23rd September 2017
Richard Osborne will be one of the only Brits who will be backing another country at this year’s Invictus Games. His incredible coaching journey has seen him become the coach of the Georgian sitting volleyball team and he’ll be mentoring them at this year’s Games. While in Toronto, he’s writing an exclusive diary for Volleyball England to give a fascinating look at sitting volleyball at the Invictus Games. In his second piece, he gives the low down on Georgia’s sitting volleyball rivals before his training session is interrupted by a very special guest…
0420 – Ping! The sound of jet-lag. I am wide awake but managed to get about five hours of sleep before the body clock kicked in and so I put my time to good use by unpacking and getting organised for our first training session that takes place at 1330. After breakfast I head to the shuttle buses that are provided to escort teams to the respective venues. The sitting volleyball training is taking place at the Pan Am Sports Centre, which opened 3 years ago and hosted the 2015 Pan American Games. I arrive early in order to size up the other teams and assess who are going to be the main threats this week.
First up for training are the US and Denmark, followed closely by Jordan; a team I am particularly keen to watch as they are the Georgians first opponents on Tuesday. We played them last year in the quarter-finals and they played well considering they had only trained for three months prior to the Games. I had seen a recent video of them training and they looked better. Seeing them in person I realise these are going to be very tough opposition. They have excellent ball control, are well disciplined and organised, can hit, block and, most importantly in Sitting Volleyball, can move quickly.
Next is a team that has been entered at the last minute. It transpires the team from Romania could only field a couple of players and a call went out to the nations to canvass for more players. The call was answered, predominantly from Ukraine, so this multi-national team, calling itself ‘Unconquered’ will take part in the competition. It sums up perfectly what the games represent.
At 1330 the Georgians arrive and are straight on court. A few warm up practices focus on dynamic movement with ball control and I am able to take stock of the team. They are in impressive form, so we move onto some technical work. Their blocking is lovely, with some great movement and perfectly timed blocks that result in emphatic kills. Suddenly, there is a change in atmosphere in the sports hall and it soon becomes apparent why. HRH Prince Harry is observing from the sidelines. After, a few more practices he comes across to talk to the team. It is a lovely encounter as he clearly remembered the team’s heroic effort last year against the UK. In true Georgian style, the team unleashed a thundering team call, which HRH appreciated.
Back to business and training continues well. The UK team is close by waiting for their training slot and their coach, Charlie Walker, and I agree a friendly scrimmage would assist both teams. The Georgians win. In the words of Forrest Gump, “That’s all I want to say about that.”
That done, we head back to the hotel to rest before dinner. We do not train again until Monday. One more day to make final preparations before we venture into the next chapter in this amazing journey.
Check out Richard’s previous diary entries