Passion is going to the library and photocopying everything you can find on volleyball. Passion is importing books on the sport. Passion is sitting down with international players and picking their brains. Passion is working on writing a training manual for coaches.
Dina Kladis has been doing all of this since the early 1990s, first as a player and then a coach, so it should be no surprise that she was instrumental in helping the Tuks women’s team win the USSA indoor volleyball tournament back in the ’90s.
As a coach, she went on to help quite a few teams win tournaments.
The best thing that could have happened to Tuks women’s volleyball was when she re-joined the club five years ago as a coach. Under her guidance, Tuks won the Varsity and USSA beach volleyball tournaments last year.
Two weeks ago, the Tuks women’s indoor team lost the final of the National Club Championships in the fifth set by two points against the University of the Western Cape.
This led to Kladis being appointed as assistant coach for the South African women’s U20 side.
When not coaching, Kladis is a maths teacher at St Mary Diocesan School for Girls and it’s something she’s equally as passionate about. ‘Coaching or teaching – it’s all the same to me. It’s about imparting knowledge and helping people fulfil their true potential. To me, there is nothing more rewarding.’
When Kladis played indoor volleyball for Tuks, the team was quite ambitious, setting themselves a goal to win the USSA tournament in three years – something they ended up doing much earlier.
As the team’s setter, Kladis was also the playmaker. It was in a time before the internet was as accessible as it is now. The only way she could get any additional information on volleyball was to go to the Hans Merensky Library and read up everything she could about the sport. She remembers sometimes photocopying almost an entire book to try and stay abreast of what was happening.
Afterwards, she would sit down and work out a game plan with the coach and captain. It got to a stage where they had a specific set of play for any situation that might arise during a game. The different plans got codenamed.
‘For example, somebody would call out “Nike”, and everybody would know what to do. We also had “Adidas” and “Reebok” plays. We used all the different sporting brand names to frustrate the opposition teams.’
It is Doctor Margrit Springer who convinced Kladis to start coaching at Tuks. Actually, she all but demanded Kladis do so.
‘The first thing I did was to sit down with each player, getting to know them, and finding out what their respective aspirations were. I also evaluated them. I told some that they need to lose weight. I also emphasised that fitness is the key to success.
‘At first, I was only coaching indoor volleyball, but the Flying Fish and Varsity Volleyball Tournaments changed everything. Because of the prize money on offer in the Flying Fish Tournament, players started to switch to beach volleyball.’
Part of Kladis’ success as a coach has always been that she never pretends to know everything. ‘I’m an avid reader. If I’m not reading education books, I’m reading up on volleyball. I even started importing books on volleyball. Sometimes when I’m at the gym running on the treadmill, I’ll be watching some YouTube video of volleyball coaching. I’ll also never hesitate to pick the brain of any person involved in the sport.
‘During last year’s Varsity Tournament I asked former Olympian Vita Nel to help teach the Tuks players the finer intricacies of the sport. This year I met Alex Volkov, a former national player of Romania, who is currently based in South Africa. I’m constantly learning new things from him. We started to work together on a coaching manual for beginner coaches.’
Kladis’ one big remaining aspiration is to get volleyball in South Africa the recognition it deserves and with her passion, one has to believe she’ll get it right!
Photo: Kladis in coaching action at Tuks, by Reg Caldecott