By Paul Nilsen
|Daniel Goethals knows many of his potential national team players from his time as a coach in the Belgian youth programme|
New Belgian national team coach Daniel Goethals is relishing the prospect of overseeing a changing of the guard and ensuring a healthy sprinkling of young talent realise their potential at the senior level.
The recently installed play-caller is naturally thrilled to be in the hot-seat, but also confronting the task ahead with both eyes wide open and acutely aware of the challenges which lie in wait.
He said, "To become the national team coach was a bit of a dream few years ago. I was close last year and really disappointed to miss out, but now that's behind me and I'm really happy after being a player and coach with the youth team for the country.
"It's a great achievement, but I also know that the task will be very tough and difficult.
"However, I truly believe that players also want another level of performance on court. And, that's the main thing because they are the ones on the court."
"The EuroBasket Women 1st Qualification Round games this summer will be very difficult for us, not least because of the teams that we will face in our group" continued Goethals.
Belgium will travel to Finland for their Group C tournament, taking on the hosts and Poland on 7-9 June.
"For us, it's another new start and we will firstly look to transmit the confidence back to the players of the national team. They need to be proud and to enjoy the national team.
"This campaign is of course to do the best to reach EuroBasket Women 2015, but also to improve and create a team that should take advantage during the next years.
He added, "Now, all will depend on the capacity of the young players to continue to improve. And, we come back to the fact that practicing harder and more often, but also playing tough games is important."
Last year was wholly forgettable for Belgium. The young guns found it tough during qualification for EuroBasket Women 2013, losing all but one of their eight games to finish rock bottom of the group.
Goethals was quick to draw a line under the disappointment, preferring to re-enforce the need for collective responsibility and unity.
He said, "First of all, I will never criticise any of my colleagues, but I really believe that if everyone is not going in the same direction, then it's tough.
"Results last year were not the fault of the coach, the assistant or whoever else, but reflect a certain amount of mistakes from everyone involved.
"Belgium needs continuity and also we need to be more professional on every level.
WAVING GOOD BYE TO THE OLD GUARD
Any subsequent ‘rebirth' won't involve some senior players, including the legendary Ann Wauters who recently retired, although Goethals was keen to turn this into a positive.
"It's of course a pity that players such as Ann Wauters, Kathy Wambe and Dana Boonen are definitely retiring, but we also have other players with quality and desire to make this team improve and perform" he insisted.
"I did have the chance to have Ann in my practice few years ago and she's really impressive. However, we need to move on and we need to find a way to be able to play without her."
"From an alternative perspective, this situation is also good in terms of having 'a new start' and other players will now have the chance to show their potential."
|Center Emma Meesseman is currently honing her skills in France but will join EuroLeague Women power house Sparta&K in due time|
HOW TO MAKE YOUR PLAYERS BETTER
With a handful of talented rising stars to work with, it's a delicate balancing act for Goethals, who is keen for his players to compete at the elite level, but who also wants the domestic Belgian league to improve - a classic conundrum.
He said, "Some young players are improving, but it's clear that playing abroad gives you another opportunity to step up. For example, Emma Meesseman realises the difference between the levels by playing in France.
"In Belgium, we are missing the professional structure to always work like a pro-team, but during the last couple of years, the Federation has been trying to help the players to practice more and to do more. But, you also need the players to be motivated and especially with goals for the future!
"The fact that many more players are participating in the EuroCup Women is very positive though" suggested Goethals.
"As national team coach, I would like that all the selected players could practice and play with EuroLeague Women teams, but it's impossible, so I have to stay a realist.
"The Belgium League can grow and improve, with better foreigners and more attractive games, but the European competition standard is really important for my players if they want to reach the EuroBasket Women in the future."