Volleyball Olympic Qualifying Tournament - News

OQT Article SANTARELLI

Coaching wizard Daniele Santarelli first worked his magic at the club level, steering Imoco Conegliano to two world titles in 2019 and 2022.

He then moved to coaching the women’s national team of Croatia, whom he developed to make its resurgence in the new millennium before passing the baton to Turkish coach Ferhat Akbas in 2022. Croatia eventually earned its promotion to the 2023 Volleyball Nations League through the 2022 Volleyball Challenger Cup, gaining ground form the mentorship of two coaching geniuses.

Santarelli took over as coach of Serbia in 2022 with the task of directing the team to repeat its title-winning achievement at the World Championship in Apeldoorn, the Netherlands. And he orchestrated it beautifully and magically with the help of superstar Tijana Boskovic, who also won back-to-back MVP honors for her spectacular performance.

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This year, he continued his spellbinding run of form as he led them to their first VNL title. That feat simply described how good of a coach he is, but he does not want to claim the credit as he believes that a speck of destiny, a sprinkle of luck and a ton of work and motivation carried this success for his new team.

“Am I a good coach? I don’t know if I’m a good coach. I’m a worker and I think what happened now in my career is luck because I am coaching an amazing team. I was lucky I was the coach of Serbia. We had an amazing summer together. And now I am the coach of Türkiye – a team with great experience and a lot of motivation. A team that has players who want to show they can be the best in the world, and I have a lot of honor coaching this kind of players,” Santarelli said.

“I didn’t show anything about me, I just needed to work a lot, just do my job. I needed to do my best for the players, for the federation and for the sport.”

That leap of faith seemed a bold move on his part, coming from a world champion team to another team, but for him it is just following a vision or a coach’s calling.

“To change national teams between Serbia and Türkiye was strange. Everyone thought that the decision was crazy. This is another important challenge in my career,” he stated.

“The first day that I arrived and met with this national team and its players, I understood immediately that they wanted to show something more than what they have shown in the past. They’ve shown a lot, but the past summer was not so good for them.

“I arrived with my idea of volleyball and my energy. I hope we can create a good mix. It’s not always simple. It’s been an amazing experience for me so far, the summer is tough, and the competition is tough, but I am happy to accept the challenge. I would like to have this experience with my players and with the federation and so far, this has been a good decision.”

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Coaching Türkiye for him is a challenge of selecting, piecing together talented players to form a great team.

“I have amazing players playing in amazing club teams, particularly in Türkiye. For me, this is an incredible montage to coach these players because they have a lot of experience. They don’t think to be queens because they have already won a lot in their own careers. However, they want to continue to win and show it,” the Italian mentor mentioned

“They immediately accepted my idea of volleyball and listened to what I had to say. This is ideal for any coach to immediately adapt to what I want. This is one good base to create a good feeling.”

He commended the leadership of Eda Erdem and the energy of Ebrar Karakurt. He is so far enjoying the privilege of coaching players of that caliber.

“Eda is an amazing captain. She is a leader in this team. I’ve never seen any player – a middle blocker – to lead a team like she does. I’ve seen her play in the past and I always admired her. She’s a great person and amazing player,” he said.

“I’ve heard a lot about Ebrar and I was curious to work with her. She’s full of energy. And against Brazil, she showed us what she can do. She already did a lot for this national team, but she’s young and can still show something more. It’s fun to be the coach of a player like her.

For him, the addition of Melissa Vargas to the lineup was the icing on the cake. Having a versatile player like her completed his montage of a great team in no time.

“I met Vargas once in the club. She was the opposite of Fenerbahce and I remember her well because she destroyed me, with Conegliano. She’s a funny girl, so positive and full of talent. She can play opposite or outside hitter. She can pass, defend, serve, and attack for me. I’m so lucky that in my career as coach, I’ve had so many important players. She is like the candy on the cake for me. I’m so happy that Meli is with us.”

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Santarelli will continue his journey with the team in Tokyo for the Volleyball Olympic Qualifying Tournament. The European squad will play in Pool B and will face hosts Japan, Brazil, Belgium, Bulgaria, Puerto Rico, Argentina and Peru from September 16 to 24.

“Our next goal for sure is the Olympic qualification. The Olympics is a dream for any player or coach. Paris is a dream for me, and I hope that we have a great chance. There are a lot of important teams like Brazil and Japan,” he mentioned.

“We will play Japan and we know that it is not simple to play versus Japan in Japan because they never give up and always fight. It will be fantastic to play them in front of their supporters. It will be a very tough match against them.”

The Italian coach is using a level-headed approach for the Olympic Qualifier, just taking it one step at a time.

“We need to play our best volleyball if we are to take this Olympic qualification. It will just realize just the first part of the dream. Every four years there are a lot of teams that want to catch this dream and only a few are able to realize it, and even fewer teams that get a medal. I want my feet to stay on the floor and think of each stage step by step, and then we will see.”

VBTV Originals presents CLOSER TO PARIS, featuring coach Daniele Santarelli as the sixth in the slate of exclusive features of the world’s best stars sharing their thoughts and dreams on the road to qualification for the Paris Olympics.