Gazing towards Rio
We have remarkable people in various areas, but the truth is that no one has contributed more to the affirmation of Serbia than our sportsmen. Our supreme results are often a mystery to us as well. We don’t have any money, strong leagues or good infrastructure. It seems, however, that the excellent work of experts and sportsmen is behind it all. If we emphasize and exaggerate our shortcomings so often, we must also be aware of our extraordinary virtues. We should not give up on our unique features and values, because that is what makes us a nation among nations

By: Dejan Bulajić
Photo: Guest’s Archive, ”National Review” Archive

We found Zoran Terzić on his way to Bucharest, with his present team, Romanian
Targovishte”. During his prosperous career, he has been working with several clubs simultaneously with being the Serbian female national team head coach. The job is the same on both levels, but the feeling is completely different.
– The feeling of working in the national team is incomparable. What we experience in the club is on the level of an ordinary job, which we try to do the best we can. The national team, however, is something else. It brings, but also requests much more than ordinary trainings and games. Each success is experienced with much stronger emotions, and the failures are more difficult to handle. At least this is how I feel it and express it clearly.
He has been in female volleyball for seventeen years already, although, at the beginning of his coaching career, he never even thought this would be his focus.
– I admit that I have rejected such a possibility at one point of time. I simply believed that working with ladies is more difficult, mainly due to their specific emotional set. I was convinced there were great differences between female and male volleyball, so for a long time I resisted the suggestion of Aleksandar Boričić to take over the ”Zvezda” female team. However, only a few months later, I realized I was wrong. Women are able to commit to sports with the same passion as men, perhaps even bigger. They are disciplined and very persistent. And, what’s especially important, they can be very loyal to the team and coach. My prejudice didn’t last long, so this became an important life experience for me. So it happened that all these years, besides all good and bad experiences, successes and failures, I never thought about going back to male volleyball, for which, to be honest, I didn’t have any special offers.
One of the frequent questions is whether the girls always understood him the right way and whether they gave as much as requested from them?
– That is nearly impossible to achieve. We aspire towards the best results, but sometimes they cannot be realized. Only after a certain period of time, from a distance, it can be noticed that although the objectives were clear, the real possibilities were not on that level. The girls have been following my requests and really gave their best. I think they understood me, especially the fact that I always ask them for more. After all, their individual careers show it, everything they have achieved in their clubs. The fact that they trust me and know that I’m requesting only what they can achieve means a lot to me.


Still, some of the players with great possibilities missed the chance to, especially in the national team, leave a deeper trace.
– This often happens in sports and it will always be so. Many other national teams also have similar experiences. It’s maybe more painful for us, since we don’t have so many great talents as some other countries, who can easily find a replacement. There were girls in the national team, who were able to do much more than they have done. I am sure they know why, but I can say that everything is actually the measure of real talent. Talent is not only readiness for a direct game, but also the way you behave in a community, the way you approach it and share with it everything other girls share. If you don’t recognize it as an essential need, you will hardly find a good place in any team sport. In that case, the only ones who lose are the sportsmen, who cheaply miss the golden period of their career, when they can achieve a lot as members of the national team. Such things, unfortunately, happened in female volleyball as well, but we managed to overcome it.
How can we explain the good results of Serbian volleyball, despite the fact that we have low quality leagues and huge drain of young players?
– That is a mystery for us in volleyball. We have been on top of the world for years, in a sport which is very popular worldwide. Finally, of all sports, the world volleyball federation has the biggest number of members. Our undeniable problem is a weak basis, because the leagues are on low level, consisting of young players, and the financial situation in the society, in all sports, including volleyball, is such that it cannot be compared with countries that have incomparably higher investments in sports. Perhaps the thing that keeps us on such a high level is excellent work, first of all of coaches, then the work in certain clubs and then in the federation itself. With the existing talents, it gives results for now. How long it will be so, I cannot even assume.
Phenomenon of Serbian sports...
– That’s a story difficult to explain even for people much more experienced than me. We have a habit of thoroughly analyzing our shortcomings. We are very precise in doing it and we know perfectly well that our basis is in a bad condition. Clubs, in all sports, are choking in problems, money is almost absent, and the infrastructure is on a low level. The situation in the society is similar. It seems that, in such a situation, many children, as well as their parents, see sports as a possibility to overcome the traps of an ugly time and direct the child to a right path in life. Not only to make money someday, enabling them to be independent, but mainly for the possibility to gain healthy principles and habits through sports, to grow as persons. Perhaps we are even lucky that, in such a time, many see sports as one of the rare opportunities to express themselves the right way.


Are we aware at all of the significance of our sports on the world scene?
– I’m not so sure. I don’t deny that our country has remarkable artists, deserving full attention, but I am certain that none of them has done so much for the affirmation of Serbia as the sportsmen have. You can go to any continent and meet people who know our sportsmen, although they don’t even know where Serbia is. Not only tennis players, but also water polo, basketball players, athletes, shooters and many others. It seems to me that our people easily skip that fact and see successes in sports more as entertainment than as major achievements. I think those results deserve more respect.
How does the female volleyball national team coach see the core of Serbian people?
– We have our unique features that should be preserved. We gained them by growing up on our land, and we should emphasize them with pride. People live better in some other countries and many things function better, but we mustn’t try to look like them. The way they socialize, work, spend their free time, is not ours and we don’t accept it.
We are now very burdened with crises in mutual relations. We used to respect, support and defend each other more. It’s lost now, perhaps under the weight of the crisis that has been lasting too long. That is why our entire living environment is difficult to bear, although the solution is right in front of us. Not in looking at others’ measures and habits and their adoption. We can be better to ourselves if we don’t lose what has always been our virtue – closeness and solidarity. Then we’ll see everything with a greater will and hope. Many of my acquaintances from all parts of the world, who visited Serbia, departed with the most beautiful experiences and wish to come again. We must never forget that, in moments of great crises, we have a lot to show and many like it a lot.
What to expect from the Olympics in Rio?
– We are aware of our quality, as well as the opponents’. If we just mention Brazil, Russia, USA, China, you will understand the competition awaiting us in fighting for a medal. However, I’m convinced that we can play on equal terms with all those teams and win them, as we have before. It’s finally time for bad luck to turn our back on us, because we attended the previous two Olympics with incomplete teams. Some reasons were ugly – injuries, and some beautiful – our players were pregnant. Now it’s time to go to the games complete. In such a situation, we will not be afraid of any opponent and I rightfully underline that we are ready to fight for a medal. You can count that we’ll do our best. It remains to be seen whether it’ll be sufficient for a celebration.


Shadow People
– When we speak about successes and medals, the focus is always on players and me. That’s probably correct, but I also want to highlight people who are rarely mentioned, although so many things depend on them. That is my coaching staff, ”shadow people”, as many call them. Their contribution is immeasurable. I wouldn’t have achieved half of my plans if it weren’t for them. I’m very grateful to them and believe that only with them I’m complete. Their only satisfaction is to help the national team; it’s not about money or any other interest. That’s why I never forget to mention them.


Beautiful and Difficult Moments
– In sports, results determine the level of our satisfaction. It’s easy to assume that the most beautiful moments are related to medals and victories, while the most difficult ones come with unfulfilled expectations. As I said, only after a while, we can realistically interpret what we have achieved, whether some results were lower than expected or whether some expectations were insufficiently realistic. Feeling that you could’ve done better and more than what you have achieved is difficult. You feel as if you’ve betrayed yourself. Luckily, during the past ten-odd years, we had more reasons to be satisfied. Perhaps because we were realistic about our possibilities.


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