They seemed to be flying high again. The venerable KB Insurance finished runner-up in the men’s V-League in the 2021-2022 season. They finished second in the regular season and runner-up in the championship. The glory was short-lived. The expectation around them was that they would “stay at the top,” but instead, they took a big step back. In the 2022-2023 season, they finished sixth in the regular season with 15 wins, 21 losses, and 42 points. Samsung Fire was the only team below them.
After meeting at the volleyball team’s clubhouse at the KB Insurance Insanium in Suwon, Gyeonggi-do, where the court and training center have been renovated to the latest standards, from flooring to treatment room equipment, In-jung KB Insurance, 49, said, “It was a painful season for everyone on the team. It was hard for me, but it must have been even more painful for the players. I don’t want to repeat the experience of stagnation instead of progress,” he said, reflecting on the past season.
But as painful as it was, it was also a learning experience. I realized the importance of crisis and point management, and I also found my own know-how. There are obviously realistic difficulties in terms of reinforcements, but we tried to work as hard as we could. For example, they retained foreigner Apojit Spiker (Light) Villena (Spain), who joined the team last December and has settled in well, and switched Apojit Spiker Korean Min to Middle Blocker (Center), the team’s weakest position.
Hoo sees hope again: “The high regard we had at the start of last season has been erased. This time, there are many voices of concern. I understand that. But we just have to do our job. If we play to the best of our abilities, we will improve every game. The low rating is a great motivation for us.”
-You were at the bottom of every metric last season.
“That’s right. We were at the bottom of almost every metric. There were very few good things about our offense and defense. We needed to be in the top half of the table to move up, and we weren’t. We deserved sixth place, and we’ve been working hard all offseason to redeem ourselves.”
-What are you focusing on in the offseason?
“We made too many errors. We gave up too many points to our opponents because of our own mistakes. The challenge is to minimize the number of errors we make. When you have fewer errors in a game, the quality of the game improves. The players agree. They recognize that they make too many mistakes. Of course, even if you’re conscious of them, they still happen, and you can’t play well without them, but if you reduce them, you can get closer to winning.”
-Do you have any tips for reducing errors?
“We focused on practicing our own patterns. For example, last season I would hit a strong serve, and then I would serve equally hard in the second or third position without changing anything, but this season I’m going to change it up. Number one will serve hard, number two will serve accurately, and so on.”
-On her young roster.
“We have a mix of players from 1986 (Kim Hong-jung, middle blocker) to 2004 (Park Hyun-bin, setter). The average age has dropped a lot. It can be difficult to maintain balance, and it can be a destabilizing factor. Training and matches are different. The role of the coaching staff is limited in practice. The players have to do it themselves. The seniors, including the new captain, Jung Min-soo (libero), need to keep the center of gravity during matches. We’re going to have some tough matches, some hard fought battles, and that’s when we need cohesion.”
-On emphasizing active volleyball.
“The players have to understand volleyball. They’re playing consistently, but not many of them really know the game. You have to play knowing what you’re supposed to do, when you’re supposed to do it, why you’re supposed to do it, and why you’re supposed to do it. We try to make sure that our players understand the game as much as possible. I also keep ordering fun volleyball. We need to have a lot of energy on the court, so it’s fun for the fans to watch.”
-How do you judge the current strength of the team?
“Bijena, who also played for Korean Air in the past, is already in her fourth season in the V-League. She knows our volleyball very well. Outside hitter (left) Liu Hung-min, who played consistently for the Taiwan National Team from 2013 to last year, will be important. The Asian Quarter, which was introduced in the V-League for the first time, is also a big factor for us. It could be a time to check the current status of domestic players. The skills shown in training are good, but we need to see the tempo in practice.”안전놀이터
-Can we play ‘spring volleyball’?
“I think a mid-to-high finish is possible if we’re being realistic this season, but the semifinals are our primary goal. Once we get there, the short-term race will be a different strategy. If we don’t have any major injuries in the regular season and manage our points well, we can do it. At the very least, we don’t want to repeat last season’s embarrassment. At the same time, I want to give the young players as many chances as possible. To be a good team, you need a good coach, players and environment. I think in two or three years we will be a somewhat competitive team.”