Sri Lanka Women’s U23 – placed 12th & a mountain to climb

Sri Lanka Women's U23 Volleyball Squad - 2017 Asian Women's U23 Volleyball Championship

The 2nd Asian Women’s U23 Volleyball Championship concluded on the 21st of May. From the lessons learnt from the tournament, this is an effort put forward by on how the future of Sri Lanka Volleyball should be shaped.

13 teams participated in the tournament and Japan clinched the championship while the Sri Lankan team grabbed the 12th place; escaping the humiliation of being placed last by a whisker.   

The recent history of the Sri Lankan Women’s Volleyball teams

Although it is the men’s teams who have been able to gain much recognition in the Asian level, the women’s teams also have always been able to secure places among the top 10 teams in the Asian level.

The Junior National Women’s team placed among the top 8 teams in 2014 Asian Junior Volleyball Championship while the Sri Lankan National Women’s team grabbed the Silver medal in 2016 South Asian Games which was held in India.

Thilini Wasana Captained the team which participated in the Women’s U23 Volleyball Championship while Thakshila Madurangi was selected as the vice-captain of the team. The team further consisted of Sanduni Dineshika, Anuththara Sandamali, Vinodi Kaushalya, Kavisha Lakshani, Anurisha Chathuni, Amani Kaushalya, Ridmi Sakunthala, Sachini Charuka, Apsara Sewmali and Chamari Sanjula.

The Women’s U23 Volleyball Championship

The competition was held for the 2nd time in history and Thailand hosted the tournament. The first challenge that the Sri Lankan team had to face in Nakhon Ratchasima was the team from Chinese-Taipei.

The match was held on the 13th of May and was the first group stage match for the Sri Lankan team. Sri Lanka lost the match 3-0. The scores were recorded as 25-15, 25-14 and 15-10. Chinese-Taipei can be considered as a strong team in the Asian level.  

The team’s next match was against the strong Kazakhstan team and the Sri Lankans lost the match 3-0. The scores were recorded as 25-14, 25-08 and 25-12. And in the next match against Australia, although the Sri Lankan team lost the first two rounds 25-16 and 25-23, they were able to bounce back to the game, winning the third round 21-25. But unfortunately, the Australians won the fourth round 25-14 resulting in another loss for the Sri Lankan team.

“It was the first time that our players played under the cold conditions in an indoor stadium. We can’t play in those conditions with the warming exercises that we do here. We had the capability of defeating Australia. Although we won a round, it was again the cold conditions that made us uncomfortable.” The Head coach of the team; Janaka Indrajith added.

The only match Sri Lanka won in the tournament was against Macau. The scores were recorded as 23-25, 26-24, 21-25 and 14-26 (1-3).

Thereafter, Sri Lanka had to play a ranking match against New Zealand and lost the match 3-1. The scores were recorded as 25-16, 23-25, 20-25 and 16-25. Hence, Sri Lanka ended the tournament in the 12th place.

After the competition

However now, what has to be done is a post tournament analysis. Did the Sri Lankan women give their best?

“It’s very difficult to get selected to the national team. But after reaching there, the players must not think that everything is completed. Even after that, the players have to give their best. But there is a huge issue in the Volleyball process. That is the lack of a proper system.” The assistant coach of the team; Morris Chaminda said, expressing his ideas with

The sport of Volleyball in Sri Lanka does not follow a single system in school, inter-club and national levels. What happens in the school level is that the schools win matches with the use of one good player. And club teams are formed with the use of a few such good players in order to participate in one or two tournaments. But when it comes to the national level, practicing in a national squad is completely a different story.

Morris gives an example for this, using Iran.

“Just look at Iran. They use the same methodology for practices starting from the junior level. So when it comes to the national level, they have that within them. But it’s difficult for us to give that to our players within a short period like 3 months.”

And that’s true. A team that is targeting a particular tournament has to be put to work for one or two years making necessary plans and methods. But what happens in Sri Lanka is, after representing the national team in a tournament, players go back to the club level, which has a completely different style of play.

“The standards of Volleyball are high now. We can understand that from Thailand. So, if we can bring some players and organize something like a league tournament, it’ll be a good development for the sport within the country. Asian players will be sufficient for that. Our players can gain an experience through that. Thailand uses the same method for Volleyball that we use to develop Cricket.” Head coach Janaka Indrajith expressed his views on the importance of gaining experience.

“Almost every player in the team had the experience of playing in foreign tours. So they must be able to understand the value of getting a chance to represent a national squad. But that will not be enough. When considering about the next Asian Championship, we should start preparations now. For that, we need more competitions. We should give players the experience of playing with foreign teams.” Assistant coach Morris also expressed his views on the importance of gaining experience.

So we can identify that the lack of competitions is a hindrance Sri Lankan players are facing right now. We must also not forget about the use of developing a proper analysis system in terms of technology. Teams like Japan and Australia use this to counter their opponents.

Can’t we win?

There is question whether our players lack talent and skills, talent is there in abundance. It is the responsibility of the relevant authorities to create the required background for our players to win matches that is lacking. That’s where the other teams overtake us.  

“We have good players as well as good coaches. So we can organize something like a workshop using all of them and we should prepare them for a proper aim and a proper plan.” Morris Chaminda expressed his ideas about a productive plan.

Head coach Janaka Indrajith is ready to put his first step forward in order to overcome the challenge at the Asian level, “We can definitely win the South Asian level. But these kids need tournament experience. We have to give them experience in different backgrounds and different altitudes. We only have few competitions like the Rupavahini tournament, Dialog President’s Gold Cup and the all island tournament. Women’s Volleyball has now progressed a lot. So we have to include these changes into our system.”

Sri Lankan teams have been able to win the 5th place in Asia in the past, so they have proven that they can do something even with the training that they now receive. However Sri Lanka being placed 10th and 12th respectively in the men’s and women’s divisions proves that we are still rotting in the same place while the other Asian teams have gone far beyond us with the help of new technology and training strategies.