di quell’Italia che è stata definita la
squadra più forte della storia (quella
che dominò il mondo negli anni Novanta ndr). Non c’è stato un segreto se
non la capacità di apprendimento, che
è cosa diversa dall’intelligenza e dalla
Entrare nelle menti dei ragazzi oggi
è più difficile rispetto a trent’anni fa?
«Secondo me, no. Si dice che oggi i
ragazzi hanno meno capacità di concentrazione perché ricevono continui
_ ULISSE _ febbraio 2020
stimoli. Ma è un processo naturale, se
cresce lo stress diminuisce l’intensità.
È un meccanismo biologico».
Hanno anche loro gli occhi della tigre?
«Non mi piace generalizzare, sono però
dalla loro parte perché vivono in un
mondo complicato con cambiamenti
rapidi e feroci e da noi adulti non ricevono gli strumenti per affrontarlo, ma
critiche su come eravamo migliori noi,
un tempo. Ma lo diciamo perché abbiamo nostalgia della nostra gioventù».
Lei ha allenato sia l’Italia maschile
sia l’Italia femminile, quali differenze
«Le ragazze tengono molto al rapporto con se stesse, sono esigenti, detestano sbagliare. È una sfida interna.
I ragazzi desiderano essere più forti
dell’avversario. Poi, chiaramente, non
è così nel cento per cento dei casi, ma
si può dire che siano caratteristiche
CON I SUOI RAGAZZI
Velasco parla alla squadra
durante un time out.
Velasco speaking to his team
during a time-out.
Più difficile allenare il cervello dei
«Non amo queste contrapposizioni. Si
vince con i muscoli e con il cervello.
Certo il volley è uno sport che richiede molta testa, spesso i set si decidono
con lo scarto minimo di due punti. Nel
calcio si può vincere per una grande
giocata, qui no».
ULISSE _ febbraio 2020 _