Interview with Tim Hartog
February 2, 2014 12 Comments
Below is a reprint of the waterpoloworld.com interview regarding my assignment to the Russian national men’s team:
I started several weeks ago and it has been very busy time familiarizing with the way the Russian Federation operates and getting organized for the World League match against the Serbian team as well as for the next several months period. I am enjoying it however.
How would you describe the current state of Russian men’s water polo? What opportunities lie ahead?
In my opinion, there are talented players whose physical and technical prerequisites would be conducive for them to become the players of high international class. What we need now is to gain the experience as in the last several years the Russian team was not getting enough high-level matches having been absent from the major events. In general, we need to combine the best of what we have here in terms of water polo thinking with that of the world’s best practices.
The World League game against Serbia was your first international appearance with the team. How did you experience it? What are your thoughts on the game and the importance of this year’s World League campaign?
Though the outcome was unfavorable, I am happy that my first duty in charge of the Russian national team was against Serbia – one of the best sides in the world at present. The main outcome for us is that we gained an invaluable experience. From the standpoint of our plans, that game gave us a lot of food for thought and highlighted the shortcomings and areas that require attention in our physical, technical and tactical preparation. We have created many opportunities but failed to realize them. The main reason why we lost was better skills of our opponents who outmuscled us in individual contests both with and without the ball.
Despite the loss, our players are in a positive frame of mind. Certainly, nobody likes to lose and we are not happy with the result, however, everybody is tuned to work hard to become competitive with the leading nations in the world. To achieve this goal we should play as much as possible against the teams like Serbia. During the four days of our preparation prior to the game a lot of useful work had been done. I liked our athletes’ enthusiasm and focus, and am hopeful that such attitude will be present in all future performances for the Russian team.
For us, this year’s World League competition is important and we welcome this opportunity since – as above-mentioned – it gives us badly needed matches with quality opponents.
Russia will be playing The Netherlands home and away for direct qualification for the 2014 European Championships. How are you preparing your team considering the relatively short amount of time left until the first game?
Certainly, I wish I had more time with my team beforehand but there is no point complaining about it now. We will do everything possible under the circumstances to prepare for these matches as well as we can. We consider the Dutch team as a very serious and dangerous opponent. At the end of January-beginning of February we will be joining the national teams of Croatia and Australia in Perth, Australia for a series of scrimmages with them. From there we will travel to Romania for a World League match and then on to Holland for the first qualification match.
How would you describe the importance of qualification for Budapest 2014?
The Russian team – as a big part of the former Soviet Union in the past and in its own right – has had the history of great achievements that were based upon excellent and distinctive school of water polo. We must get back to that position in the world again however difficult it is going to be. So, for us it is extremely important to be present at the European championships in Budapest this coming Northern hemisphere summer.
You are largely experienced with previous coaching jobs in Australia and China. How different are these new surroundings and does that affect the way you want your team to play?
Every new environment is different, every country and nation has its own cultural and historical peculiarities. But, unlike before, this time it is not completely unfamiliar for me. After all, I was a member of the great Soviet team that won everything under the sun. There are many old comrades of mine who respect, believe and support me both directly and indirectly. As for my previous experiences, it is more of an asset as it allows to combine my ‘USSR knowledge and winning ways’ with that of the world experience that I have accumulated – not only in water polo but in general – when I worked with the Australian junior and senior teams, and in other countries. Part of me will always be there – we have achieved great results for those teams given their status at the time – some under difficult circumstances – and it cannot be forgotten.
I have always wanted my teams to be playing skilful, fast, intelligent, strong, clean and fair water polo that is a pleasure to watch. After all, we are here for spectators, not ourselves and people must enjoy watching water polo matches played by strong men with excellent bodies.