The new Russian men’s national team head coach, Sergey Shlyapnikov, has a chip on his shoulder after Vladimir Alekno departed from the team.
Shlyapnikov has had much success with the Russian age-category teams, where he won two World Championships and six European titles. This is a chance for Russia to rebuild their men’s squad, following a disappointing fourth place finish at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.
In 2017, Russia will take part in the qualifiers for the FIVB Volleyball World Championship, followed by the FIVB Volleyball World League (June 2-July 2) and the European Championship (August 24-September 3).
In Russia’s first round of the World League, they will stay in their homeland to face the 2015 champions France, Bulgaria and Argentina. Concluding the first round, they will then travel to play France, Italy and the USA before facing Iran, Poland and the USA in Poland.
“As always, the international calendar is very busy,” Shlyapnikov said. “I have divided it into three stages. The first is the qualifying competition for the World Championship, which begins on May 22, but bear in mind the national champion will be determined on May 11, so we won’t have much time for even a short rest. As a result, it was decided that the task of getting to the World Championship would lie with out more experienced players. As for the World League, those who worked hard at the Olympic Games will be able to take a break.”
With the year split into three phases for Shlyapnikov, he is trying to remain focused on all three – but in the midst of the first stage, staying focused for the second and third could pose some strain. In his first season, he is going to have a busy summer.
Shlyapnikov’s appointment to the head of the Russian squad came with a compromise, that he has control over all the national teams from top to bottom. This is so that he can ensure a smoother process of transitioning the talent of players from age-category teams to the senior teams.
Shlyapnikov is not willing to compromise national pride, and won’t put up with players deciding for themselves whether or not they are able to play for their country.
“It is important to understand we are talking about the national team and the honor of the country,” said Shlyapnikov. “No matter the condition a player is in, he is obligated to respond to a call-up and arrive at the appointed time and place. The coach and the medical staff have to make decisions on players.”
In his time with the young players, Shlyapnikov has stated his position with the importance of youth in the upbringing of Russian volleyball; however, the senior players that continue to perform are not left out of his mind, remaining vital to the organization as long as they are able to perform.