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World Cup side witness their fitness increase through coach

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Photo by: Dylan Valker

National Men’s Standing Volleyball team fitness coach Will Guillory of the US holds a training session with the squad in front of Independence Monument last Saturday in preparation for the 2011 WOVD World Cup to be held in Phnom Penh in July.

Willie Guillory is a tough task master when it comes to fitness training. But he doesn’t crack a whip or scream a command; he has just two simple words for his trainees;  tough love.

The 58-year-old Californian, who is as fit as a proverbial fiddle, is making his 40 years of physical education and fitness training experience count for a Cambodian Standing Volleyball team determined like never before to win the World Cup on home soil next month.

Carrying the toughness of American Football he so passionately played in his youth and years spent in the gym building muscles for his other sporting passion of weightlifting, Guillory has already made a mark on the Cambodian squad as a fitness and motivational coach.

For someone who has never been involved with a disabled team before, the stint in Phnom Penh is going down as one of the most challenging assignments he has undertaken.

“I have been involved with lot of other games, particularly basketball. My academic background is physical education and I have done juvenile counseling,” Guillory told The Post after one of his training sessions last week. “This is another level for me. I am loving every minute of it.

“I believe in a natural progression. Disability is a factor if you make it one. Believe me, these volleyball players, some of whom are ex-soldiers injured in landmine explosions, are tremendously fit and courageous.

“They are doing it like able bodied people and doing it better,” he added.

Guillory said his role is to help team members understand what they are doing, why and for whom. “I tell them: ‘Hey. Dont do it for me, do it for yourself.’”

“Intially some of them might have been taken aback, but once they realise what I mean, the response has been amazingly good.”

A motivational coach is no fancy tag insisted Guillory.

“Motivation comes along with fitness – they go hand in hand. Together they turn the body and mind into best shape.

“Motivation comes from within. I only help my trainees to motivate themselves. Once they realise that they are doing all those fitness chores for themselves and not for anyone else, they are automatically motivated to do well.”

A typical Guillory session starts with a warm up run, no less than a mile. Then there are the flexibility routines to loosen up. Agility drills follow to improve speed and footwork, as well as workouts on high intensity volleyball skills where torso strength is so crucial. There are also mobility drills designed to sharpen reaction to on-court situations.

“It is all about up-tempo fitness, because that is what volleyball demands,” noted Guillory.

Other inspirational pieces of advice from the American instructor include “make a mistake on the run – don’t do it while standing” and “breathe with your head up.”

Guillory claimed that latter is “such a simple routine and people won’t stick to it. It is a healthy habit and makes a huge difference to your intake of oxygen.”

The fitness coach is grateful for the opportunity to work with the Cambodian team, whom he claims he has “hit it off with,” and recalls an encounter with CNVLD General Secretary Christopher Minko some time ago that spawned the decision to bring him on board for the build up to the 2011 WOVD Standing Volleyball World Cup which will run from July 23-29.

“I was happy to jump in and work with others like [national coach] Christian Zepp and [assistant coach] Pat Russell,” said Guillory, who will now tend to commitments with a basketball team in Thailand before rejoining the team in the first week of July.

After two weeks of hard training, Guillory rates the Cambodians’ fitness levels at 7 or 8 out of 10 but notes “it can definitely go up.”  

“These guys are very tough and even some of the able bodied players cannot perhaps match them in their determination and mental strength,” he said.  

Be it tough love, love for the game or a mutual respect, there appears to be plenty of positive emotions coming from the Cambodian camp.

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