My guest for today is my volleyball idol. I dreamt about meeting him and talking to him for a very long time. I watched him play with tremendous affection. His style of play, his passion, his greatness on the court, all of them turned him into a volleyball icon for me. His greatness was also acknowledged when he was inducted into the Volleyball Hall of Fame. He was one of the greatest players this sport has ever seen and now he is passing his knowledge and passion to the younger generations, organising an amazing volleyball camp each year. He offered the best (probably) playing scene inside a volleyball match during the Olympic final against Russia in Sydney. Ladies and gentlemen: Vladimir Vanja Grbic!
Hello Vanja and welcome on vladpop.com. I don’t even know how to start as this is the most emotional interview for me. I am asking questions to my volleyball idol, the player I liked the most. But I will try to get over it and the first question is quite simple: what does volleyball mean to you?
IT MEANS ALL. PHILOSOPHY OF LIVING. WAY TO BEHAVE. ALL!
You are an Olympic gold and bronze medallist, silver in the World Championships and gold in the European Championships. When you first started volleyball did you ever imagined that you will reach such heights?
I WAS DREAMING ABOUT BEING ON THE PODIUM ON THE OLYMPIC GAMES AND GETTING THE GOLD MEDAL WHILE HEARING THE NATIONAL ANTHEM IS SINGING AND THE ENTIRE NATION IS PROUD OF ME.
Was volleyball a more “romantic” sport those days? It seems that in the later years it became a sport more and more physical. How did volleyball changed from the days you started playing until today?
YOU ARE RIGHT UNFORTUNATELY. IN THOSE DAYS VOLLEYBALL WAS MORE TECHNICAL. NOW IT IS MORE ABOUT POWER.
Yugoslavia and now the former Yugoslav republics have always had great results when it came to team-sports. Not so good when it comes to individual sports (tennis seems to be an exception). Why do you think team-sports are somehow perfect for the Yugoslav DNA?
WHEN WE HAVE TO DEFEND EACH OTHER WE ARE GREAT, AS WE HAVE DONE IT IN HISTORY SO MANY TIMES. BUT AS TIME GOES BY, WE LIKE THE GLORY MORE AND THIS IS WHAT IS KILLING US NOW.
Your career as a player has been huge but is there a moment of it that is most dear to your heart?
THE OLYMPIC GAMES FOR SURE.
You played with and against some great players. Can you tell me who is the best player you’ve ever played with? Except Nikola of course :).
WELL… THERE ARE SO MANY OF THEM: OSVALDO HERNANDEZ, GARDINI, LUCCHETTA, PAPI, SAPEGA, MAX PEREIRA, OLIKHVER, MARCELINHO, TOFOLI, SHINGO KAI…
Who is the toughest opponent you played against?
THE ONE I RESPECTED AND LIKED TO PLAY AGAINST WAS TETYOUKHIN.
The best coach you ever worked with?
PITERA, PRANDI, MONTALI, DEMETER, BUT THE BEST WAS MY FATHER
You are a true globetrotter as you played in Europe, South America, Asia. Where did you feel the best?
JAPAN…WITH NO DOUBTS
Besides the medals and all the titles, you are also included in the Volleyball Hall of Fame. What does that mean for you, being acknowledged as one of this sport’s greatest?
IT IS LIKE RECEIVING THE NOBEL PRIZE FOR VOLLEYBALL.
I am going to ask you a question that you probably got a lot until now, how was to play together with your brother, the both of you at such a huge level?
IT WAS BOTH TOUGH AND EASY. IT WAS TOUGH BECAUSE FOR NIKOLA WAS A BIGGER RESPONSIBILITY WHILE FOR ME IT WAS MUCH EASIER SITUATION. IT WAS EASY BECAUSE WE UNDERSTOOD AND RELIED IN EACH OTHER COMPLETELY.
Did your teammates ever complained that maybe Nikola passed the ball more to you? 🙂
NO, IT WASN’T BECAUSE HE DID NOT. HAHAHAHA… WE WERE ALWAYS PLAYING FOR THE TEAM AND NOT FOR US. BUT OUR POSITION AND RESPONSIBILITY IN THE TEAM WERE IMPORTANT SO, MAYBE FOR SOME TEAMMATES, MAYBE IT WAS A PROBLEM. WE CAN SEE IT IN THIS DAYS ALSO. BUT IT’S THEIR PROBLEM.
I am going to leave the past behind now and focus on the present and also on the future because it seems that what you are doing in the present is actually a step for tomorrow. I am talking about the already famous “Camp Vanja”. Please tell me more about this project, it’s roots, it’s present and it’s goals?
AS A CHAMPION, INSTRUCTED AND MOTIVATED BY PREVIOUS CHAMPIONS, I FEEL THE RESPONSIBILITY TO GIVE IT BACK TO THOSE WHO WILL CONTINUE WITH VOLLEYBALL AFTER WE ARE GONE. I HAVE TO TRANSFER TO THEM THE PASSION AND PHILOSOPHY OF VOLLEYBALL. TO DO SO I HAVE GRADUATED THE UNIVERSITY OF SPORT AND PHYSICAL EDUCATION IN BELGRADE AND I’VE USED ALL MY EXPERIENCE TO WORK WITH 12.000 KIDS IN BEACH VOLLEYBALL AND ALSO CREATE A CAMP FOR KIDS AND COACHES WITH THE AIM OF HEALTHY LIVING THROUGH VOLLEYBALL.
WE ALSO FOCUS ON ORTHOPAEDIC PREVENTION, MOTOR DEVELOPMENT, PHYSIOLOGICAL DEVELOPMENT AND PSYCHOLOGICAL TESTING INSIDE OF THIS PROGRAM. KIDS ARE COMPLETELY PROVIDED WITH THE NEEDED MATERIALS AND EQUIPMENT: 5 SHIRTS, 3 SHORTS SWEAT AND LONG SLEEVES. THERE IS ALSO A PRODUCTION TEAM WHO IS FILMING EVERY SINGLE DAY OF THE CAMP IN ORDER TO PRODUCE INDIVIDUAL VIDEOS SO EVERY KID RECEIVES A VIDEO AS A REMEMBER OF THE GREAT TIMES THEY HAD DURING THE CAMP DAYS. THEY ALSO RECEIVE A RECOMMENDATION BASED ON SERIES OF TESTS OF WHAT THEY HAVE TO WORK ON AND IMPROVE FOR THE NEXT YEAR.
I know that you also had a Vanja mini-camp in Targu Mures. How did you find the Romanian kids, in terms of skills or in terms of a future volleyball career?
ROMANIA IS INVESTING A LOT IN VOLLEYBALL LATELY BUT UNFORTUNATELY THERE IS NO VISIBLE FEEDBACK AND RESULTS YET. THAT’S WHY I AM THINKING TO ORGANISE ANOTHER CAMP IN ROMANIA NEXT YEAR TOO.
Are your own children attracted to volleyball or they fancy other sports?
SURE THEY ARE. THEY WERE PRESENT AND DID ALL THE 40 DAYS OF THE CAMP.
In the previous years we could witness that there are huge value gaps between the teams because of the financial factor. Is money the most important factor in this sport too? Or a team with a lower budget but great team work can overcome a team full of superstars?
ABSOLUTELY THE TEAM SPIRIT IS MORE IMPORTANT. MONEY DON’T PLAY. THE TEAM IS ALWAYS THE NUMBER ONE FACTOR TO SUCCESS.