A person who is crazy about volleyball? If it means positively, I agree.”‘
Volleyball as a hobby, volleyball as a specialty, and only volleyball as an interest. This is the story of coach Tommy Tilikayinen (36) who brought Korean Air to the top in men’s volleyball. How did a young coach from Finland, the country of lakes, ice and Santas, lead the best team in Korea? We met at the Korean Air Gymnasium in Yongin, Gyeonggi-do and asked.
Korean Air’s last season was perfect. He won the cup competition, took first place in the regular league, and won the championship match with three consecutive victories. For the first time since its founding, it achieved the treble, and won the combined championship for three consecutive years. Coach Tilly Kainen expressed her feelings in Korean by saying “Thank you” after her match.
Coach Tillikainen, whom I meet inside the stadium, is a ‘funny person’. He rarely has private conversations with the players, and even gives rather stiff answers to questions from reporters. During the game, he enthusiastically gives instructions and gestures, but tries not to lose his cool. Coach Tillikainen himself said, “Yes. In the stadium, it becomes a ‘game mode’.”
His only hobby is running on the lake in front of the dorm. Director Tillikainen said, “It’s a complete time for me. I organize my thoughts and it’s good for my health. I get a lot of ideas while running, and I write notes on my phone.” He continued, “In Finland, every house has a sauna. If it were Finland, I would have used a sauna every day. In my spare time, I always spend time with my wife. I even went on a trip to Busan. My parents in Finland,
However, the look he met right after winning was quite different. He praised the players for their hard work with an excited face. He grabbed a bottle of soju, poured himself into his attendants, and clinked glasses. Director Tillikainen laughed, saying, “That’s closer to the real personality.” “Finland has a similar culture to Korea. It’s a little different, but (the way people get along lively) is similar.”
Tillikainen’s career is unique. He started his coaching career when he was 25. He won three straight titles with the Finnish Kokola Tigers. After that, he served as the head coach and manager of Wolf Dogs Nagoya Japan through Germany. He is still in his 30s, but he has already won 5 championships and 2 runners-up (league standards).
He had a brilliant career, but he also suffered pain. His skills were good enough that he was selected for the youth team, but when he was 18 he retired due to a back injury. Coach Tillikainen said, “I have been playing volleyball with my father since I was 6 years old in the backyard. My parents are physical education teachers, so I also played ice hockey and soccer, but volleyball was always my first choice. There was an offer to join a professional team, but my body couldn’t stand it, so I ended up signing it. I couldn’t do it, and it was sad. I was also serving in the military in Finland, but I was kicked out after two weeks because I was sick.”
Great was his prospect’s grief that his volleyball career ended before he even turned 20. Coach Tillikainen said, “I didn’t know what to do. I did a lot of things for three years. I worked at the club and met a lot of people. Then I returned to the volleyball world and tried to use the thoughts and energy I had as a player as a leader. . I came back a lot, and it’s a dark time, but it seems like I am now because of that time.”
Tillikainen was offered the position of manager of Korean Air two years ago. He said, “I came to Korea a few times while I was in Japan. I came for field training and also came for a short vacation with my wife. I had a friend who came to Korea as an exchange student, so I heard a lot about Korea. Spicy food, And the image of Koreans’ affection was strong.” He continued, “I thought I had to come unconditionally. I was interested in the Korean volleyball industry before that. I thought I could learn by giving my ideas.”
Korean Air has players older than coach Tillikainen. Captain Han, and the same age as Yoo Kwang-woo. The two are setters, field commanders on the court. It was strange that there was no difference in how they thought about volleyball, how 메이저사이트they trained, and how they looked at the team. I also had to adapt to the Korean culture that treats seniors preferentially.
Director Tillikainen said, “It wasn’t special, it wasn’t difficult.” He replied, “No matter which team I went to, there were players older than me. It just took me time to recognize and understand that Korea has a ‘older brother’ culture that values age.” In fact, over the course of two seasons, player Han and coach Tillikainen went out to find the best way, leading to a happy ending.
The most difficult task for foreign directors is, of course, communication. Director Tillikainen said, “This is the most difficult part of coming to Asia. I talk through an interpreter, but one-on-one conversation is difficult. With an interpreter, I don’t know exactly what vocabulary or words to use. Sometimes, in an urgent situation, I made mistakes.”
I also have my own know-how. “He has built up his antenna a bit more during the six years he has been living in Japan and Korea. He listens more than when he is in Europe to understand what’s going on.” Coach Tillikainen thanked the players for their efforts, saying, “Compared to last season, the players understood better. Of course, the players also tried to use more English.”
What coach Tillikainen emphasizes to the players is ‘creativity’. We encourage you to challenge yourself without fear of going outside of the frame in various situations. Participating in the Asian Club Championships to be held in Bahrain next month is to gain such experience. It is the first time since becoming a professional team in 2005 that a Korean team has participated in this event where Asian champions participate. The last time I won was Samsung Fire & Marine Insurance in 2001. It was held during the V-League break, and most teams gave up, but Korean Air decided to participate.
Coach Tillikainen said, “I always tell players to think of the ‘next level’. Going to the club championship is also because I want to give them the ‘experience of another league.’ I hoped to have it. So, one step at a time, wouldn’t Korean volleyball develop further?”