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2016-12-07 14:30:00 CEST

Making The Team: Four blockers on their way to Tokyo

Vergé-Dépré/Heidrich and Erdmann/Dollinger are facing new challenges

Pedro and Evandro do it. So do Aleksandrs Samolivs and Janis Smedins as does Pablo Herrera and Adrian Gavira, so why don’t we try it ourselves asked Jonathan Erdmann and Armin Dollinger.

Now you understand their similarities, right? It is not about winning a gold medal at an FIVB World Tour event — although the Germans would love to do that one day. But what Jonathan, 28, and Armin, 26, are planning in the first step is to break the boundaries between block and defense.

The perfect complement

During the last 10 years, 1.94-meter tall Jonathan and his eight centimeters taller partner Armin have been net patrollers. Jonathan played the last seven years at the side of Kay Matysik, while Armin played recently with Clemens Wickler. When they all started to realign after the Olympics, Armin decided to ask Jonathan to be partners for the new cycle beginning in 2017. “I am positive that we will be the perfect complement to each other,” Armin tells us.

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See this Instagram video by @armin_dollinger * 37 likes

Elmar Harbrecht, the Under-21 national coach in Germany also likes the idea of two blockers. “I think the service and a good block will become more and more important in men’s beach volleyball,” he says. “I also see the tendency,” Jonathan says. “I do not think that defense is minor, but the game is becoming more aggressive, so maybe a match will be decided more by a good block than by good defense.” That’s why he thinks that two blockers with two different techniques can become a coefficient for success. Nevertheless, both are learning the dirty part of the game: “It is very exciting to learn something new and it totally helps to look at the game from the other perspective once in a while,” Jonathan says. He and Armin are both practicing defense at the moment. “Our performance curve is very steep as we start as beginners,” Jonathan laughs.

A new challenge for Anouk

Meanwhile, Anouk Vergé-Dépré, 24, is experiencing the same thing at the moment. When Isabelle Forrer retired she partnered up with 1.90-meter tall Joana Heidrich, 25, who also had to say goodbye to her former partner Nadine Zumkehr, who quit playing after the World Tour Finals in Toronto. In contrast to Erdmann/Dollinger, the Swiss girls will stick to the division of tasks: Anouk, will use her 1.85 meters to the defense. “When I started I played a little bit defense, it’s a completely different aspect of the game,” says Anouk. She is doing different exercise in athletics now and different moves in the sand. “It’s a new challenge and a new attraction,” she says. “Anouk has always been a very smart blocker,” coach Sebastian Beck tells us. “Now we will see if she can transfer this to defense on her way to Tokyo.” Sebastian thinks defense in women’s beach volleyball will be as important as in the years before – and that’s why Beck wants to have a clear allocation of tasks. “Laura Ludwig and Kira Walkenhorst show how helpful that can be.”

new challenge: defense! ⭐️stay patient and trust your journey.⭐️ @nikewomen @nikevision #traineatsleeprepeat

See this Instagram photo by @anoukvergedepre * 2,050 likes

Flexibility is the key

In the men’s field, Sebastian could also imagine a little shift, as the players become bigger and bigger. But the most successful teams like Brazilian Swatch World Tour Finals and Olympic gold medalists Alison/Bruno or Italian Olympic silver medalists Nicolai/Lupo have a blocker and a relatively smaller defensive player. “I think both styles are working for men,” Anouk says. “We should better concentrate on specialization as we do not have the same athletic level than the men.” Flexibility will be the key in the future. Laura and Kira also showed how useful it can be when both players are able to do both jobs. Sometimes they switch so that Kira can concentrate on the service while Laura also scored with blocks during past season. Anouk and Joana and Jonathan and Armin are able to do it this way. “But like Laura and Kira, we do not plan to do this regularly,” Anouk says.

Today is 🎅🏻#i hope you had a nice day#happy#fun#keepmovingkeepticking @swatchandsports

See this Instagram video by @heidrichjoana * 1,005 likes

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