Even in the face of a disappointing result, Jeong found something to take away from Musialski’s diatribe, and he’s eager to share it with his juniors.
Korean Air ended the 2023 Asian Volleyball Confederation메이저놀이터 (AVC) Men’s Club Volleyball Championship in seventh place. After seven matches, Korean Air had a record of four wins and three losses. The tournament was more about gaining experience than winning, but it was still a bit of a disappointment.
Jung Ji-seok felt the same way when she met with on the 21st local time after all the matches. “I feel a lot of regret,” he said, “but I think everyone had a good experience because it was our first international tournament as a club. We felt and learned a lot about our performance, mindset, and everything else. If we had given 100%, I think we would have gone all the way to the final, so it’s even more disappointing. But it’s okay because our goal this time was to gain experience. If we have a chance next time, we should prepare more thoroughly,” he said about the tournament as a whole.
We asked Jeong what he felt and learned specifically. He first mentioned the in-game aspect. “I realized that I need to play calmly and look for the next opportunity, rather than trying to score in a pressure situation,” he said. “Instead, I need to learn how to make it harder for my opponent to get the third step. In my head, I always knew this was important, but when I got here, I realized that some teams were better at this than us.”
He went on to talk about his thoughts on the off-field aspects of the game. “I thought it was my role to convincingly convey to the juniors what I think of as ‘good volleyball, good volleyball’ and help them develop, so I told (Yoo) Kwang-woo, ‘I’ll lead the players. You can just focus on running the game and leave it to me,’ but it wasn’t easy when I actually tried to do it,” he confessed.
“I think it’s essential for a player to experience leading a team by himself once in a while, and I think I had a little bit of that this time. It was a valuable experience.” “Not only me, but also the juniors have probably had the experience of hitting a wall in this tournament. I think it’s a sign of the last stage of growth. It must have been a precious time for the juniors as well,” he said, showing a strong sense of seniority.
Jung’s love for his juniors continued. “When I first joined Korean Air, it was a great motivation for me to be able to compete and learn from top players like Kwak Seung-seok, Shin Young-soo, and Kim Hak-min in the same position. At that time, my older brothers never inwardly felt relieved or happy that they had a competitive advantage when I wasn’t doing well. Instead, they tried to help me more and guide me,” he recalls of his rookie year.
“I think the mindset that my brothers had back then is what made our team what it is today, so I always try to help (Jung) Han-yong or (Lee) Jun-yi. If they accept my help as well as I did, and if they set a good example for their younger brothers in the future, I think our team will continue to be a good team in the future.”
When asked about the controversial comments made by Dmitry Muschalsky (Sunbirds, Russia), Jung said, “I don’t think Muschalsky said it because he wanted to make enemies. I think he just said it coldly. Of course, it doesn’t feel good. So I’m going to try to play even crazier in the next tournament,” he said, adding that he will take the comments as motivation. His most memorable opponent was Saber Kazemi (Kuwait Sporting Club, Iran), who he said “had everything: skill, competitiveness, physicality.”
I wondered if playing against players like Moussalski and Kazemi might have increased his desire to go abroad. “I do think about it. “But right now, I’m focusing on my team’s goal of winning our fourth consecutive overall title. After that, I’d be happy to take less than half of my current salary, so if there’s an opportunity to go overseas, I’ll take it. I’m a player who started his career in the high school early draft era. If I can open the door for overseas expansion, I will feel a great deal of responsibility, but I would like to give it a try.”
Finally, we asked Jeong Ji-seok to say something for his fans. “Even before I was a Korean Air player, I approached the tournament with a sense of mission to represent Korea, so many people supported me. However, I am very sorry that the result was not very good.” Jeong Ji-seok first apologized sincerely, saying, “But the players really tried their best. I’m very grateful to everyone, from those who cheered for us in Korea to those who cheered for us locally. Next time, we will do our best to make them proud of us,” he said with gratitude and determination.
His passion for volleyball and his love for his juniors was evident in his interview. We can’t wait to see how much positive energy he and his younger teammates will bring back from their experience in Bahrain, and how Korean Air will fare next season.