Japanese volleyball legend Kumi Nakada

Presenting the member of the FIVB Technical & Coaching Commission and four-time Olympian

Playmaker Kumi Nakada was still in high school when she led the Japanese women’s national team to bronze medals at the Olympic Games Los Angeles 1984. Now, at the age of 56, the FIVB Technical & Coaching Commission member can look back at a successful career as both a player and a coach that led her through four Olympic appearances.

Nakada started playing volleyball in junior high school. The talented ambidextrous athlete was called to the Japanese national team in 1980 at the early age of 15, initially as a middle blocker.

Three years later, she established herself as the starting setter of the team and as such she steered Japan to an Asian Championship gold in 1983, after a stunning upset of mighty China in the final.

Nakada in action

1.76m-tall Nakada made her first Olympic appearance at Los Angeles 1984 and, with Japan claiming the bronze medals, it was the most successful one. She also contributed to the team’s fourth place at Seoul 1988 and fifth place at Barcelona 1992 and became the first three-time Olympian in Japanese women’s volleyball. She was also honoured as the country’s flag bearer at the Barcelona Games.

During her national team career, Nakada also took part in two editions of the FIVB Volleyball World Championship. In 1982, they finished fourth. Four years later, she captained the squad to seventh place. Nakada and her teammates played at three editions of the FIVB Volleyball World Cup, finishing fourth in 1985 and 1989, and seventh in 1991. She was named the Best Setter of the 1989 tournament.

The renowned playmaker also earned a silver medal at the 1985 FIVB Volleyball Junior Women’s World Championship, two Asian Games silvers in 1982 and 1986, Asian Championship silver in 1991 and bronze in 1989.

Nakada at the Barcelona 1992 Olympic Games

In her club career, Nakada was a player of Hitachi Belle Fille Kodaira from 1981 to 1993 and then, returning briefly from retirement, during the 1995-1996 season. At her debut in Japan’s professional league, she was 16 years and three months old, and held the record for the youngest player in the league until 2007.

In her first season as a starting setter, she won the Japanese league rookie award. Later on, she earned four Most Valuable Player awards and six all-star team nominations. As a Hitachi member, Nakada triumphed as a national champion as many as 10 times.

During her years as an athlete, Nakada earned a reputation as one of the world's top setters.

At the Hitachi Belle Fille club, she also took on her first assistant coaching assignments. In 2008, she returned to the coaching profession as an assistant at Italy’s top-division team Minetti Vicenza, becoming the first Japanese woman to lead a foreign volleyball team. After a season in Vicenza, Nakada spent the next two with Asystel Volley Novara and reached the CEV Champions League semifinals in 2010.

Nakada coaching Hisamitsu at the 2014 Club World Championship

In 2011, Nakada went back to Japan to take over as the head coach of Hisamitsu Springs Kobe and led the team at three consecutive FIVB Volleyball Club World Championships. At the helm of the club, she steered Hisamitsu to the continental title at the 2014 Asian Club Championship, two continental silver medals in 2015 and 2017, three national championship titles and five Empress Cup trophies. At her second season on the job, the team also won the JVA’s Kurowashiki All Japan Tournament, celebrating a domestic golden treble.

From April 2017 through August 2021, Kumi Nakada served as the head coach of the Japanese national team. In her first season in that role, she topped the podium at the 2017 Asian Championship and finished fifth at the 2017 FIVB Volleyball Grand Champions Cup.

In the next couple of years, they finished sixth at the 2018 World Championship, fifth at the 2019 World Cup and took another continental gold at the 2019 Asian Championship. Shortly before resigning, Nakada guided Japan to the fourth place at the 2021 Volleyball Nations League and through their Olympic participation at a home Games in Tokyo. This way, to her three Olympic appearances as a player, she added one as a coach.