Philippe Blain: Excellence as both a player and a coach

Presenting the Secretary of the FIVB Technical & Coaching Commission, a four-time Olympian participant and a World Championship MVP

61-year-old Frenchman Philippe Blain, the current head coach of the Japan men’s national volleyball team and Secretary of the FIVB Technical and Coaching Commission, has left his mark of excellence in his professional career not only as a coach, but also as a player; and not only as an indoor player, but also on the beach.

Born in 1960 in Montpellier, Blain was a descendant of a sporting family. His grandfather was an international rugby player, while his father switched from playing rugby to playing volleyball and then headed the Montpellier University volleyball club as a president.

It was at that club, where young Philippe started playing competitive senior volleyball as an outside hitter in the early 1980s, and it was one of only two clubs he competed for during his entire athletic career. With Montpellier, Blain achieved several top four finishes in the French league, including two bronze medals in 1985 and 1989. The team’s biggest success during that period was the 1988 continental bronze in the CEV Cup club competition.

The 1.93m-tall volleyballer spent the last two seasons of his club career playing abroad for Alpitour Cuneo in the Italian league.

Blain instructing the French players at the 2006 FIVB World Championship

Philippe Blain was even more successful as a national team player. He was a member of the French squad from 1980 through 1991 and took part in four CEV European Championships, two FIVB World Championships, the 1986 Goodwill Games and the Seoul 1988 Olympic Games, accumulating a total of 340 caps.

In 1985, Blain and his French teammates took a continental bronze. In 1986, when France hosted the World Championship, the team finished sixth, while Blain himself was named the Most Valuable Player of the tournament. He received the same honour the following year, at EuroVolley 1987, where France celebrated with the silver medal.

Before starting his coaching career, Philippe Blain also represented France on the sand at four events in the first two seasons of the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour, along with Alain Fabiani as a partner. At the 1990 Enoshima Open in Japan, they made it as far as the semifinals of the tournament.

After wrapping it up as a player at Cuneo in 1991, Blain took over the head coaching position at the Italian club and started his new career. He then went through several clubs in France (AS Cannes, Arago de Sete and his native Montpellier) and Poland (PGE Skra Belchatow), winning the French national title in 1995 in addition to four more podiums, the France Cup trophy twice (in 1995 and 1998), as well as the 2017 silver medals in both the Polish PlusLiga and the Polish national cup. His top club-level achievement was the continental 1999 Cup Winners’ Cup trophy he claimed with Cannes.

Philippe Blain left a memorable trail at the helm of the French national team he coached from 2001 through 2012. Under his guidance, France claimed a 2002 World Championship bronze, a 2006 FIVB Volleyball World League silver and 2003 and 2009 European Championship silvers, and qualified for the Athens 2004 Olympic Games.

In 2013, the French specialist accepted a staff position with the Polish national team, where he acted as an assistant, but also as a mentor of his compatriot Stephane Antiga in his first steps in the coaching profession. During their very first season on the job, the Antiga-Blain tandem led Poland to the top of the world as the 2014 World Championship gold medallists. A year later, they earned a 2015 FIVB Volleyball World Cup bronze and, in 2016, they steered Poland to the Rio Olympics.

For the next Olympic cycle, Blain served as an assistant coach of the Japanese men’s national team. In that role, he picked up three Asian Championship medals, including a 2017 gold, as well as a 2018 AVC Cup bronze and a fourth place at the 2019 World Cup. Last year, he took part in his fourth Olympic Games, which Japan hosted in Tokyo.

After that he was promoted to the head coaching position with the Japanese national team with a stated goal of qualifying for Paris 2024, which would be his fifth Olympics and a very special one since it will take place in his native France.

Philippe Blain has been a member of the FIVB Technical & Coaching Commission since 1999.