Business, Olympic Edition From Olympian to Olympic Coach
By: Elvis Fatovic • 4 years ago •
I GREW UP IN DUBROVNIK, CROATIA, A SMALL TOWN OF AROUND 50,000 PEOPLE. WATER POLO IS A VERY BIG SPORT IN CROATIA AND I PLAYED FOR JUG AND MLADOST (RIVAL) TEAMS AS A LEFT OFFENSIVE PLAYER. WITH MLADOST WE WON ONE CROATIAN CHAMPIONSHIP AND CUP IN 1993. I THEN RETURNED TO JUG WHERE WE WON 5 CROATIAN CHAMPIONSHIPS AND 6 CROATIAN CUPS.
y first trip to Australia was in 2000 for the Sydney Olympic Games with the Croatian National Team. We only made it to the quarter finals but I liked the city and thought that if I ever moved, it would be to Australia. Then at the Athens Olympics in 2004, we were knocked out by Italy which was difficult for us. I finished my playing career in 2007 and became a coach in the JUG junior program that year. Coaching came around for me quite naturally. I had been captain of my team for 10 years and I was always part of the coaching team in some way.
The following year, 2008, I was offered the assistant coach position with the Croatian National Team and was assistant coach for the whole Olympic cycle leading up to London 2012. I worked with one of the world’s most successful coaches, Ratko Rudic for the London Olympics, who was an important coaching mentor for me. Ratko has won 4 Olympic gold medals with three different teams, a real feat, so it was an honour to be his assistant.
I then wanted a new challenge, so I took up the opportunity to become the Head Coach for the Australian men’s national water polo team, the Sharks. I hoped to bring some more aggression and competitiveness to the squad. Moving to Australia, I don’t think language was a problem but maybe you should ask someone else! When there is a lot of adrenalin, you do say things, but I think that everyone can understand generally. Our school system in Dubrovnik teaches everyone English, so I had a good understanding already.
Going into the Rio Olympics, we are working on creating a culture of attack and will try to improve some area of offence and defence with the team. I used the same coaching techniques for the World Cup and try to put the pressure on in the smaller competitions. If we can win these under pressure, then we will be better prepared for the pressure of the Olympics.
We recently returned from a training camp in the United States with their national team, and on the 21st June will be playing in the World League in China. There we will play against Serbia, Croatia, Italy and Greece. This will give us a good indication of how we are performing as a team and where we need to work more before Rio. The players are sacrificing a lot for us but as always, the most important thing is continued improvement.
Our strategy leading into the Olympics is to play absolutely every game better. We don’t want to concentrate on the last game but focus on the first game, which will be against Brazil. We know that in our group we have 5 games where everyone can beat everyone. There are about 9-10 teams that can win a medal this year. In the past there used to be 4 or 5 weaker teams, but now they are all very strong. Japan, which was a slower team, will punish you now if you give them the chance. It will make for a very exciting competition but I have no doubt that if we play our best game, that we can beat these teams.
The team is still not complete as one of our players is still playing in Hungary. Hopefully he will win the championship and then he will play the European champion league before he comes back to Australia. He will be in Perth on the 8th of June to join the team and we are very proud to have a player at that level to be able to compete for Australia. We know that the other European players will all finish at the same time, so we won’t be at too much of a disadvantage.
I really enjoy coaching in Australia and hope to continue my work here for many years. I like how Australian players are competitive but it can be hard to find teams to play against with Australia so far away from any other country. We have a training camp in Singapore prior to World League final where we will train with the Greek team.
Rio is going to be a very close competition. We already know who we will be playing against. In our group there are a lot of quality national teams with Brazil, Greece, Serbia, Hungary and Japan all in our group, and we probably won’t know who will get through until the quarter finals. It’s an exciting one to watch!
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