Athanasios Papageorgiou, fondly revered as ‘Papa’, is a coaching legend whose influence spans generations within Germany and beyond.

Born in 1943, Papageorgiou embarked on a distinguished career path marked by the passion for excellence. His journey into sports education began with the completion of the first state examination in sports and pedagogy, laying the foundation for a lifelong commitment to athletic development.

From 1970 to 2009, he served as a lecturer at the Institute for Sports Games at the German Sport University in Cologne, where his impact resounded across generations of aspiring athletes and coaches. His tenure was defined by a string of successes, both as a Bundesliga coach in the men’s division and as a pioneering figure in adaptive sports coaching.

German coach Athanasios Papageorgiou

“I have always believed that if you are already a coach of one volleyball discipline, then it’s not difficult to be a good coach of another discipline. However, you must know very well the structure of the game and conduct a thorough analysis of the technical elements, tactical formations and strategies,” Papageorgiou said.

Under his guidance, the German national team achieved remarkable success, securing four Paralympic gold medals spanning from 1988 to 2000 and multiple world titles. His strategic acumen and ability to inspire his players propelled the team to unprecedented heights on the global stage.

Beyond his achievements on the court, Papageorgiou has left a mark on the coaching landscape, spearheading coaching training initiatives for the German Volleyball Federation (DVV) and sharing his expertise globally.

“Beach volleyball is the healthiest sport discipline according to experts. In literature of able-bodied beach volleyball, you can easily find all its advantages and benefits,” he emphasised.

“In beach paravolley, it is important to know that athletes with upper and lower disabilities can play this discipline, while in sitting volleyball or wheelchair basketball and other sports, only players with lower limb disability could play more successfully.”

© German Sport University Cologne

His influence extends beyond the court, as he advocates for the inclusion of beach paravolley in the Paralympic games programme.

In his research paper, ‘A Point of View’, Papageorgiou outlines the parallels between the evolution of beach volleyball for able-bodied athletes and the potential for beach paravolley to thrive on the international stage.

“We must recruit players for beach paravolley from sitting volleyball, just as beach volleyball recruited players from volleyball in its early days. The strategy for beach paravolley must mirror the successful evolution of beach volleyball. We need to have competitive tournaments and coaching initiatives to nurture talent and promote the discipline’s growth,” he stressed.

As he continues to champion the cause of inclusivity of beach paravolley, his legacy serves as a guide for future generations of athletes and coaches.

“For the domestic level, establishing effective collaboration with the able-bodied volleyball federation on all levels is essential. Through coaches and refereeing courses, aiming to incorporate brief presentations focusing on the rules, particularly highlighting the differences between able-bodied and disabled disciplines, could serve as multipliers in educating coaches and referees. Additionally, publication of articles in volleyball magazines to disseminate information on a wider scale,” he mentioned.

“Similarly, the strategies implemented domestically can be applied on a global scale by engaging with zonal federations, and the FIVB. Utilising the development centres provided by the FIVB presents an additional opportunity for advancement of the discipline on a global scale.”

Read the paper ‘A Point of View: Standing beach paravolley – the way forwards by Atha Papageorgiou’


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