Laurent Tillie: Getting the job done

Presenting the member of the FIVB Technical & Coaching Commission, a four-time Olympic participant and a Tokyo 2020 Olympic champions coach

Laurent Tillie and the French National Federation had already agreed that the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 would be his last competition as the head coach of their men’s national team. Before leaving Les Blues to focus on his new job at the helm of Japan’s Panasonic Panthers Hirakata, Tillie, who is also serving as a member of the FIVB Technical & Coaching Commission, made sure he got the old job done. And he got it done well, steering the team to a historic Olympic gold!

Laurent Tillie and the French team rejoice as Olympic champions

Laurent was born in 1963 into the family of French volleyball international Guy Tillie and eventually passed on his volleyball passion to his son Kevin, who is also a French national team member. And they are not the only highly successful athletes in this sporting family. Laurent’s brother Patrice was a water polo international, his wife Caroline Keulen was a Dutch volleyball international, while his other two sons, Kim and Killian, are professional basketball players.

Laurent Tillie’s first major achievements on the volleyball court came during his first season as a professional player. The 1.93m-tall outside hitter and his club AS Cannes won both the CEV Cup and the French championship in 1981. They went on to reach the 1983 final of the CEV European Champions Cup, in addition to winning another four national titles and the 1983 France Cup. Later on, as a player of Paris UC, Tillie added three more French championship titles and a national cup trophy to his club volleyball showcase. In between, he also spent five seasons abroad, in the Italian championship, competing for Sidis Baker Falconara and claiming a 1987 bronze.

Tillie (#7) as a player in Italy

Tillie played for the French national team from 1982 to 1995, collecting 407 caps. He captained Les Blues from 1991 to 1992. In that period, they won two CEV European Championship medals, bronze in 1985 and silver in 1987. The outside hitter and his teammates made it to two editions of the Olympic Games, Seoul 1988 and Barcelona 1992, France’s first-ever Olympic appearances, and took part in three FIVB Volleyball World Championships, in 1982, 1986 and 1990. They also finished fourth at the 1986 Goodwill Games.

As an athlete, Tillie also gave international beach volleyball a try. In 1994 and 1996 he played in a total of three Open events on the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour, in France, Portugal and Italy.

Returning to AS Cannes in 2001 to finish his playing career, Tillie also took on his first coaching job. He had already earned a Bachelor of Science in Movement and Education in 1984 and a Diploma of Physiotherapy and Kinesiology in 1991 from the University of Nice. He worked at the helm of AS Cannes through 2012, leading them to several domestic podiums, including the 2005 national championship gold and the 2007 national cup trophy, as well as to a fifth place in the 2008 Champions League. During that period, he took on his first national team coaching assignment taking over the Czech Republic in 2005 and 2006.

Coach Tillie at work during the 2014 World Championship

Tillie started his period as head coach of the French national team in July 2012. His first major success in that role was the fourth place at the 2014 World Championship. 2015 was an amazing year for his team. First, they topped the second-tier division of the FIVB Volleyball World League and qualified for the elite division Finals in Brazil, where they defied their underdog status to win gold, their first title in the competition’s history. Later that year, France went through the entire European Championship undefeated to claim the country’s first-ever continental title.

Under Tillie, France went on to win one more World League crown in 2017, a World League bronze in 2016 and two medals in the Volleyball Nations League, silver in 2018 and bronze in 2021, before travelling to Japan for his last competition in that role, the Tokyo Olympics.

After participating at two Games as a player and leading France at Rio 2016 as a coach, Tillie made his fourth Olympic appearance in the Japanese capital. At his first participation in 1988, France had achieved their best previous Olympic result, eighth place. At his last participation, they not only topped that, but made it all the way to the top of the podium to give Tillie’s period as head coach of the team the glossiest possible finish. For his incredible achievement, he was honoured by the CEV as the 2021 Men’s Team Coach of the Year.

While coaching France, Tillie spent a season in women’s club volleyball leading the team of RC Cannes. In 2020, he was appointed at the helm of Japan’s Panasonic Panthers, where he is currently working. During his first two seasons on the job, he steered the team to four domestic podiums, including a silver and a bronze in their national league.