Full time training centre athletes in Slovenia - BLOG

Wednesday, December 15th 2010
Men’s Full Time Center vs Kranj (2)
Written by: Vincent Pichette - Assistant coach Men's National Team


Since we came back late last night, we gave guys the morning off. This is our last day of competition here in Slovenia and we’ll be going to Kranj tonight to play our last game. Kranj is a small town located just outside of Ljubljana. We leave early to go visit the historical center of the capital. Guys are cold so we leave after about an hour and a half of walking and shopping. It’s colder here because Ljubljana is closer to the mountains.

We get to Kranj, lead again by our loyal friend and guide Luka, and get prepared for the game. Their team is currently 4th in the Slovenian Championship. They planned for a semi-official game format. The game will even be webcasted. Sorry, if we had known in advanced, we would have sent you the link!! The stats of the game are even taken on Data Volley and will be available after the game

The opposing team is coached by Tine Satler, one of the coaches of the Slovenian Junior National Team also involved with the Senior National Team. Kranj is well prepared and impose a faster rhythm right from the start. They seem to already have some information on us. The game is tight and we have to keep making tactical adjustments during the game. This forces us to make a better information gathering effort and recognize situations where they make changes. Our game is still a little inconsistent. When we respect the system, we play efficiently and the opponent struggles to find solutions (17 blocks). When we get impatient, especially in highball management situations, we make costly mistakes. Because of lack of time, the game ends 2-2 (22-25; 25-19; 22-25; 25-21). Too bad, facing a more tactical style was a very good challenge for us.

Olivier Faucher once again delivered a solid performance leading our offense and Gord Perrin was our best scorer (11 kills, 4 blocks, 1 as; 1 hitting error, 3 serving errors and 1 ball handling error = +9). 

This concludes this cycle of the Men’s Full Time Center. We hope this experience was profitable for our athletes. The group continued to progress well during our two weeks in Europe. Coming here and playing these teams will have contributed, for many, to increasing their understanding of the game at this level. It is very different from what they’ve known so far. Some previous mistake tendencies are still present. Learning and applying our systems take time to assimilate especially in error management situations. It’s a step in the right direction that will help us set the starting point of the next training cycle due to start in mid-February (to be confirmed). For those who may have the chance to join a pro team for the second half of the season, this also will be a first exposure and reference point.

I would like to thank our host, Mitja and all the people at Dras Center (Luka, Tanja and co.) who so graciously and generously hosted us during our stay here in Maribor; all the teams and their staff who accepted to play us during this period; and Tilen, Glenn, Émilie and all the Office and Centre sportif staff for their precious contribution in the organization of this tour. 

Special thanks to Nicolas Roy (our physical trainer) and Jérémie Breau (our physiotherapist) for their great work with our athletes during this trip, and also to Benoit Raymond and Nathan Groenveld who accepted to join us for this tour. 

Last but not least, I also would like to take this opportunity to congratulate the athletes present at the Full Time Center this fall Olivier Faucher, John Galloway, Gord Perrin, Mathieu McLaughlin, Justin Duff, Andrew Town, Jason DeRocco, Mike DeRocco and Steve Brinkman for their work and dedication during this training cycle. It’s again and always a privilege to work with our athletes.

As for me, returning home will be very short. I’m leaving again Friday morning (!) for Salluit (far north point of the province of Québec) where I’ll be giving a four-day clinic to athletes and coaches of Nunavik. The initiator of this project, Philippe Paradis, was able, in a little more than a year, to start boys and girls volleyball programs and bring these teams to Gatineau last summer for the 2010 Québec Games. Congratulations!

Best wishes to all for the holiday period!

Nasvidenje! (Good-bye!)


Tuesday December 14th, 2010
Full time training centre vs Murska (2)

Written by: Vincent Pichette - assistant coach men's national team

We had a big day today. We played our match at the beginning of the afternoon so we had time to go see the Champion league match tonight in Ljubljana. Benoit Raymond left us this morning to go to Sweden for a try out for a team (sorry, I forgot the team!). He left at 4:30am, and he had to come wake Jeremy (our physio) and I up before leaving, because he forgot to take back his passport back(!?!?!). But we still wish him best of luck with this try out!

We played Murska again tonight at the gym of our hotel. Just like Marchiol, this team just lost their 2nd left side (ankle injury) yesterday during training. But Murska still played well. They only have one last match to play before Christmas so we hope that loosing this player won't cause them too much trouble. The coach of Murska, Dejan Fujs, is also the assistant coach of the Slovenian men's national team in Slovenia.

It is always a bit colder in the gym of the hotel so the players took more time to warm up. The match started on slippery grounds, with our players giving a few direct points. We readjusted and focused on managing the situations with serves and communication during bloc-defence. Our team reacted well and by the end of the set, we played really better. We won the first set 29-27. We had a similar beginning for the second set (5-13) but we managed to tie 21-21. Our athletes started to better understand and to trust the system. We lost the set 23-25. However, the guys kept playing well and we won the next two sets 25-21 and 25-18.

Learning to manage the errors is a long and difficult process at this stage but it is one the basic of our system. We can make a lot of points but also give a lot of points. At this level, our group is presently learning that direct errors cost a lot of points! We need to learn how to manage these situations. This group has to learn to better analyse and manage these situations during service and transition, and for every point. Mathieu McLaughlin (+12), John Galloway (+9) and Nathan Groenveld (+8) were our best scorers tonight. 

Click here of the stats. 

Olympiakos vs ACH Volley Bled – Ljubljana 

We had the opportunity tonight to see a match of the Champion league of ACH Volley Bled and Olympiakos. Dan Lewis and Adam Simac, two of our senior players, are part of the ACH Volley Bled squad. The match was taking place in their new stadium, 12 500 seats. This stadium is really impressive and almost all the seats were taken. Mijta, our host, treated us with VIP tickets for the whole team (balcony level). Bled won the first two sets and took control of the match. Their opponent won the next two sets but Bled finally won the match in the 5th set.

After the match, I manage to squeeze myself on the court, in the media area (I must have look like a photographer with my camera around my neck!). I talked with Dan and Adam. Adam's parents were there for the match, they are spending a few weeks in Europe to visit Adam and some family members in Croatia. Dan did not have any family there but he sure did have a lot of supporters!

Dan took a few minutes to come meet and talk with the FTC group. Everyone was really happy to see each other! Before going back with his pro team, Dan reminded the guys of the importance of their work at the full time training centre, for their development. He also gave them really encouraging words! Our guys listened and learned, well I hope so! Dan is presently the player with the most international experience within the men's program. Hopefully our guys realized what a great chance they got to watch such a match. Maybe next time it will be their turn to wear a pro jersey!

We returned to Maribor and arrived at the hotel around 12:30am. It's late so we grabbed a quick dinner and went straight to bed!

Vincent Pichette

Monday December 13th,  2010
Full Time Training Centre vs Maribor
Written by: Vincent Pichette - assistant coach men's national team

We were suppose to play against Marchiol today but their best hitter just sprained his ankle during their match last Saturday (against FRAM) and the coach does not want to risk another injury if we scrimmage against them so the match was cancelled. This team was, from what we heard, the best team that we would have played against during our trip here. Marchiol won the CEV Cup and played against Glenn's team (Izmir, Turkey) twice in the past few weeks. Izmir won both matches 3-2 and 3-0.

But we totally understand the coach concern and accepted to play instead against the Maribor team (we trained with them last Tuesday). We have to understand that there is still matches to play in the Slovenian calendar before Christmas. Teams have accepted to play against us but their priority is still their season. This is why it is easier to play against team at the beginning of the week because all their matches are scheduled during the weekend.

Our guys were excited to play against Marchiol so they are a bit disappointed. But the training with Maribor went well. We played a lot of 6 X 6, with all our players. We learned that we will be able to play Murska again tomorrow, we played against them during our first match last week. Murska won their match last Saturday and are now ranked before Marchiol.

Vincent Pichette

Saturday December 11th,  2010
Full Time Training Centre vs Varazdin
Written by: Vincent Pichette - assistant coach men's national team

The rest on Friday was well deserved! Today, we went to Varazdin in Croatia to play our 4th match. Varazdin is located one hour South-East of Maribor. Croatia is not part of the European Union so we had to go through custom and show our passports.

We had trouble finding the place where we were going to play, but our dedicated guide Luka (which probably made 15 calls in 10 minutes to get the directions!) finally found the place. The Varazdin team is training in a new sport centre, with a 6000 seats main gym and a second gym with 1500 seats. This centre was built for the 2009 handball World Championship. Weight rooms, referee rooms, team rooms, coaches rooms with Internet access, as well as a restaurant, a bar and a bowling alley can be found in this sport centre!

There is a lot of new sport buildings that were built recently in Slovenia and now in Croatia. It looks like everywhere we go, we can see or hear people talk about new sport centres and the variety of sports they can host. The Dras centre were we are staying will also expand this spring. Mitja and his group will start construction in the spring to add another gym and new residencies for sport groups. 

Back to our match against Varazdin. We first started with 2 sets of 6x6 scrimmage, which allows us to work on our bloc-defense system. We wanted to stabilize this aspect of our game during the match against FRAM. Varazdin was easy to play against and it did not seem like their players were putting too much efforts. Our guys started to follow this path too and the quality dropped to average. We won the first two sets 25-23 and 25-21, as well as the following set 25-8. All our players got to see some court and the concentration level seem to go down. Varazdin won the next 2 sets 29-27 and 25-21. 

We left a bit frustrated from this experience. At least we got to work on a lot of playing situations during the first two sets. Tomorrow, Sunday, will be a day off. The guys will go to the spa in the afternoon and will realize that the european culture is way more open than ours in these places!! Well, you can guess! Hopefully this rest will do us good, we'll see on Monday!

Vincent Pichette 


Thursday December 9th, 2010 
Men's Full Time Training Centre vs FRAM 
Written by: Vincent Pichette - assistant coach men's national team

Third day of competition.

Today started with another light training in the morning: stretching, abdominal and shoulders stabilization with Nicolas, and 30 minutes in the gym. Some little injuries are coming back, we train on a concrete floor in the morning and it is a bit colder than what we are use too. But our physio Jérémie takes good care of the players.

We will play our third match against FRAM, a young team (18 years old average), and presently ranked 6th at the Slovenian championship. Four of their athletes are also playing for the Slovenian junior national team and even though they are smaller, their abilities are impressive. Our guys seemed to loose concentration during warm up and under-estimated the opponent. And as you can guess, this turned out to be a big mistake!

This was our worse performance of the tour so far. 43 direct errors in 4 sets, including 19 serving errors. The athletes that did not play as much last night had the chance tonight to really work, but they missed this opportunity. Our middles still had problems reading the plays. The match ended 2-2

(25-21 ; 20-25; 21-25 ; 25-23). The guys went back to their old habits and started missing their serves and giving points, habits are hard to change!

Click here for the plus/minus stats.

We will take the day off tomorrow. Rest in the morning and the afternoon free. The guys will take the time to make some of their Christmas shopping done! Our next match will be Saturday afternoon, against Varazdin (pronounced Varajdin), Croatian champion.

Have a good weekend!

Vincent Pichette

Wednesday December 8th, 2010 
Full time Training Centre vs MURSKA SOBODA
Written by: Vincent Pichette - assistant coach men's national team
Second day of competition
After a light 1 hour training this morning (gym and weight room), we were getting ready for our first exhibition match against MURSKA Soboda. The last few days, we kept working on the physical aspects to maintain our good condition and prevent injuries. The work volume has been reduce for athletes to keep a good energy level. 

We left for Murska in a mini-van and arrived to destination after a 40 minutes drive. We followed our guide Alès to the gym. When we got there, the club contacts were doing the set-up of the court and the guys realized the game was going to take place in a more official setting so they started getting a bit more anxious!
Murska is presently ranked 3rd in the slovenian championship and can rely on more physical and experimented players than the team we played against yesterday. We won the first set 25-21, making only a few direct errors but mostly because we were really solid in passing their serves. Murska started putting more pressure on the serves at the beginning of the second set and we started making more direct errors. They adjusted to our team and started using more their middle players. During the whole match, we had difficulties managing they middle hitters, who are less physical than us but quicker. The guys lost their concentration and seemed to forget the game plan so Murska won the 2nd and 3rd sets 25-18 and 25-22.

We had to remind the guys of the basic of our playing system and made a few substitutions. Murksa started with a lead on the 4th set but we were able to come back and win 25-22. The same scenario repeats itself in the 5th set, but we finally won 15-13. It is a victory but the players knew as soon as the game was done that the overall performance was average. Gord Perrin was the best scorer with 19 kills, 1 block, 3 aces, 6 direct errors, with an average of 2,93/4 on serve receive.

Click here for the plus/minus stats!

Tonight, we will talk about the first contact and the efficiency of serve receive. We will work tomorrow on the bloc-defense system, which the players had some trouble with tonight. 

Next match, tomorrow night at 8pm against FRAN.

Jutri! (pronounced yutri, which means ''see you tomorrow!'')
Vincent Pichette


December 7th, 2010
Full time training centre athletes in Slovenia
Written by: Vincent Pichette - assistant coach men's national team

We arrived in Maribor, Slovenia, after a long trip that went overall pretty well, except for our libero Benoit Raymond who arrived in Slovenia a day after us and had to wait three hours at the airport because his ride woke up late. Maribor is the 2nd most important city in Slovenia and is located completely East of the country, so about 1h30 drive from Ljubljana, the capital city.

We will be ''based'' in Maribor for the total length of our trip, and will play most of our matches there. We are staying at the DRAS hotel, located at the bottom of a skiing hill.  We can even train there in the morning because the sport centre is attached to this hotel. Many sport teams and clubs of different ages come here to train or practice their sport (badminton, soccer, gymnastic, volleyball).
This new sport centre and hotel belong to the family of our host, Mitja Framski, who is also our trip ''coordinator'' here. Mijta is also the director of the slovenian volleyball federation and coaches the women local volleyball team in Maribor. The site is very nice and we have been very well received so far.
We arrived on December 4th, and took the day to get used to the time difference. Yesterday morning, we trained both in the weight room, under the supervision of Nicolas Roy, our strength and conditioning coach who traveled with us for the first time (also his first time over the Atlantic ocean!). He does not seem too jet lagged, except yesterday morning where he woke up late and almost missed breakfast! We had a second training in the afternoon at the sport centre in Maribor, where the handball and volleyball professional teams are also training. 
The goal of the tour in Slovenia is to give our group the chance to play matches at a professional level and to expose them to this environment, as well as to get them known in Europe. We then hope that they would continue their progression and eventually get a pro contract and begin their carrier. Our group includes seven of the nine players currently training with the full time training centre (FTC), Steve Brinkman (knee) and Mike Derocco (shoulder) stayed home to heel their injuries. Here are the other players traveling in Slovenia:
Olivier Faucher (setter); Justin Duff (middle), Gord Perrin (left side), Jason DeRocco (left side), John Galloway (left side), Andrew Town (left side) and Mathieu McLaughlin (right side). Benoit Raymond (libero) and Nathan Groenveld joined the group to complete our roster. Jérémie Breau, physio for the Junior team this summer, is also with us. It is also his first time traveling with the team, but this trip will prepare him for the Junior World Championship, taking place in Brazil next summer. 
We played our first match tonight against the Maribor team, playing in the first division in Slovenia. This team is now ranked 8 out of the 12 teams in this championship, including ACH Volley Bled, the team that Glenn Hoag coached the last two years (Dan Lewis and Adam Simac are playing there this year). We will have the chance to see ACH Volley Bled play next Tuesday at Ljubljana, in a Champion league game against Olympiakos (Athens), in their new 12 000 seats stadium.
We did some 6x6 scrimmage which gave the chance to all our athletes to play. Maribor is a young team, less physical then us. Dragutin Baltic is their new coach, him too being an ex-coach of ACH Volley Bled (2006-07). Baltic used to coach the Belgorod team, who competed in the russian first division league and is one of the best team of this high end league. Glenn and him played against each other on the final european match back in the days where Glenn was coaching Paris Volley. If I understood correctly M. Baltic, who speaks slovenian, russian and german but was quite hard to understand in english, Blegorod won the match 3-1. I guess I'll have to confirm with Glenn tomorrow!
Our first experience tonight went well overall. We did not have the chance to do a lot of 6x6 with the middle players, with 9 athletes including 2 injuries. But the guys are reacting well and are showing great enthusiasm so far. The level should increase from match to match, and we will play against really good teams for the rest of the tour, including Murska tomorrow night. Murska is located at about 40 minutes from our hotel and the team is ranked 3rd in the slovenian championship.

Vincent Pichette

Full time training centre athletes in Slovenia
December 4th-5th-6th
Written by: Olivier Faucher and Benoit Raymond - athletes

We arrived in Maribor, Slovenia, in the middle of the afternoon on Saturday. We took the rest of the day to rest from our long traveling day. The next morning, we started the day with a weight session with our strength and conditioning coach, who traveled with us for the first time. This session was meant for us to get use to this new time difference. Benoit Raymond, our libero for the tour, was supposed to arrive for lunch on Sunday. Unfortunately for Benoit, the driver forgot to go get him at the airport! He had to wait almost 4 hours before finally making his way towards our hotel. During this time, the rest of the group climbed up the skiing mountain and took a coffee on top. Taking some fresh air and relaxing was still the plan before starting training in the gym again. 

Monday was our first volleyball day of the tour. We had a small training in the morning, followed by a rest session (sauna + cold bath) and a team training in the evening. The group seemed to be well energized during the training, even though some of the players still had trouble sleeping at night.
December 7th
Today, we had a typical competition day. A morning training including mostly serve-receive and a match/training in the evening. Between all that... we ate. Between 12:30pm and 4pm, we were treated to a full dinner and a snack, which turned out to be pizza. It is really good food but sometimes, the timing make us eat a lot in a small period.

We played/trained against a slovenian team from the area in the evening. For about 90 minutes, we did some ''wash'' (scrimmage) without really stopping, which made the drill really intense for everyone. We touched a lot of balls during these 90 minutes but everyone was still left with the desire to play a real match. We did not know before leaving that we would not always play matches during the tour, and of course all the players would like to challenge themselves during real match situations. But we still have a lot of matches/training to come, so we will for sure have the chance to challenge ourselves!

Olivier Faucher and Benoit Raymond