Volleyball star Kert Toobal retires to take up new sporting director role
Kert Toobal, the long-time captain of the Estonian national volleyball team, has decided to end his sporting career and take up the position of sporting director at the Estonian Volleyball Federation (EVL). The 43-year-old, who first represented the national team in 2001, said that he had not taken the decision lightly, but denied that injuries were the reason for his retirement.
"At some point I felt that I didn't want to play anymore," said Toobal.
"Playing no longer seemed exciting or motivating and I didn't want to go through the motions and give anyone false hope. I need to be motivated by something bigger. Clearly, I could have plodded on for several more years, he continued.
"Coming back from injury last year was also a motivator and I managed to do that, but afterwards, there was no great appetite for more. I'm not taking a gap year, it's my final decision," said Toobal, who can look back on a long and successful career with great satisfaction.
"If you can get your hands on a medal somewhere, then of course it's a big deal. But as a player, the first big thing was getting into the national team, that was a real milestone, as well as getting to play abroad. The great runs the team had in the Challenger Cup (Estonia finished third in 2018 – ed.) and the European League ( Estonia were champions in 2016 and 2018 – ed.) will also stay with me forever, it was a lot of work, but it was also an enjoyable time. The silver medal at the European Beach Volleyball Championships (which Toobal won with Mihkel Roosme in 1998) is also really important to me - that's not a very easy thing to achieve. After that, I decided to finish at the top on the beach," he laughed.
"I would take the path of an athlete again, although there are some things I would definitely do differently. I was also a bit of a stubborn player, which affected my club career, and there were definitely seasons where I played for worse teams than I should have. But I'm not complaining about it, I'm pretty happy with my career and it was definitely more than I could have dreamed of at the beginning," Toobal said.
For Toobal, the role of sporting director seems to provide the perfect opportunity to test out the ideas he has accumulated about the game during his playing career. "I didn't have too many worries when I made this decision. As a player, there are things that have stuck with me and I have thoughts and ideas on what I could try to do to make things better. Volleyball still means a lot to me and it seems wrong to waste my experience," he said.
Helen Veermäe, CEO of the Estonian Volleyball Federation (EVL) is delighted that an experienced player like Toobal will stay involved in the sport. "I'm really pleased that Kert has decided to accept our offer and will continue to be associated with Estonian volleyball. He has invaluable experience as an elite athlete, and as a human being, he has the kind of personality traits that are well suited to the position of sporting director. We have to try to keep people like him in the sport after their careers are over," said Veermäe.
"For the moment, his work will focus on the youth teams and with Audentese Sports High School (in Otepää) but the scope of the role is wide and I believe Kert will also find it challenging," Veermäe added.
Since making his debut for the Estonian national side in 2001, Toobal has played a crucial in the team's success. He has represented Estonia in five European Championships and played for sixteen different clubs in Estonia, France, Belgium, Turkey, Poland and Finland.
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Editor: Michael Cole