Olympic training chief knows the way to athletes' hearts
Shin Chi-yong, former volleyball star and coach of twenty years, is now head of the Jincheon National Training Center in Jincheon, North Chungcheong, the main training ground for Korean national team athletes.
Shin made a name for himself as the founding coach of the Samsung Fire Insurance volleyball team, leading the team to eight super league wins and eight V league victories and shaping the entire Korean volleyball industry as he went.
Out of all baseball, football, basketball and volleyball coaches, Shin has the busiest trophy cabinet.
With the 2020 Tokyo Olympics set to begin in just a couple of months, Shin sat down with the Joongang Sunday to discuss the role the national training center plays in preparing athletes for the Games.
Q. What is your daily routine?
A. I get up around five to five thirty and go out to the training field. I check the weather to see if the conditions are right for outdoor training. If the fine dust levels are too high or the temperature is below 10 degrees Celsius (50 degrees Fahrenheit), I have to decide whether to cancel outdoor training. Before lunch, I attend training sessions for every sport. In the afternoon, I have meetings with the coaches and managers.
I believe that the training center should serve the athletes. We are here to support athletes in their training by providing a comfortable environment.
For example, there are specific diets for athletes that compete in weight class events. In the past, athletes used to eat a lot of junk food like ramen, pizza and fried chicken, but they’re not supposed to do that. So, I decided instead to provide healthy snacks that are available around the clock.
What do you think is the most important part of your job?
Having respect for the athletes is most important, in addition to providing good meals and clothes. Respecting their sport is the way to their hearts, and what makes them responsible and proud of what they do.
It is when they feel that they are supported, respected and well taken care of that they do well in the competitions.
Of course, a national training center that is funded with taxpayers’ money cannot be without rules and order, but if an athlete is forced to do something they don’t want to, they usually end up pretending, helping absolutely no one. That is why I try to explain and persuade rather than just telling them what to do.
For example, there were cases where athletes who weren’t part of the swimming and badminton team were working out at the pool or badminton courts in their free time. I had to ban them from going to the training venues without the permission of a coach or manager. Even if you are a professional athlete for one sport, you are still an amateur in another. This venue must be strictly for professional training only.
With the Tokyo Olympics ahead, what are you focusing on the most in preparation for the Games?
Coaches and managers are in charge of training athletes to perform well. My focus is boosting the morale of the athletes. Nutrition, psychology and physiology specialists are all on board to take meticulous care of the athletes.
The Tokyo Olympics Organizing Committee reported that they will use food from Fukushima to cook at the Olympic village in Tokyo. How do you plan on addressing this issue?
We plan to rent an 80-room hotel during the Olympics to operate as an athlete support center. The center will provide meals for training partners or managers that cannot enter the Olympic village.
We can’t possibly feed the whole squad, but we will prepare enough to also provide for those who have lost their appetite and are craving a hearty Korean meal. We will need to cooperate with other national teams if the Organizing Committee keeps insisting that they use Fukishima ingredients to cook.
Lastly, some suggest that the village be opened to younger athletes, amateurs, athletes from other countries and even to the public. What are your thoughts?
Actually, the village is open to the public now. You can make a reservation to visit. About 50 to 60 people come in every day.
The Jincheon National training center is also open to foreign athletes whose countries cannot financially provide for their training.
They stay in guest houses and I am often surprised to see how good they are. We expect that more Olympians will camp out here with us this year before the Tokyo Olympics, as we are close to and share the same time zone with Tokyo.
I agree that the center should be open to the public, it is something that I try to emphasize. I tell the national team members that the national training center and the national team belongs to the Korean people and wouldn't be anything without them.
BY JUNG YOUNG-JAE [firstname.lastname@example.org]