“I’ve never felt that people with disabilities are different from people without disabilities.”
Lee Ji-hyun, a former unemployed volleyball player and head coach of the South Korean men’s sitting volleyball team, talks about the appeal of sitting volleyball and how his approach to the sport is no different from anyone else’s.
The Korean men’s sitting volleyball team, led by Lee, fell to China 0-3 (11-25 9-25 13-25) in the men’s sitting volleyball bronze medal match at the Hangzhou 2022 Para-Asian Games at the Linping Sports Center in Hangzhou, China on Sunday. It was a shutout loss for the Chinese in the qualifiers for the tournament, and they were unable to break through in the third place match.
In the semifinals, South Korea lost a shutout to Iran and then faced China in the bronze medal match, but were unable to make much of an impact and finished in fourth place.
Still, there are accomplishments. The men’s sitting volleyball team reached the semifinals for the first time in 13 years since Guangzhou 2010. Lee has been at the helm of the national team since April, and the results have come in just six months. “Even though I am a first-time coach, the experienced players help me fill in my gaps. I also try to help the players do well, and it’s working well,” he said.
In fact, Lee is a former unemployed volleyball player. She played as an outside hitter for unemployed teams Midopa Volleyball and Hyosung Women’s Volleyball. A knee injury left her with a level 5 lower extremity disability, and she retired from the sport at the tender age of 24.
After coaching in elementary, middle, and high school, she returned to the sport of sitting volleyball. For about three years, she coached para-athletes and played sitting volleyball. She even won a gold medal at the National Games. In 2018, he became the official head coach of Chungnam Para Sitting Volleyball, and in April, he took the helm of the men’s national sitting volleyball team.
“I was hesitant at first, but I realized that I could do a lot of things in this direction. I felt that the heart of volleyball is the same for people with disabilities and people without disabilities, so I think I fell in love with sitting volleyball even more.”
As a former volleyball player herself, she also pays attention to other aspects of the sport beyond the technical. “I try to pay a lot of attention to the psychological part and mental care. I also try to put players in positions that they haven’t played before, so that I can utilize their strengths more.”토스카지노
The average age of the men’s national sitting volleyball team is 45. There is an urgent need for generational change, but the structure makes it difficult. There is only one unemployed sitting volleyball team in Korea. It’s an environment that doesn’t allow for a smooth transition of players. Coach Lee nodded and said, “Other countries have four or five unemployment teams. Korea has only one unemployed team, and there is no smooth supply and demand for players. It’s more like a club sport,” he said.
“We trained together for about 30 days before competing at the 2023 Asia Oceania Zone Championships in Astana, Kazakhstan in July. For the Asian Games, we trained together for about a month. It’s true that we didn’t train enough. We need to develop younger players through systematic support so that we can change the generation. It’s time to think about how to build a one-man team, not just for the short term, but for the next two to three years.”