Lausanne, Switzerland, April 17, 2019 – Korean national team and Eczacibasi VitrA Istanbul star Kim Yeon-Koung sat down with fivb.com to talk about embracing her role as leader in the national team, learning from her overseas experience and helping to develop her country’s next generation of players.
The 31-year-old is a fan favourite not only because she is a top player, but also because she is a great brand ambassador and an advocate for sport development. But like any other player, she looked up to different role models.
“I have two older sisters. The oldest and tallest sister started playing volleyball first,” Kim said. “As an energetic child, I followed her to the gym everyday and helped the team gather balls during practice. Naturally, these experiences led me to gain interest in volleyball and that eventually paved the way for me to become a professional player.
“When I first started playing volleyball, all outside hitters from the Korean league and the national team were my role models. As I grew older and gained a better understanding of volleyball, I discovered two national team players on television. One was Dante Amaral of Brazil and the other was Lyubov Sokolova of Russia. They were tall outside hitters who were excellent at both hitting and receiving. After seeing them play, I wanted to become an all-around player like them.”
Kim went on conquering medals and individual titles through playing for her national team and got the opportunity to continue improving her craft through playing in top clubs in China and Turkey. Over the years, she developed her leadership skills and whatever she learned in the course of her career, she is now passing on to her Korean teammates.
“As you may know, I’m the only Korean volleyballer playing overseas. Though it is difficult for other Korean national team members to acquire information on players from foreign countries, my role as the leader of the team is to deliver as much information as possible to the other Korean team members.
“During the matches, I put the emphasis on enjoying play and giving our best on the court rather than focusing on the results.”
Kim is undoubtedly a dominant volleyball player but her winning attitude is what makes her distinct from other players. She is never satisfied with her achievements and is committed to excellence.
“I’m confident to say that I’ve worked hard to stand in the position I am in today,” she said. “Also, I believe it’s important not to become satisfied with your current status, but to work continuously to become a better player than today.”
“In sports, winning is the only way to receive recognition. That’s why the preparation process for each match and season is challenging. We play many games – sometimes we win, sometimes we don’t. I think the hardest part is when we lose a match since it’s difficult to recover in a short time, as well as lighten up the heavy atmosphere.”
Kim’s club season is going well so far as her team Eczacibasi recently won the Turkish Cup.
“Before the season, the goal of our team was to win cups in five competitions. At present, we have won two and there is one more competition left. I wish to complete this year by lifting three cups.
“We are a very strong team. We have only lost three times during the whole season. Although the result of the Champions League quarterfinals left us with pain, we were able to recover from the defeat by winning the Turkish Cup.”
For her, playing in one of the best clubs in the world is a big honour and it is a big privilege to play with the some of the brightest stars in the game.
“Eczacibasi VitrA Istanbul is a very strong team with a rich, long history. I’m honoured to be part of the team. We have many national team members from different countries as well as many talented Turkish players. I find great happiness in learning and spending time with them. The players have good personalities so we get along well.”
Kim’s determination has helped her achieve many titles at a club level, but she wants her horizons to expand with the national team and the Olympic Games and world level events ahead.
“Every year I set up goals and commit to achieve them. During practice, I think about these goals and commit myself to push and work harder.
“I’ve accomplished many things at the club level. All the teams that I played for were at the top of the rankings and have won many cups. However, I’m not yet satisfied with results as a national team member. So my primary goal is to obtain the golden ticket to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games and my ultimate goal is to acquire an Olympic medal there.
“When you are in the national team, it’s really important to recover quickly since you play in a shorter period of time and play many games in many countries. In the club, however, the most critical thing that you need to possess is physical strength since the season can be very long. That is why I make a huge effort in the preparation process during the off-season.”
She still finds time from her busy schedule to help in youth sports development through her academy and her charity activities.
“I am currently running a sports youth academy in Korea. Many children of different ages attend the academy and participate in volleyball, football, basketball and other sports activities. The reason why I established the academy was because I wanted to give back all the goodness that volleyball has given me. As time went by, I realised the importance of youth sports, since children who participate in sports activities become more sociable and healthy individuals.
“I also hosted the first youth volleyball competition under my name in 2017. The second one is scheduled to take place this year. In addition to that, I run a small charity which I’m planning to expand in the future. I’m always open to new opportunities!”
Kim will be among the top players fans will be keen to see at the Volleyball Nations League, but she is also thrilled to play for her national team since there have been a lot of developments since the last edition of the competition.
“The members of the Korean national team will be called on April 28. I will not be able to join them at that time because of my commitment with my club in the Turkish league. There has been a major change in the Korean national team this year because a foreign coach has been recruited for the first time in the team’s history.
“I am expecting that there will be major changes in the team itself and in our style of play. I also believe that our team strategy will adapt to the current global volleyball trends. So our team will have a different approach at the 2019 Volleyball Nations league. I hope our fans will enjoy and love the transformation of our team. As captain, I will lead the team to put on a good performance.”
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