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11.03.2016, 14:30
David Davis: “Respect your sport and it will respect you”
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FIRST-HAND INSIGHT: Nemanja Savic shares the story of Vardar’s unsung hero and all-seeing eye David Davis, in an insight/interview format, to share the unique handball philosophy of the charismatic tactician
 

David Davis: “Respect your sport and it will respect you”

ehfCL.com gives its followers an incredible access to every aspect of the game. From coaches’ to players’ perspective, it is all there, on a silver platter. However, sometimes even that is not enough to get a full grasp of the complexity of the game, and every factor influencing the final outcome of a match.

This time, we go a little bit more in-depth. The focus is on the man who sees everything, but often gets unnoticed; the all-seeing eye of Vardar’s coaching duet, and the long-serving right-hand man of the Spanish tactician Raul Gonzalez.

David Davis’ career took him on an incredible journey. From his humble beginnings at BM Granollers, to sharing court time with some of the most prestigious names in handball at Ciudad Real and Atletico Madrid.

Over his nine seasons in the EHF Champions League, Davis has become a three-time winner, while his trophy cabinet also proudly boasts four Liga ASOBAL trophies, as well as the Olympic Games bronze medal won in 2008.

Mission accomplished with quite a legacy, many would say. Well, not David Davis.

Becoming the assistant coach at Vardar, David took his handball journey to a whole new level. The charismatic former left wing decided to retire in 2014, while still in his prime, playing for VELUX EHF Champions League outfit Porto, exchanging the ball for a pen and a drawing board.

With his new-found mission of studying the game from a different perspective, Davis was determined to build his coaching path from the bottom to the top, just as patiently and tenaciously as he did with his playing career.

“Being a professional player during almost twenty years helps me a lot in my new career as a coach, because I’ve learnt the “know how” from my own experience.

“In sport we are in a constant learning process; but every year, there are many situations all the teams must go through, and when you have experienced them before (as a player) it is easier to manage them.

“Also, the players respect you more, because, we ‘speak the same language’. We share the empathy during injuries and the bad moments, we share the tension during the match, psychology, with each different ego.

“Throughout my playing career, I have had a privilege to learn a lot from all the coaches I worked with. But without doubt the greatest influences in my professional career were: Juan Carlos Pastor (Pick Szeged), Talant Dujshebaev (Kielce) and of course, Raúl González,” said Davis.

It kind of implies itself that Davis may well turn out to the best we have seen from the lauded Spanish coaching school.

More than a helping hand

Becoming part of the huge project at Vardar opened doors for Davis to display his knowledge garnered during a two-decade long career on the highest level. However, he became far more than just a helping hand. The working atmosphere at Jane Sandanski under Raul Gonzalez is amazing, the training sessions are a joy to behold, and the assistant plays no small part in that.

David’s influence in training, as said by many of his current players, has improved their ability to grasp the game in a different perspective and help them progress beyond the point of their supposed prime.

His coaching principles perfectly integrate into, and complement methods of his mentor Raul Gonzalez. This comes as no surprise, since the duo has been working together for more than 17 years now, albeit in different roles.

“These last two years (since becoming the assistant coach at Vardar) were fantastic, no doubt. Raul was an excellent and respected player and nowadays, a top Champions League coach.

“My main job is to help Raul during the training. I’m watching all the movements of the players and if they do something wrong or something that doesn’t match with our system, I correct it (while Raul is correcting someone else).

“I love my job and every day I go to the training with great passion, full and positive energy and a big smile.

“I like to say: “I am here just to work, nothing else.” I always try to help players train every day, score every shot and defend any situation. And I also expect them to do their best at all times. Of course, this is impossible but when you try to do it all the time, then you move forward,” said Davis.

“We enjoy training and studying our opponents, with the goal of being prepared for the matches the best way we can.

“I guess everybody is doing the same these days. But, Raul has the ability to detect and explain the mistakes of teams we play against. He has the know-how to attack their defence and defend their attack.

“It’s all about practice. In time, it becomes quite natural, just like breathing - and that’s the key, in my opinion. Also Raul and I, we have been together last 17 years in a row.

“First, we were playing together in BM Valladolid; later, in Ciudad Real, when he was the assistant coach and I was a player. We always have been playing more or less with the same system, so we are fully attune,” said Davis.

“Sport is a constant learning process”

The current season brought even more challenges for David, as the women’s team of Vardar came knocking, seeking an assistant to Indira Kastratovic and replacement for Jan Pytlick.

With the impeccable system of their men’s team, there were little doubts David Davis would fit like a glove into Indira Kastratovic’s setup.

However, there were not many coaches that have succeeded coaching both men and women, and as the old saying goes “If you wish to promptly succeed in handball, begin coaching women. However, if you wish to see your eventual demise – continue coaching women”.

David did just the opposite, delving into the unknown world of women’s coaching, from the tenaciously established system used by the men’s team.

And what a decision has it been. The first month since Davis joined, saw subtle, but tangible improvements. Vardar went on a four-win streak, including the monumental maiden win against Buducnost to clinch the comfortable third spot in the group, just one point away from the top.

“In regards to coaching both teams, for me there’s no difference. Training is training and sport is sport. I accepted the offer because they are really good, top players.

“It is a present for me. I have been with the women’s team for a month now, and I can't be happier, prouder and more satisfied with their job.

“The most important thing is the way you train, and it is the same for both. Why do we choose the exercises we do? How do we train the real situations of the game? How do we get what we need? There’s an explanation for everything we do.

“As I said before: in sport, we are all in a constant learning process. The more experience you have, the more problems you need to solve and more new situations to face.

“The main reason I’m with the women’s team is to try and apply the system we have in men’s team. As you can imagine, It is never the same, because players are different, as Raul and I, but the essence is the same.

“I talk to Raul a lot, he is also helping me. He is my Master. We comment what I have been doing during the training, and if it worked, what I want to do next, about the teams we play against. We talk about everything,” admitted Davis

Vardar's clear goal is to someday win the EHF Champions League with both teams. But, the question only one so close to both men’s and women’s team can answer is - how far are they from that goal at this point?

“In the Women’s EHF Champions League there are a few good teams, so it should be easier (at least on paper), but easy is a word that never fits when you are talking about sport, at least to me.

The coaching setup at Vardar is likely the most successful there is, when it comes to trophies. Raul Gonzalez and David Davis have three EHF Champions League trophies each, while the women’s coach Indira Kastratovic is also a top flight winner.

So with the zero-tolerance for losing, how does it translate to their coaching endeavours?

“We are working every day to win the Champions League again. Raul won three as an assistant coach and I have three as a player. Now, we want to win one more - at least.”

The philosophy

Being in the role of a player or a coach, David’s great love of handball is apparent. His philosophy on handball as a sport is unique, such as his understated way of influencing and contributing to the sport each and every day.

So, I finally had to ask, what is the most important thing for any individual or team to become great, in his opinion? What is the David Davis credo in philosophy of the professional sport?

“Respect your sport and it will respect you. The most important thing is to work. I’ve always heard these words in all interviews with successful people, but a lot of people seem like they’ve never heard them.

“Young people like to see your car, your house or your clothes, but they never ask what did you do to get there; and the answer is relatively easy. It is work.

“Just work, only work? No, it is not. You must work hard, as hard as you can. Maybe then you can become someone great,” said Davis, sharing his handball, and life philosophy with the readers of ehfcl.com.

Hopefully, I have been able to tell the story (or at least one part of it) and bring you closer to what David Davis and his outlook on handball is all about.

For more, you can see him hands-on, every day at Jane Sandanski arena, and if you’re far away from Skopje, follow Vardar’s Last 16 encounter against Wisla Plock before the decisive duels of the women’s team against Larvik, to secure their third Women’s EHF FINAL4 berth.


TEXT: Nemanja Savic / cor
 
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