Japanese Volleyball Legend Kumi Nakada
Japanese Volleyball Legend Kumi Nakada. We are pleased to introduce you to the four-time Olympian and current member of the FIVB Technical and Coaching Commission.
Kumi Nakada, the playmaker for the Japanese women’s national team, won bronze at the Olympic Games in Los Angeles in 1984 while she was still a high school student. With four Olympic appearances under her belt, the 56-year-old member of the FIVB Technical & Coaching Commission may now reflect on a fruitful career on both the playing and coaching sides of the net.
Nakada’s interest in volleyball began when she was in middle school. In 1980, at the tender age of 15, the brilliant ambidextrous athlete was picked up on the Japanese national squad.
Three years later, she became the starting setter for Japan and led them to an Asian Championship victory over formerly unbeatable China in 1983.
Carrying the flag
Nakada, who stands at 1.76 meters, made her Olympic debut in 1984 in Los Angeles, where she helped Japan win bronze. She helped the squad finish in the top five at the Olympic Games in both Seoul (1988) and Barcelona (1992), and she became the first Japanese woman to compete in three Olympic Games. She was also given the honor of carrying the country’s flag into the Barcelona Games.
While playing for her country, Nakada also competed in the FIVB Volleyball World Championship twice. They were fourth that year. After leading the team for four more years, she finished in eighth place. Nakada and her teammates competed in three FIVB Volleyball World Cups, placing fourth in 1985 and ninth in 1989, and seventh in 1991. In 1989, she was recognized as the competition’s top setter.
The legendary setter also has two silvers from the Asian Games (1982 and 1986) and one silver from the Asian Championship (1991) and one bronze from the Asian Championship (1989) to her name.
Nakada spent the majority of her club career (1981–1993) with Hitachi Belle Fille Kodaira, and she briefly came out of retirement for the 1995–1996 season. At 16 years and three months old, she made her professional debut in Japan and remained the league’s youngest player until 2007.
She was the rookie of the year in the Japanese league in her debut season as a starting setter. A later version of her career saw her nominated for six all-star teams and four Most Valuable Player awards. Nakada, while a part of Hitachi, won the title of a national champion as much as ten times.
Nakada was widely regarded as one of the best setters in the world during her time on the court.
She also began her coaching career as an assistant with the Hitachi Belle Fille club. In 2008, she became the first Japanese woman to head a foreign volleyball team when she accepted a position as an assistant coach for Minetti Vicenza in Italy’s premier league. Nakada played with Vicenza for one season before moving on to Asystel Volley Novara for the next two, where he helped the team advance to the 2010 semifinals of the CEV Champions League.
Nakada returned to Japan in 2011 to lead Hisamitsu Springs Kobe, and in that role, he has taken the club to three straight FIVB Volleyball Club World Championships. Under her leadership, Hisamitsu won the Asian Club Championship in 2014, the Asian Club Championship in 2015, the Japanese Club Championship in 2017, and the Empress Cup a total of five times. The team celebrated a domestic golden triple by winning the JVA’s Kurowashiki All Japan Tournament in her second season at the helm.
In her position as head coach of the Japanese national team, Kumi Nakada was in place from April 2017 to August 2021. She finished as the runner-up in the 2017 Asian Championship and the fifth-place finisher at the 2017 FIVB Volleyball Grand Champions Cup in her first year.
In the subsequent years, they achieved a sixth-place finish at the 2018 World Championship, fifth-place at the 2019 World Cup, and a continental gold medal at the 2019 Asian Championship. Nakada led Japan to Olympic participation in home games in Tokyo and to fourth place in the 2021 Volleyball Nations League before the coach resigned. Thus, she added one Olympic appearance as a coach to her three Olympic appearances as a player.