Interview with Bertrand Olie

In this interview, we talk to Bertrand Olie about the transition from coaching in France to coaching England. The similarities, differences, other international influences, useful tips and also generally finding out a bit more about the head coach of the National Academy in Loughborough.

The Facts

Number of years coaching: 23 years
Current Club/Team: Black Country Girls/National Academy in Loughborough
Favourite Drill: 3v3 game with 2 antennae splitting the court into 3 (Shown below).

  • The blocker takes the line hit away and defence adjust around it
  • Once the ball is defended, the blocker becomes the setter and the hitter creates an approach to hit.
  • This continues until it is broken down, then players rotate.
  • If the person outside makes the defence, then the blocker has to make himself available to hit, by backing off and creating space

Enlarged image can be found here

Coaching Digram

Favourite Player: Vladimir Nikolov, Bulgarian national team opposite player, currently playing for Lyon. He is great in his position and his all round game is fantastic, with a strong serve and a good defensive mindset. Another this is that he is efficient with his movement and can compete with the best in the world in his age of 35.

Your coaching philosophy: I like players to dictate rhythm of practice and games, so that they practice their own decision making and develop mentally. That’s why I like the 3v3 practise because there is lots of ball contact and decision making involved.

The Interview..

How did you start your coaching career in England? 
It was entirely by accident. I was coming to the end of my coaching contract in France, so I was after a new challenge.  I was following a player in England who I used to coach in France and on the Volleyball England website and I stumbled across the job vacancies page. After some volunteer work in England I decided to apply for a full time job and I have been there since 2006. It was all by chance, if I didn’t follow my friends results I would never be in England!

How is coaching different in France to what you have experienced here? I Do the attitudes of players differ?
In France everything is mainly based around on games based practice.  It allows players to be much more comfortable during games and also consequently better at reading the game. This style originally came from Brazil and has been adopted across all coach education in France. 
The focus is therefore to develop technically through game play, so every practice has an element of play under a match environment. This allows the player to practice their decision making and adjust their skills to the needs of the game. 
One thing that is also different, is that the team debrief does not usually happen immediately after the match. Personally I think it is difficult to be objective and think of a rational debrief, when the emotions are still high 5 minutes before the game. This would therefore usually happen in the next training session when the players are in the right state of mind to listen to feedback.

Are there any key differences in training and the drills coaches use here to coaches in France?
I see a lot of coaches here using practices where the players have to queue to either hit, volley, dig... Don’t get me wrong, I did that when I started coaching, but I learnt that it’s not a good way of coaching and exposing the players to having lots of ball contact. 
In France, I haven’t seen this kind of practise for a very long time. One of the good things however in England, which they don’t do as much of in France, is a lot of practises on footwork and body weight. I believe this is because of contact time. In France, footwork is developed through a lot of games practise, however in England as you have less contact time with the players, you have to include this in training and cannot rely on players learning this themselves over time.

Is there any other country that you gained influence from in style of play with our teams or coaching itself?
I worked with a few Italian coaches and I believe they have a very different approach. They’re very repetitive and demanding success before advancing further. If they wanted to achieve Point A in a practise they would not finish the practise until it was achieved. Technically everything has to be perfect and this provides structured and disciplined training for players, which translates to games. This contradicts the Brazilian style, but as a coach it is great to know both as sometimes this is what they players may need. Personally, this allows me to remain more adaptable to different situations.

How do you try and better your coaching? Resources, websites, workshops courses…
I mainly research the FIVB website and I read the technical reviews from competitions…

What advice would have for any upcoming coaches in England and those coming over from other countries?
It’s not so much what coaches do – it’s why they do it. Coaches need reflect and underpin why they do certain things and make sure there is a thought process behind it. For foreign coaches moving to England, I have found that they struggle to adapt to the cultural differences in this country. Players’ social backgrounds are different and competition setup is different. So remain adaptable, keep yourself motivated and stay hungry to learn.

How would you advise a foreign coach to quickly adapt to the cultural difference in England?
Be open minded. Coaches are not right all of the time. I came here with some knowledge, but I am for sure a better coach now than I was 8 years ago. I came to England with lots of ideas, however I needed to adapt my ideas to suit the cultural differences in England. A lot of the game is in the mind, so as a coach it is not what you know, but it is how you get that knowledge to your players. Have time to self-reflect on your own performance.