Q&A with Rico Guimaraes

Jason Olive
Rico Guimaraes

In a sport with larger than life personalities, Brazilian born Rico Guimaraes has always ranked with the best of them. As a standout at the University of Hawai’i, Guimaraes was always willing to share his passion for the sport—and a piece of his mind—with coaches and teammates, whether they wanted it or not. (Let’s not even talk about opposing teams.) Now, as one of the country’s few European Level 3 accredited coaches, Guimaraes shares what the ride has been like and what being on the other side means to him.

JO: You have had a pretty full playing experience.

RG: I have. I started playing volleyball in Brazil at the age of eight. By the time I was 15 I was already playing for the school as well as on the club level. I arrived in California with my mother and sister when I was 17 years old. After a year at Hoover High in Glendale I went to play at L.A Pierce College in Woodland Hills, Calif. During my freshmen year we won the state championship and we were the runner-up the following year (1988-89). I received First Team All Conference honors during my two years at the JC level. In 1989 I was recruited by the University of Hawaii at Manoa. I redshirted my first year and I played from 1991-92. From then on I went to the beach and played at the AVP and the CBV (Brazilian Volleyball Confederation) from ’93 until ’97. At the beginning of 1998 I was invited to go to the Netherlands to play indoor for a team in the south of the country. At Brevok I played side by side with great U.S. men’s national team opposite Brent Hilliard. Soon after, I was coaching professionally in Italy, Spain and later back at the Netherlands.

JO: What is the biggest difference between VB in Brazil and VB in the U.S.? What about Europe?

RG: The biggest differences are:
1. A one method system. In Brazil there is a structured way to coach. I call it ‘schooling,’ which is basically the method of coaching the fundamentals, conducting practice and play with drawn-up strategies. These uniform methods were developed by the CBV, a government run entity, during the explosion of the sport in the early 80s, due to the popularity of the men’s and women’s national teams.
2. Heavy government involvement. Since the explosion of volleyball, CBV has made considerable efforts to better the sport by introducing incentives for athletes and coaches, building new gyms, hiring experts and injecting cash into the youth programs. Today volleyball is the second biggest sport in Brazil behind soccer, and there are obvious reasons for that. Internationally I predict that Brazil will continue to develop and be a threat to the rest of the world—both men and women—and not only at the top level but also at all the youth programs as well. The European volleyball federations are also more developed than in the U.S. for various reasons, such as, most of the countries in Europe have a well established professional national league. They have a well developed history of all segments of the sport. From coach’s accreditation levels, youth programs to diversified competitions through the nations. After going through the seven-year process myself, I feel the fact that there is no real accreditation process for coaches in America is a huge setback. It is a testament to the American athlete that the teams succeed on a national level. But I think what you see is a lot of inconsistency tournament to tournament, Olympics to Olympics. It’s truly amazing to me that even though the U.S. national feeding system is much different than all other countries in that the players all originate from the universities instead of professional club teams, it still works pretty good. You notice however that it usually takes a longer commitment for the U.S. Team to gel.

JO: Favorite coach of all-time and why?
RG: I was lucky to have been through this sport with the principals of coach Marv Dunphy and Ken Stanley during my time at Pierce College and Tony Crabb while at UH. Later I studied many different European coaches as well as Bernardinho’s philosophies. I am a big fan of how he delegates to his staff responsibility, even for his actions, but for me the most impressive of all have been the philosophies and concepts of Avital Selinger. The son of the great Ari Selinger, three time Olympic medalist twice for the U.S. women’s national team in 1975 – 1984 and once for the Netherland men.

After playing under his dad in 1992 and winning a silver medal for the Netherlands, Avital took his time, went back to help his dad as his assistant in Japan for seven years before heading his own team and finally defeating his own dad at the Japanese League. Soon after, he was back in Europe coaching a club team in Spain before heading the women’s national Dutch team in 2005. I was fortunate to serve under him both at the club level as well as in the international arena. His vision of the game extends far beyond the volleyball court. This meticulous man thinks, eats and breathes volleyball. His methods of training are a mix of correct repetitions, while increasing the speed of performance under a constant rhythm. It’s genius. My coaching has been changed forever.

JO: Okay here we go. Ready mister accreditation?

RG: Ready?

JO: I got about 10,000 club coaches reading that need to side outright now. Script me three plays by rotation.

RG: Let’s do it. I’ll give you rotations 1, 3 and 5.

I am sharing coaching diagrams about women’s volleyball at the highest club level in Europe, say the A1 in Italy. A 5-1 run offense with usually not less than four attackers at any given time. There are many different strategies and concepts when dealing with the pros or amateur, men or women even as boys and girls, and it’s easy to see why. Not only as the higher the ranks the more tricky it gets, but also because men and women do have different tendencies and they have to be dealt with differently. An example is illustrated below.

Let’s suppose that our team is on serve/receive formation on our first rotation.

The numbers below represent the following:

11 Setter (On area 1)
12 Outside Hitter (OH 1) (on area 2)
13 Middle Blocker (MB2) (on area 3)
14 Opposite (on area 4)
15 OH 2 (on area 5)
16 MB1 (on area 6)

Also that the MB’s automatically switch with the Libero ‘L’

First Rotation

Concept: Have at least four different attacking options.

Application: Make sure each player understands their responsibilities as to receiving and attacking. Here the setter is leaving from area 1. There are different ways to approach this: here you have the Opposite swinging outside. The MB2 can come at a slide, front or back one, and the OH1 will attack from area two or maybe bring her around for an X or fake X. The OH2 (#15) can hit a pipe or x2 pipe.

Third Rotation

Concept: Spread the hitters wide

Application: Run different combinations with the MB’s, OP and OH 1; here we can use the X with the Op or Lob with the OH, also run a shoot with the middle and bring the OH (15) to the middle (Lob). In this rotation the setter is still on area 5 and MB1 is pushing to the net. Using the OH1 (#15) as one of the main options the setter can choose to bring him fast outside, normal or bring him around for the lob in the middle of the court to attack the seam. The MB1 also has many options of attack and the opposite can also be used in the mix, coming around for the X’s.

Fifth Rotation

Concept: Here the setter is in the perfect location to run the offense, as well as serve as an attacker.

Application: MB (16) will run a Back one, a D ball with the OP, high ball OH and a quick Pipe with the other OH (15) In this rotation the setter is still on area 5 and MB1 is pushing to the net. Using the OH1 (#15) as one of the main options the setter can choose to bring him fast outside, normal or bring him around for the lob in the middle of the court to attack the seam. The MB1 also has many options of attack and the opposite can also be used in the mix, coming around for the X’s.)

Note: This is one of Brazil’s favorite attacks to run with Giba.

Originally published in February 2011

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