Buenos Aires, Argentina, April 9, 2020 – Just a few weeks ago, Marcelo Mendez expected to be starting preparations for his second season at the helm of Argentina’s men’s national team, one that would include the Tokyo Olympics and the FIVB Volleyball Nations League. The coronavirus pandemic changed his plans, but the coach is looking to the future.
With both tournaments postponed, Mendez is not in direct contact with the players as he expected, but his volleyball mind keeps running at full pace.
“Since we’re not directly involved with training right now, I’m trying to take this time to reevaluate our goals and plan our future,” the veteran coach said in a live chat streamed by the Argentinean Federation’s Instagram account. “Our most important goal at the beginning of the cycle was to qualify for the Olympics and we did it in great fashion defeating strong teams like Canada and China. It’s hard to sustain good results for a long time at the international level, but I think we’re on a good path because the players believe in what we’re doing and they have reached a level of maturity that allows them to make the right choices in important moments.”
Argentina qualified for its eighth Olympic appearance – and third-straight – last August in what was the highlight of a positive season for the South Americans, one that saw the team secure their best-ever finishes at both the VNL (7th) and the FIVB Volleyball World Cup (5th) and win their third gold medal at the Pan-American Games.
The Argentinians were aiming to arrive in Tokyo this summer in top form and instead of taking the postponement as a hurdle they’ve decided to approach it positively and make sure they will do everything they can to bring their best game to the Olympics in the Japanese summer of 2021.
“We’re trying to take this situation as an opportunity for us to get even stronger at the Olympics,” Mendez added. “All of our players were in great form and were excited to compete, but the change impacted every other team, so there’s no reason for us to feel bad or anything. Our players will have another season to develop at their clubs and the coaching staff will be able to observe more players and to continue looking for answers to some of the questions we have regarding the roster.”
According to Mendez, the 2019 season was one of those every coach dreams about, when a team accomplishes satisfying results on the court, but also gets to see the development of its promising young players.
At the World Cup, with 22-year-old Agustin Loser as captain and most of the team’s stars out, including setter Luciano De Cecco and outside hitter Facundo Conte, the Argentineans secured important victories against some of the top-ranked teams in the world, like the United States, Canada and Russia.
“Another thing we were looking for in 2019 was to expand our player pool and I’m very pleased with the results we had,” the Argentinean explained. “We used 30 players during the year and each of them gave everything they had. I was positively surprised by several of them. We never repeated a lineup during the VNL and finished fifth at the World Cup and won the Pan-American Games with very young rosters. These results give us the confidence that we have quite a few players capable of competing at the high level.”
To continually keep feeding this system is a priority for Mendez and the Argentinean, a three-time winner of the FIVB Men’s Club World Championship with Brazil’s Sada Cruzeiro Volei, has a few ideas about how he thinks it could be done.
“We need to determine what we want to do going forward and I believe we need to think big,” the coach analysed. “The national team is in a very good position right now, but I think there are things we can do regarding our national league and our youth teams. We’ve just started a massive scouting project for our youth teams as we’re looking for young, talented players everywhere in the country and I’m confident that will make Argentina strong for the long term.”
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