Exclusive interview with Aloisius Vayakohambo Ishitile: Development Commission/Head Coach

Name: Aloisius Vayakohambo Date of Birth : 30 July 1987
Place of Birth: Oshihau, Ombalantu
Sport: Volleyball
Position: Development Commission/Head Coach
Club: African Catwalkers (Afrocat) Volleyball Club
Position: Development Director
Club: Central Volleyball Association

How did a village boy, who grew up playing football, ended up owning and being heavily involved in volleyball?
Well, I grew up in a village where football was the only sport played, but it was tough since there was a lack of sports equipment like balls. Despite this, I excelled in the game and I remember during those years the guys from the village nicknamed me “Agogo”, after Junior Agogo from Ghana, because my playing style resembled his.
My soccer journey ended in 2006 when I finished high school. Inspired by the guys from Kunene who were into volleyball. I decided to challenge myself and learn to play volleyball. In 2009, I joined the Namibian Navy, and along with a fellow colleague, we formed the Namibian Navy Volleyball club.
My coaching journey began in 2011. That year, the team needed a female squad, but there was no one available to coach them. With the limited skills I had, I decided to step up, leading them and becoming their first coach.

You sound like somebody who likes to step up when presented with an opportunity, how did all this begin?
Look, playing sport was never my primary focus; rather, I found my passion in guiding and leading others. In 2010, I embarked on my journey by enrolling in a sport management course offered by the Namibian Volleyball Federation.
During the same year, I also completed the African Project Course, a grassroot coaching program. As my interest in coaching continued to blossom, I eagerly took on the role of Development Director for the Erongo Volleyball Association in 2012. This allowed me to contribute to the growth and progress of the sport through coaching and leadership.

With a visionary leadership, you could have gone into the corporate sector, but you decided to pursue sports, what was your inspiration?
I have always been deeply intrigued by the growth and development of various sports, especially in terms of grassroots programs and community engagement. As I explored different sports, I could not help but notice the impressive strides that codes like football and tennis have made in establishing robust player development pathways.
However, what truly inspires me is the potential I see in volleyball, a sport that is still in its growth phase. I believe that by channeling my passion and dedication into fostering similar grassroots initiatives, I can contribute to the expansion and enrichment of volleyball’s game.
The prospect of not just following established paths, but actively shaping the trajectory of a developing sport like volleyball, resonates deeply with my aspirations. This is why I’m driven to pursue a career in volleyball, as I see it as an opportunity to make a meaningful impact on both the sport and the community it serves.

Volleyball is not a very popular sport, where did you draw your inspirations from?
I’ve drawn inspiration from remarkable figures such as my former head coach during my time in the Navy and chairperson for Erongo Volleyball Association Mr. Edward Tomas Nashipili, who was one the most influenceable person in coaching, his inspirations, courage and motivation made me to take the coaching journey seriously, he served as my head coach.
Additionally, leaders like Joel Mathew, the former chairperson of the Sport Commission and CAVB coach instructor, have greatly influenced my path. It’s also important to acknowledge the guidance of Mars Mara, who currently holds the role of a sports officer in Okahandja, and has been instrumental in shaping my journey within the Ministry of Sport, Youth, Sport, and National Service.

Everybody has a moment that there are proud of, what is your?
One of the proudest moments in my career, was when I served as the Head Coach for the Khomas Region in 2018 during the regional youth games. During that time, our girls’ team secured the bronze medal, while the boys’ team achieved the gold medal.
Another significant achievement came during the 2018 AUSC games, where I had the honor of being the head coach for Team Namibia’s male team, which clinched the bronze medal. This experience was particularly special to me as it marked my first time coaching internationally in volleyball, and the success we achieved gave me an unparalleled sense of accomplishment.
Another moment was during the 2019 Doc Tournament, when my team stood out in, even though we lost at semifinal from a well composed team, we came out in third place and we were ranked 3 in the country.

Sports in the country is very skewed towards the premier league teams, do you think what you do is appreciated in grassroots development and can you talk to us about a significant low point you faced and how you managed to overcome it?
The worse hard time in my career is when top teams take players from development teams, since they don’t want to do development. There was a time I introduce a contract in my team, a certain player transfered to another team, I asked the other team to pay for the breach of contract that had not expired, I was taken to court and my team was destroyed totally. And I had to form another team, different team, different organization.

How did it feel to be taken to court because of sports?
This was one of the lowest point in my sports career, being taken to court because of sport, the code that I volunteer for, the sport that I do not even get paid for. To make matters even worse I could not even afford to pay the lawyer.
It was even more painful as the only solution was me agreeing that I was wrong, want or not the team must be removed from the league and at the end no team at all.

Most people handle setbacks and failures differently, what helps you bounce back?
I have learnt to analyze what went wrong, identify lessons, and use those insights for future endeavors. I maintain a positive outlook, focusing on the opportunities that setbacks present for growth and improvement. I adjust my approach or goals based on the new information and circumstances, demonstrating flexibility.
Sometimes I lean to my friends, family, mentors, or professionals for emotional support, advice, and perspective. I also keep pushing forward, not allowing setbacks to deter me from long-term goals.
In fact, I view failure as a natural part of the learning process and as a stepping stone toward eventual success. I always set achievable goals that are challenging but not overwhelming, reducing the likelihood of major setbacks.

In Namibia sport is not considered a career path, with sports being removed from the education roster, do you have any challenges personally and how have you been able to overcome this them?
One of the most challenging moments was when a parent decided to prevent their child from participating in sports. During this time, people started spreading stories about me and the sexualization of players and even mentioned instances of underage players, aged between 13 and 17, drinking and socializing with me.
I have had to work extra hard, prove myself that am not such person, improve communication with parents, having a fixed schedule and well communicated in writing to all involved.
I must say people will not be happy with you, even if you are a volunteer. My advice is you do not need to stop doing good, you need to work even extra harder to prove them wrong.

Can you say that you have evolved both as a person and a professional? And can you share some insights?
I still recall were I started, the timeline of my development, at the beginning, I was like a student just starting school – learning basic language patterns and information. As time passed, I gained more knowledge and improved my abilities, I spend nights, following other coaches on websites, learning the cues of Volleyball here and there.
Through this I learned that providing accurate and reliable information is crucial to building trust with others (parents & athletes), I learnt how to adapt, what ethical consideration around the sport.
But I also learnt that people will hate you for your hardworking, the more you put efforts, the more enemies of progress you create. Overall, just like any other person growing through life experiences, my development involves learning, adapting, and striving to become better at what I do.

What message do you have for others in similar position as yourself?
Stand up, be yourself, don’t listen to negativity. Remember negative people will want to pull you down always, let us build the sport code and sport industry.

How do you manage to find a balance between your career and personal life?
The balance between personal life and coaching, became easy when I started planning, I developed attendance of having weekly program, coming up with seasonal plannings for the team, separating my personal goals and those of the club, defining my personal objectives and those of the club separately. And finally setting priorities either weekly or monthly.

Do you have individuals who you consider as your mentors or sources of inspiration? And how did they influence your approach to coaching?
Yes I have a few of the mentors, and they really helped me in coaching, the first person is Coach Michael Sirkel from Beltane BVB (Swiss), Coach Brian (Coach B ) from Canada and founder of Digital Volleyball Academy, this is where Volleyball Coaches Learn How To Build Championship Programs online. Coach Megan and Coach Alexedria Titans both from the USA.
Their inspirations is more on development, Beach and Indoor volleyball including training and coaching children at early age of three to four years. Am a believer that sport and education go hand in hand. And children who perform better at school, are that ones that become better athletes.

Can you share your typical training routine?
I spend times in coaching Juniors under 10,13,15,17 and youth teams most of them are 18 to 25 years. I spend time setting up the training plans according to the age categories and the age level of the players. I have to make sure that my training goals are realistic and attained, and then by this I make sure the players have fun all times.

Leadership in a draining responsibility sometimes especially, when you work with young people. How are you able to get a balance with mental and emotional readiness?
Before my training I have to be mentally prepared, few things like deep breathing techniques help me with mental readiness, while also doing some vocal warm-ups, listening to songs or singing help with physical readiness, engage in positive self-talk to boost confidence this is part of my emotional readiness.

What aspects of the sport do you enjoy the most?
As a coach, I get the most enjoyment in helping athletes develop their skills, achieve their goals, and witness their progress. My motivation comes from seeing their dedication and growth. Challenging aspects can include managing different personalities, maintaining team cohesion, and adapting to changing circumstances.

What aspects of coaching do you enjoy the most? And what do you consider challenging?
I thoroughly enjoy fostering a love for the sport of volleyball in young players and witnessing their growth. Seeing their enthusiasm and improvement keeps me motivated to provide the best coaching experience possible.
While coaching, managing the varying skill levels and personalities among different age groups can be challenging. However, I view it as an opportunity to tailor my coaching approach, which ultimately helps me become a more adaptable and effective coach.
During tough times, I remind myself of the impact I have on these young athletes’ lives. Seeing them coming to the sport and develop both as players and individuals reinforces my passion. Additionally, continuous learning through workshops and staying connected with fellow coaches helps keep my enthusiasm alive.

How has your involvement in this coaching affected your life outside of it?
Coaching has been a transformative experience for me. It has not only honed my leadership skills but also enhanced my problem-solving abilities. The values and lessons I’ve learned through coaching have positively influenced how I navigate challenges both in society and at my workplace.

What accomplishments do you consider to be the highlights of your career so far?
Among the highlights of my coaching career, I take immense pride in witnessing some of my players’ successful careers, including their employment by institutions like the Namibia Police and National Correction Service. Knowing that I played a part in their growth from grassroots to such esteemed positions is truly rewarding.
As I said I’m particularly proud of the development of players who have gone on to serve in critical roles within the police and correctional services. Seeing them excel not only in sports but also in their chosen professions reflects the holistic approach to development that I strive to provide as a coach.

Where do you see yourself in five – ten years from now?
Looking ahead, my goals involve continuing to impact the lives of young athletes positively. I aim to cultivate a strong sense of discipline, teamwork, and personal growth among my players. Additionally, I aspire to expand my coaching influence by sharing my experiences and methodologies with fellow coaches through workshops and mentorship programs.

What sort of legacy do you want to leave behind?
I envision a legacy that revolves around the development of well-rounded individuals. I hope to be remembered not only for the athletes I have trained but also for the positive impact I have had on their lives beyond the field. I want to inspire a generation of athletes who carry forward the values of dedication, respect, and community that I have instilled in them.

What would you tell anybody who wants to get into sport?
For those starting their journey in coaching or athletics, my advice is to stay focused on your goals and believe in yourself. Ignore the negativity that might come from others who doubt your abilities.
Remember that challenges are a natural part of any journey, and they are opportunities for growth. Surround yourself with a positive support network, and keep learning and improving your skills. Embrace failure as a chance to learn and evolve, and never lose sight of your passion for the sport.

Looking back, what has been the most valuable experience you’ve gained from your life journey?
Reflecting on my journey, the most valuable lesson I’ve learned is the importance of perseverance. Throughout the challenges and obstacles, staying committed and continuing to work hard has been the key to my progress.
It’s also important to adapt and evolve, staying open to new strategies and ideas. The journey isn’t always easy, but the dedication and effort put in are what truly define success.

If given the chance to turn the clock backwards, what would you do?
If I could go back in time, I might have taken more risks and stepped out of my comfort zone earlier in my career. Trying new approaches or exploring different opportunities can lead to unexpected growth and development.
Additionally, I would have focused more on building a strong network and seeking mentorship from experienced coaches or athletes. Learning from others’ experiences can provide valuable insights and shortcuts to success

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