European basketball powerhouses Lithuania and Slovenia have set a good example for other small countries, but Estonia has to find its own way and not copy them, national team manager Jukka Toijala says.
"I am here to collaborate with my Estonian colleagues and hopefully I can be of help developing the Estonian system. I am certainly not here to say how this game should be played. My goal is to help join various pieces into one entity and thus raise Estonian basketball to the next level," Toijala told the website of the national basketball federation (link in Estonian).
"Estonians played a major role in the Soviet basketball system," Toijala said. "A lot of players had the opportunity to play for the Soviet national team and that is why basketball has a great tradition here. Estonian basketball can take some elements from the Soviet times, but today, basketball of 2020s must be developed. Right now things are moving back towards the system of sports institutes and I think that is the right way. One of my goals is to raise the standards of the Audentes sports school so young Estonian players shouldn't have to go searching for good quality training conditions abroad."
There are other small countries, such as Lithuania and Slovenia, who have persistantly been very successful. The southernmost Baltic state won bronze medals in the 1992, 1996 and 2000 Summer Olympics, Slovenia became European champions for the first time in 2017.
"Every country has to find its own style and its own way," Toijala said. "Slovenia, Lithuania and even Latvia are good examples, as they can compete at the highest level. We can learn from them in Estonia, but we still have to develop our own style. I can bring ideas that proved to be successful in Finland and try to execute them here. But it's no copy-paste work."
Jukka Toijala became head coach of the Estonian national team last October.
Editor: Anders Nõmm