Once the leading Polish volleyball player, a longtime player of the German Bundesliga teams. More recently, the coach of APP Krispol Września. Jacek Zieliński talks to Marian Kardas about the career of a coach and challenges for the future

In Sosnowiec-Milowice, where you come from, two sport disciplines were dominating: football and volleyball. As a young athlete, you practiced both, but professionally, you committed to volleyball. What was the reason for such choice?

In my hometown, volleyball was the priority, a discipline with a long tradition. The multiple Polish men’s and women’s volleyball champion, several representatives of Poland, world champions, Olympic champions, and runners-up of Europe come from this city, so I had good role models. Initially, I preferred to play football, which is a much easier discipline than volleyball. However, over time, it was volleyball that became my favourite sport.

Płomień Milowice was your first club and the beginning of the career. Later, you spent 10 years in Germany. What were your greatest achievements in the Bundesliga?

Staying abroad was a very important step for me and it taught me a lot. I achieved next big successes in the German teams, indeed. We were the runners-up of the German Championship four times, once we won the German Cup, and three times we took the third place in the CEV European Cup.

It is also worth mentioning that you played 178 matches in the Polish national team

As a player of the Polish national team, I had the opportunity to play at the World Championships, twice at the European Championships, and once I almost took part in the Olympic Games in Los Angeles in 1984. Unfortunately, we were not allowed to go there – it was not because of the failure to qualify, but because of the boycott of the Games declared by the socialist countries, including Poland.

Did you regret the lost opportunity for the Olympic medal?

Sorrow was big because I did not have another opportunity for participating in the Olympic Games. In 1984, we participated in another event – the competition called Friendship 84, organized for socialist countries. We took the third place there and it shows that there would be a good chance for us to win the Olympic medal in Los Angeles.

After finishing the career of a player, you took up coaching.

This is usually the way things are. This is how it was in my case too. The new role required new skills from me. The player is to complete a particular task on the pitch and he must do his best as the setter, middle blocker, receiver… The coach is not only a conductor, like in an orchestra, but he he must step into the shoes of players in some sense, play all the instruments. Before the match, during the game and afterwards too, the coach is to compose new ideas in his head … He must consider things that can still be done better. It is always possible to play better, also volleyball.

The beginning of coaching work is a contract with the German club, which, in addition, was placed at the bottom of the table.

Yes, for 2.5 years, I was the first coach of Maoam Mendig. It was my success to sustain the place of this team in the Bundesliga and in the following years, we took twice the fifth place among ten teams. It was a very good result because it was a semi-professional team. Some of its members had regular jobs and practiced volleyball at the same time. In the next years, I worked in Poland with both women’s and men’s teams. My greatest coaching success has been the fourth place of Delecta Bydgoszcz in the Plus League. I spent the last nine years with this team as the second coach.

Now you are working with APP Krispol Września. What are your coaching dreams?

My dream is to lead the Polish national team, which will probably not happen anymore, although as the second coach, I had the opportunity to work with the women’s team at the World Championships in 2006. It is also my dream to win an Olympic medal, which will probably not happen anymore either. And what about these more optimistic dreams? I would like to win a medal and be promoted to the Plus League with APP Krispol Września, And this is something that is possible.