Back in 2015 I spent a weekend in Berlin attending the Final 4 for the men’s CEV Champions League. The event was hosted by Berlin Recycling Volleys, which was coached by my friend Mark Lebedew. He is author of the At Home on the Court blog. The other three teams involved were Zenit Kazan from Russia, PGE Skra Belchatow, and Asseco Resovia Rzeszow – the latter two from Poland. Berlin put up a good fight, but lost 3-1 to the Russian side in the first semifinal. Rzeszow then won the second semi 3-0. Berlin won a tight 3-2 battle of the losing teams to win the bronze medal. Kazan retained their championship by a 3-0 score line.
The atmosphere in the place was fantastic – helped by the home team’s performance, of course. Max Schmelling Halle was at capacity, setting an attendance record. Here’s a clip I posted on showing the end of the set Berlin won against Kazan.
Berlin’s bronze was their best ever Champions League finish. It was great to see a friend have that kind of success. [Note: In 2017 Berlin reached the Final 4 for the first time without being host. They only took 4th, though.]
During that weekend I got to spend a fair amount of time talking about coaching with Alexis Lebedew. He’s Mark’s brother, who authors the Coaches Corner blog and worked with Mark and their father to publish the Platonov coaching book. He and I literally spent just about 4 hours talking in the gym on that Friday afternoon while Kazan and Berlin were doing their final training sessions.
I also got to spend time with Ruben Wolochin from TV Bühl, along with his assistant Santiago. That is one of the German professional teams I visited back in August 2014. We talked about how things went with the team this season and what the future might bring for them. Of course we also talked about the play going on as I sat with him during the non-Berlin matches.
There were a few hiccups along the way, but all in all it a very good experience. I would highly recommend attending that sort of event to any volleyball coach. If nothing else, as I’ve said before, analyzing the play of top competitors will show you that just because they are bigger, faster, stronger, etc. it doesn’t mean they don’t make the same mistakes our players make.
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