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2016-10-18 11:47:00 CEST

More Than Sports: She is the boss off court

The benefits and challenges of a coach-player-relationship

When you ask Simon Nausch (38), when exactly his romantic relationship with Marketa Slukova (28) started, it comes like a shot. “That was the 10th April 2009”. Marketa smiles approvingly. At that time, the Austrian and the Czech have been both players at the FIVB World Tour. Since 13th September, Marketa is called Slukova-Nausch. They used the off-season like many other players to get married. “In prosperity and adversity,” has a special meaning for them, because Simon is as much husband as head coach for Marketa.

Simon is carrying Marketa on his hands – on court and off-court. Photocredit: artefact image co.Simon is carrying Marketa on his hands – on court and off-court. Photocredit: artefact image co.

“I didn´t want that at the beginning,” he says. When they have been together one year, he helped out during training sessions in Prague, because Marketa and her former partner Kristyna Kolocova often had to practice on their own. “We had to persuade him a lot,” Marketa tells us. “I had concerns because I didn’t want other people to think, that I pretend to be a coach now, because I missed out the big breakthrough at the FIVB World Tour as a player.” His concerns have been needless, as the success of the trio came fast. In 2010, Kolocova/Slukova became FIVB Rookies of the Year, at the Olympic Games in 2012 they surprised everybody with a fifth place finish, two years later they won their first FIVB Open in Prague and then gold at the Grand Slam in Berlin. But then they struggled. After the World Championships 2015 in the Netherlands, Kolocova/Slukova split, but Simon is still at Marketa’s side as her coach. “It was not because we are together as a couple, it’s because I respect Simon as a coach.” says Marketa. “He has a lot to give, a lot of knowledge to bring me and my new partner in front.” With Barbora Hermannova, she won gold at the FIVB Open in Antalya, silver at the European Championship in Biel, and most surprisingly, they managed to qualify for the Olympic Games after just one year together.

Marketa, Simon and Barbora started a successful new relationship by qualifying for the Olympics. Photocredit: FIVBMarketa, Simon and Barbora started a successful new relationship by qualifying for the Olympics. Photocredit: FIVB

Relationships between coaches and players are nothing out of the ordinary. You can find a lot of them at the World Tour, but not every couple wants to talk about it, because it’s also a sensitive topic and sometimes a challenge. “It’s not always easy trying to be the best coach for Marketa and her boyfriend at the same time,” Simon says. Marketa is nodding affirmingly. “Sometimes you are just seeking your boyfriend, sending him a message after a bad match and just want to get a smiley back and a kiss with some words of consolation — but as I am fully in there, I will not say this,” Simon explains. “Very often,” laughs Marketa. But they developed a strategy for that kind of situation. “Marketa gives a sign to me when she just wants a boyfriend and not the coach analyzing the situation,” Simon says.

The promise of Marketa and Simon

At the beginning of their working relationship they made a promise to each other: “We said we were together first before the volleyball. Whenever the player-coach relationship has a negative input on our own relationship, or when we realize at a moment, that I cannot help her as a coach anymore, we will immediately stop it,” Simon says. At the moment, the worst thing for Simon is that he never has socks. “As a matter of fact, we pack at the same time and she always takes all the socks,” he complains. “I bought already the most ridiculous colors, but she is not stopping.”

Marketa and Simon enjoy working together. Photo credit: Marketa and Simon.Marketa and Simon enjoy working together. Photo credit: Marketa and Simon.

Besides, the newly-married couple is seeing mainly benefits in sharing the working life as well as the private life. “It’s really great, that we have the possibility to experience so many things together,” Marketa says. “During all the traveling, emotions and challenges you have your partner at your side. Other players are miles away from their loved ones and have to search for some quality time together. These long-distance relationships take a lot of energy and effort. From this point of view, we have it a little easier.” Another topic to avoid is that the third teammate may feel excluded, seeing the greater familiarity of the two others around. “In a way, it is special because two of three in a team are together,” Marketa says. “We try to divide it, but those feelings can come anyway. I think about it a lot, it's all about how you set it up and that you can talk about bad feelings.” During a tournament, Simon sometimes talks more to Barbora than to Marketa he says. “It can be some unconscious compensation, but firstly, it is, because I am working for her and want to be the best coach for her as well.”

During a tournament, Simon is usually voting for being alone in a room, whereas Marketa is with her partner. Most of all, it is because of the practical reason that he has to work at night a lot, to do video analysis and skype calls with the other coaches. Of course, they also love to be together in a room, which can also be seen as a big plus for the third teammate. “Some many teams would love not to be together in a room during a tournament.” Having a player-coach relationship in a team could bring another advantage: to have separate rooms for the teammates but without spending money for a third room. “I know from other teams that some players stay with their partner even in other hotels, so it would be normal for me so why should I not want my partner to be happy?” Barbora says. “If I would have my boyfriend with me I would also like to stay with him. I ask them very often if they want to stay together. I think, we have a good balance in our team and I do not feel like the fifth wheel.”


Grand Canyon National Park at 5:30 AM got us like.....whaaaat?? Soooo beautiful😍✨🌳 #sunrise #grandcanyon #morningbirds

See this Instagram photo by @marketa_slukova * 831 likes

“Actually I’m wondering that it is getting better every year and not the other direction,” Simon says. That’s also why they tied the knot four weeks ago on a farm in Arkansas. “It is very romantic directly in the forest because you can see the Milky Way,” Simon raves. They also have a special relation to this farm because it belongs to some close associates of the team. “Last year they built up a beach volleyball court for us, so that we could practice for some weeks and then we decided to do it there,” Simon says. There are no plans for a honeymoon at the moment as Marketa and Simon want to stay at home in Prague, spending time with their two dogs. “I am totally enjoying being at home, even to hang the laundry,” Marketa says. Another reason why Marketa loves being at home, Simon explains, is by showing a painting a pink wall in their bedroom: “That’s the way it is. On the court, I am her head coach, at home, she is the boss.”

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