Interview with Sebastian Beck about the Swiss National Federation Program

Sebastian Beck is working as Headcoach Women for SWISS volley, aiming at winning medals in international competitions with his national beachvolleyball program. In this interview he talks about the SWISS beachvolleyball program.

Let’s start with some general questions: Can you quickly describe the structure of the NFs project that you are working in at the moment (number of teams, number of coaches, form of organization etc)?

The National Performance Center of Beachvolleyball is located in Berne, beside the Headquarter of our Federation. 6 courts outdoor, 3 courts indoors. That`s the place where the best athletes train together. Since 2019 we also run a new facility only for junior development. Allover 17 female athletes and 12 male athletes. 7 fulltime coaches. Male and female program are splitted with 1 Headcoach per gender to lead the project.

What are the advantages of a big NF system which includes several teams and coaches hired and paid by the NF? What are the risks or limitations of such a system?

By choosing his staff, a federation takes it`s advantage to control the quality, standard and the roadmap of players development. It enables the athletes to take profit out of a fulltime coached program and It creates financial security to coaches and a certain financial independence from the athletes you work with.

Indeed the athletes have to adapt to a systems philosophy and aren`t able to choose the staff, which fits them (personal preference) the most. The staff is primarily committed to a “federational benefit”- this could lead to conflicting objectives.

Is it even possible to speak of an “ideal” system or does it depend too much on the circumstances and maybe as well on the perspective: ideal system for the player? Ideal system for the coach(es), ideal system for the NF? Ideal system for the performance of a team? Ideal system for the performance of a country?? Your thoughts!

Nothing to add – it highly depends on the circumstances, as well as on the prospects

One big question/issue is obviously the nomination/selection of players and teams: who should be part of the NF program? Who will play in which tournaments? The two extremes here are “all decision power to NF/coaches” on the one and “ranking points” on the other hand: what are your thoughts on this? What is the “right” solution?

I guess that every national project has a vision and broken down goals. Accordingly, the athletes who are most likely to achieve the goals must be included in the system. This applies above all to the next generation – the development programs, but also to membership of a national program at the elite level. I find it important to distinguish between belonging to a system or the right to play. Membership of a system is the responsibility of the system. The right to play is a general right and should be regulated by sport and in a sporting dispute.

Let’s have a closer look at the coaches and the coaching in such a NF system: To which degree can these coaches work together or even be a “team”? What is necessary for such a collaboration? Do all coaches need to have the same philosophy? Do you need a “leader” who makes the big and final calls?

Everything is possible – as long as there is a common goal and certain shared values are lived. For me Teamwork creates added value, but also requires a certain effort. Differences are enriching not only in everyday life – as long as individuals are willing to learn and meet each other at eye level and are open-minded and able to communicate. Whether this team is led or is leading itself – communication is key.

For each coach as an individual, what are the pros and cons of working in a NF system? Which coach personality is fitting better in a NF system, which is suited better for a “private” team project? Does it maybe also depend on the phase of their career they are currently in?

I cannot give a general answer to this question, because it is simply very individual and character-dependent. In my opinion, there is also a great dependence on the leaders and their style of leadership. In my opinion a good project opens the chance to learn a lot. But it also restricts your freedom a little bit. The same goes for the staff of a single team, sometimes it carries you and sometimes it is too slow. I really cannot give a general answer. But I am quite sure that there are phases in life where one or the other is better or makes you richer by one experience.

Are “common/shared philosophy” of playing and coaching on the one hand and “individualization” (which is usually considered an important success factor in high-performance sport) on the other hand compatible? Or is this a common dilemma for any NF project? What can be done to solve this?

This may be the case in junior and development projects. However, the higher the level, the more individual solutions are required. No coaching can actually resist this need. The task as an association is to provide the necessary resources for individual coaching. In addition, it requires acceptance that athletes also make use of external help to reach their goals.

Further reading:

You might want to read this interview with Spiros Karachalios, to compare the SWISS system to the polish system: https://ibvca.net/2020/the-polish-beachvolleyball-system-interview-with-spiros-karachalios/