Fair-play for personal growth in youth

Jan Kozamernik is a member of the Slovene male volleyball representative team and he was on the court when Slovenia won silver at the European championship in Italy in 2015. At the moment he is a part of the Italian champion from Milan. We are honoured that he responded to our invitation to become an ambassador of the PGSi 2019 Slovenia. For this purpose, he answered to some questions about the meaning of sports in youth and of the importance of emphasizing fair-play.

Jan, which fun childhood experience in sports that you had stands out in your memory particularly?

I remember one occurrence, when we were at practice, still in middle school, playing volleyball and we weren’t very good at defence. At one point our coach have had enough and he stopped the game. He told us that he (at the age of approximately 50) played better defence than us. Of course, we challenged him and true to his words, he started after the ball, made false deterrents, and he had done all that with so much energy as he would be a 20-year old. At the end we all applauded him and laughed because he showed us in a fun way that he was right.

Can you tell us three values that you have received with sports?

Order and discipline in life at the most, friendship and the fact that good results are achieved with hard work and if you believe in them.

Who do you look up to the most and why?

I don’t have an idol, because in my opinion you have to follow your own goals and wishes and along that path search for the best version of yourself. You have to push your boundaries which you are capable of each and every day and learn from your mistakes.

Do you think it’s important to emphasize fair-play between young athletes?

Fair-play is definitely very important in sports, because we don’t play only for results, especially not in youth, but because we grow personally through sports in fair-play is a good starting point for that.

Have you ever bore witness to a gesture of fair-play that made a special impact on you?

I saw a lot of gestures of fair-play in my career, but one from last year made a really big impression. It was the last game at half-finals of the Italian state championship which was crucial for ascending to finals. It happened at the end of one of the sets when teams already played for two-point difference, so each point counted. The visiting team played defence and the ball flew towards the audience. One of the young ball girls caught the ball on instinct, even though the libero of the visiting’s team could have saved it without a problem. A point was awarded to the local team. Most players would react with anger in this situation and reprimand the young ball girl, but the libero of the visiting team went to her and asked her if she was okay, proceeded to give her a high-five and returned to the court. A lovely gesture which told everybody that the importance of the point is not relevant, after all we are all human and we all make mistakes. To be a human in this kind of situations tells us a lot about a person, as fair-play comes from the heart.