The women’s volleyball team at Dankook University (DKU) won the 2021 Korean University Sport Federation Volleyball U-League Championship (KUSF) for the second consecutive season. Under the leadership of coach Jung Sang-ok, the team played matches against Mokpo Science University, Woosuk University, and Honam University. The league consisted of a round robin format of both home and away games. The DKU team secured the title after securing a total of 4 wins and 1 loss ahead of the final game that was held on campus on June 5th. The final game was another loss for the league winners who were plagued all season by injuries and the poor condition of some players. They closed the season with a record of 4 wins and 2 losses and a total of 13 points. Mokpo Science University finished second with 4 wins, 2 losses and 12 points and Woosuk University came in third with 4 wins, 2 losses, and 11 points.
The women’s volleyball team faced a number of difficulties due to key player injuries before the league started. But the squad put on an excellent performance resulting from its strong sense of teamwork. Shin Jung-won, senior in the Department of Recreation & Leisure Sports, focused on intensive defense, along with teammate Lee So-hyun, also a senior in the same department. Kim Dan-young, a junior, Choi Ji-woo, a sophomore and Shin So-won, another junior in the same department led the scoring routes for the team. Coach, Jung Sang-ok, who brought the team to its two consecutive league titles said, "I want to thank the athletes who did their best and the professors at the College of Sports Science for their consistent help and support. I will work hard to develop a better team for next year’s competition season, starting with this championship."
|▲ The women’s volleyball team at Dankook University (Photo from DKU News)|
In 2020, our women’s volleyball team won the award for best team and Kim Dan-young took home the award for best player as selected by the Korean Volleyball Association. Coach Jung Sang-ok, who led the team, won the award for Excellent Leadership. The Dankook Herald interviewed the coach to learn more about the team and its success.
Q1. I heard that your team has improved their record since you took over as head coach. Now that you have won two consecutive titles in the KUSF university volleyball league can you share with us any secrets to your success? Are there any factors such as dedication or team spirit that you emphasize for the players?
A. First, I tried to create a more family-like mood within the squad. Also, I emphasized that we could achieve good results if we make sacrifices for each other. Of course, since they are similar-aged, there were times when they quarreled. When this happened, I would simply say, “Both sisters and families also fight. But do not let your dispute last for too long. Think about what you did wrong and solve it naturally without talking harshly to each other.” So, we get along the same way a family does. I also think of the players as my daughters, whether it’s during sports or outside of sports. I believed if we were able to strengthen our unity as a family, we should be able to concentrate on our training and enjoy a good rest during break time.
Q2. I wonder if you faced any difficulties playing in this league and how you overcame them.
A. In fact, I was never able to play our best team this year due to constant injuries. So, I did not actually think we could win the championship until the league started. Right before the start of the first match, all three of our best players were ruled out from injury. So, we had to change a lot of tactics. However, the players coped well with these difficult situations. We had a good record because the players were able to adapt quickly. We also had a smaller budget to work with than the other teams. It was insufficient for meeting our training needs. We especially did not have enough field training to develop our sense of the game plan. I thought it would be hard on the players, but we got lucky.
Q3. How did you secure the coaching job at our university?
A. In fact, I graduated from DKU in 1997. I was a member of the Cheonan City Association. In 2006, DKU players participated in a national sports competition but were unintentionally disqualified because players switched jerseys during the tournament, a move that is illegal under the tournament rules. After the incident, DKU looked internally for a graduate who might know something about volleyball. I was asked to manage the players. At first, I helped them part time, donating my skills to help organize and develop the team. But I thought they would never develop properly without a dedicated coach, so I just quit my job and took on the role full time without pay. Originally, I was supposed to go my own way after about a year, but the players asked me to stay. Now I have been here coaching for 15 years.
|▲ Jung Sang-ok, DKU women's volleyball team coach (Photo from Jungangilbo)|
Q4. What are your goals as a coach in the future?
A. I want to make sure that we can be a good example of a team of student players. I want to create an atmosphere where the players can have more fun while training than other teams. And I want to make a team environment that can serve as an excellent example for their future careers. Plus, on a personal note, I am hoping to lead our team to the finals at the National Sports Festival with a better performance than the company teams. We participated it in before, but we only made it to the semi-finals.
Q5. As the national women’s volleyball team advanced to the semifinals at the Tokyo Olympics, interest in the sport seemingly increased. Do you agree?
A. Most of the athletes who participated in the Tokyo Olympics are professional players. There’s still a big difference between professional and college volleyball. But I have felt that interest from people around me has increased as compared to last year during the U-League. I think professional volleyball fans are starting to get interested in university volleyball. So, I think that if the popularity of women's volleyball or professional teams increases, that will definitely have an impact on us. In fact, women’s volleyball all around the world has always been more popular than the men’s game, except in Korea. But in recent years, this has been changing. Women's volleyball has become more popular than men's in Korea, too. I hope that the administrative issues can be handled well in future, so that interest in the sport can continue to rise.
Q6. Do you have anything you want to say about the future direction of women’s volleyball in Korea?
A. Everyone thinks that professional sports get good support, but it's not true. Nowadays, volleyball development, sports clubs, and youth support are all concentrated into one group. Therefore, women’s volleyball is not supported any more than youth volleyball. Also, there are not many players who will actually make it to the professional level. For those that do not, it is not easy for them to choose their future career path and because there are so few choices, there are many players who give up playing. To prevent the drain on the sport, it would be nice if more university teams could connect players to jobs and help carve out more career paths for these athletes. These days, the sports education system operates in the form of a pyramid. Schools are at the bottom of the pyramid, social teams are in middle, while elite teams take the top spot. But this pyramid is also different depending on the slope. What I mean is that when elite sports die, social sports and clubs also die. I hope to see a lot of interest and support for university volleyball as well as at the youth level and other parts of the game. I think there should be more support for student teams, so that more players can take part in the games and still be able to choose a variety of career paths when they retire from the sport.
Q7. Lastly, please tell our sports fans a bit about the women’s volleyball team of DKU.
A. Many people are interested in university volleyball, and some people know about the players’ pasts and have watched their growth as athletes. But most don’t know their backgrounds. Without taking any interest in the players, there are some people who say, “There is a big difference in the skills of university players and professional volleyballers”, and “It’s just like a club team.” But it is clear that all of our players are elite athletes who have been working out since they were young. And of course, student teams are not better than professional ones because they are studying and training at the same time. Please take this into consideration when watching our athletes compete and look at their passion for the sport instead.
Throughout this interview, the DKH felt the coach's love for his players and for the sport of volleyball. Though there was an upsurge in public interest in the Korean women’s professional volleyball league after the national team advanced to the semifinals at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, most people still have no interest in the university league. Dankook University Women’s Volleyball team is performing well since the appointment of coach Jung. Please show your support for and interest in the team. They will appreciate your efforts. The DKH wishes the DKU team all the best in their efforts to win this year’s Korean National Sports Festival and hope for the athletes a better future after graduation.
류시은, 김서연, 오유준 firstname.lastname@example.org