Vázquez-Diz always thinks about “the next step”
The head coach of Spain’s men at the EHF Beach Handball EURO 2023 is one of the most prominent players of the past: Juan Vázquez-Diz is a three-time EURO top scorer and the 2015 MVP. This experience as a player and his work as a university teacher in Sports Science and Physical Activity make him a coach to watch in Nazaré: “High performance is always multidisciplinary.”
As soon as his team have beaten Ukraine 2:0 (18:14, 23:10) and he has completed the usual post-match rituals, Spain men’s head Juan Vázquez-Diz heads over to one side of court 3.
From there, he can just see the play still going on the adjacent court 2 between Denmark and Germany – one of them will be among Spain’s upcoming opponents in the main round.
“Every day you are thinking about the next step,” Vázquez-Diz says. “With the players, you only talk about the match. But the coach always thinks in one more step. The past is over, on to the future.”
Even if it is only catching a glimpse, just seeing upcoming opponents play might give him a piece of useful information. And collecting data is what sets apart Vázquez-Diz as a beach handball coach, as in daily life he works as a university lecturer in Sports Science and Physical Activity.
Vázquez-Diz, who turns 40 in November, gained his PhD in Physical Activity, Performance, Management, and Health; and is a master of research in Physical Activity and Sport at at the University of Málaga.
“I work as a teacher in the university, and I try to translate what we do in the university to the court,” he explains. “With all the research we do, we try to give more tools to the coaches, to improve their performance.”
And beach handball is obviously part of Vázquez-Diz research activities.
“We think the high performance you get is multidisciplinary,” he says, pointing out that the sports is about more than good technical and tactical skills.
“You have to become bigger in your skills – psychology, nutrition, technique, physical condition. We try to give some tips for every field,” says Vázquez-Diz, who would love to use the Beach Handball EURO for one of his research projects.
But as head coach of Spain, one of the title contenders, his focus has to be a different one in Nazaré.
“Now, I don’t have time to collect data,” he says. “I really would like to, because here we have a very good sample of high-level beach handball players.”
I try to translate what we do in the university to the court. With all the research we do, we try to give more tools to the coaches, to improve their performance. The high performance you get is multidisciplinary; you have to become bigger in your skills – psychology, nutrition, technique, physical condition.
Coaching since his retirement as a player in 2019, Vázquez-Diz has obviously more to give to his players than his scientific research; a kind of participating on-court research he has been doing for many years, as one of the standout players of the past decade.
He was the Beach Handball EURO top scorer in 2006, in 2009, and again in 2015, while he was also named MVP at the latter event.
“I am very happy about my career. Beach handball gave me the opportunity to play international championships, that indoor handball hasn’t given me,” says Vázquez-Diz, who did play in the EHF Cup 2011/12 as a left back with Fraikin BM. Granollers.
Still, beach handball has always been his bread and butter.
“My first memory was in Cuxhaven, in 2006,” he says with a smile, as he was unsure what to expect from his first Beach Handball EURO – only to leave the event in Germany with the top scorer award and the gold medal with Spain.
He ended his playing career in 2019.
“Suddenly, I was a coach, I didn’t have the experience as a coach, I only had the experience as a player for a long time,” he says. “I try to translate everything, to give my players everything I experienced as a player.”
So far, Vázquez-Diz and Spain are enjoying a flawless tournament, winning all three matches in their preliminary round group C, only dropping the first set against Greece, the 2022 World Championship semi-finalists.
Like most of the teams competing in Nazaré, Spain are missing a few regulars due to club commitments in indoor handball, where the season is still running.
“But we are lucky, because we have a very good competition in beach handball and we have specific beach handball players. We try to adapt,” Vázquez-Diz says. “I think we have a very competitive team.”
photos © Uros Hocevar / kolektiff