Joel Banks: The Brit leading Finland at European Champs
20th September 2019
Tomorrow night will see a huge quarter final in the men’s EuroVolley Championships – and an important part of history for English volleyball.
Fans will be able to watch Finland vs. France live on EuroVolley TV and will be able to spot Joel Banks – the English head coach of the Finnish national team.
A former England setter has long been blazing a trail in professional volleyball and continues to reach new heights as he is believed to be the first Englishman to coach at European Championship level. Banks reflected about just what it means to him, when he spoke to fellow Englishman CEV’s Communication Coordinator Matt Rogers:
“It is something I am asked more and more over the years since I started coaching in the Champions League and now with Finland, that question of being the first Englishman to coach at certain levels comes up from time to time – it is not something I am very busy with, but it is something that I am very proud of,” says Joel. “Being a Brit, an Englishman, working in professional volleyball and being the coach of a foreign national team is something I am incredibly proud of.
Banks has enjoyed a very successful coaching career, having been part of the Great Britain coach team at London 2012 and delivering success in European club professional volleyball. In 2012, he landed the Dutch national title with Langhenkel Volley Orion and leading NOLIKO Maaseik to the Belgian title in 2018 and into the Champions League.
A multi-linguist, there is rarely a language barrier with his players and fortunately, he can lead Finland in his native tongue.
“To learn Finnish would take me a long time,” explains Banks. “I am very fortunate that the boys are very patient and have a great grasp of English. The first words in any language are the swear words, right, so you pick up the occasional naughty word! It is a very complicated language so I try to keep it quite clear and to the point in English.”
His Finnish side will take on a heavyweight of volleyball in France and the atmosphere should be electric as the French will be backed by a partisan home crowd. Banks says his side will be focused on themselves as they aim to rise to the occasion.
“I think it is important that we continue to take the momentum we have taken out of the pool, irrespective of the results which were up and down in terms of wins and losses,” says Banks. “The actual quality of our play has improved in the three games. Every time we played a game we played better, which is really exciting.
“As the summers gone on, I know my players better and better and the Finnish mentality is one of grit and determination and we need that tomorrow night. We’re playing the host nation in there country and we’re looking forward to that challenge but I think our best policy is to put our focus on us.”
“The French are fantastic team, a beautiful blend of skill and power and feeling in volleyball,” Banks told the local media. “The way they play the game is really nice to watch and players from the CL in club volleyball so we know the quality of their side.
“For sure it is a step up in quality, but the Finnish team have the mentality to do their best against every opponent.”
British volleyball fans can watch the match on EuroVolley TV and whatever the result, be proud of a coach showing what is possible for Brits in professional volleyball.
Credit to CEV for the interview and pictures.