Jarkko Pokkinen has been named as the new head coach of the Finnish men’s goalball national team. 47-year-old Pokkinen will replace Timo Laitinen, who had a very successful ten year spell as head coach.
Pokkinen has been working as a basketball coach for 31 years. He has won several Finnish national league medals in youth teams and a bronze medal for Finnish women’s league side PuHu.
Although he has some experience from disability sports as a basketball coach for players with intellectual disability, goalball is a completely new territory for Pokkinen. He will spend first months of his spell just digging inside of the game.
A governing body for Finnish goalball, the Finnish Sport Organisation for Persons with Disabilities (VAU) and Pokkinen agreed on a two year deal with option for two more years.
"They contacted me from VAU and asked if I was interested in taking the job. I took some time to consider but eventually decided to take this interesting challenge.", Pokkinen says.
Former coach Laitinen will still be on charge in the Pajulahti Games which will be played in Lahti, Finland on 20–22 of January. Pokkinen gets to meet the players for the first time in the national team’s training camp in February.
In the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio Finnish team managed to win only one match and couldn’t reach the quarter finals, but overall they have done very well in recent years winning the European title in 2011 and silver in 2015, World Championship silver in 2014 and on the top of all Paralympic gold in 2012.
The next big competition is just few months away as Finland hosts the IBSA Goalball European Championships in Pajulahti on 15–23 of September.
"I’ve never really taken any pressure on succeeding. My mentality is that success will come as a result of a top level daily work.", Pokkinen tells.
Hannele Pöysti, the manager of competitive and elite sports in VAU sees the appointment of Pokkinen as a step towards more professional daily training for Finnish goalball.
"Goalball is the most successful team disability sport in Finland in this century but the competition is getting tougher every year. We must make sure that we are getting better as well. I believe that Jarkko, with his long coaching experience, can help Finnish goalball taking it to the next level.", Pöysti says.