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In the end, those who do not change will not evolve.

Yasufumi Nekomata (Japanese: 猫又 (ねこまた) 育史 (やすふみ) Nekomata Yasufumi) is the head coach of the Nekoma High boys' volleyball club.

Appearance

His face is wrinkled but despite his age, he can walk around perfectly well without a hunched back or anything of the sorts. His hair is a light, blondish-gray, and he is often seen smiling. He usually wears a red jacket, a white shirt and red pants.

Personality

Nekomata appears to be a laid back and carefree person most of the time. He has been shown to be rather competitive and childish, especially in regards toward his longtime friend and rival Ikkei Ukai. He shows this same behavior towards Ikkei's grandson, Keishin Ukai, although it's mostly out of fun in teasing the younger Ukai of how much he looks like his grandfather or his coaching skills.

He becomes more competitive during matches but still maintains a calm persona. He often gives helpful words of wisdom to his team when needed but also trusts the players to be able to help and lead themselves. Nekomata is shown to care very much for his players and shows pride when they are able to make it through difficult situations as a team or individually.

Background

During his second year in middle school, Nekomata would meet Ikkei Ukai at a volleyball match. He stated that Ikkei's form was easy to read and in turn helped make him look good by being able to receive his attacks. The two would meet several times with Ikkei promising that he would beat Nekomata but was never able to do so. Some time after their last middle school tournament, Nekomata would move to Tokyo and would not see Ikkei again until their second year of high school when their teams would make it to Nationals. Though their teams would be removed from the tournament before they could face one another, they still promised to one day meet on the national stage again. Unfortunately, they would not meet at nationals again.

After several years, Nekomata became the coach for the Nekoma Boys Volleyball Team and learned that Ikkei had become the coach for Karasuno. They would arrange practice matches any chance they could and always promised that the Trashcan Showdown would finally make it to the Spring Tournament. After several years and their teams never facing one another at nationals, Nekomata and Ikkei would retire from their coaching positions. Nekomata would not stay retired for long and eventually returned to coach the boys volleyball team.

Plot

Karasuno High Team Formation Arc

In the conclusion of a training camp held by Karasuno, Takeda is able to plead Coach Nekomata for an arranged practice match between Karasuno High and Nekoma High through countless calls, to which the latter eventually agrees on. Nekomata, together with Naoi, soon meets with Takeda and Keishin Ukai, his rival's grandson and the current coach of Karasuno, at the time of the practice match. Although expressing disappointment that his rival is not around, he merely states that they will not hold back.

During the match, he is impressed by several players and their play methods; being especially impressed and cautious of Hinata, Kageyama, Nishinoya, and Asahi. During the match, he notices how several of his players form rivalries with players from Karasuno and how they in turn cause each other to reach new potential. After Nekoma won three matches, Nekomata tells the Karasuno team part of his history with Ikkei Ukai and how they both hope their teams would one day meet on the National stage. He inspires the team to continue growing. Nekomata later speaks with Takeda and compliments how his determination could help bring the Karasuno team back to their glory days. Nekomata would then tease Ukai on his coaching skills and how he looks exactly like his grandfather, prompting Ukai to stay as Karasuno's coach with the promise of vengeance at nationals.

Tokyo Expedition Arc

Coach Nekomata invited the Karasuno team to join the summer training camps held by the Fukurōdani Academy Group. During the camps, he would often drag the other team coaches out drinking. When Karasuno was starting to have tension among the players, Nekomata was able to easily see that some of the players were wanting to grow stronger and others were wanting to stay as they were or not put in any more effort. Though he allowed them to figure things out on their own, he playfully remarked/hinted to Ukai how some of the players were wanting to evolve.

Spring High Preliminary Arc

Nekoma vs Fukurōdani

During the match against Fukurōdani, Nekomata somewhat steps back from coaching and allows Kenma to guide the team on what they should do during most of the game. When Lev has trouble adjusting, he puts Kenma in charge of taking care of the middle blocker. After Akaashi is able to counter Kenma's plan of hindering Bokuto, he gives credit to the Fukurōdani setter for his tactic.

Nekoma vs Nohebi

While Nekoma's match against Nohebi proved to be more challenging and stressful, Nekomata did not appear much and gave the Nekoma players the chance to figure things out themselves. He shows concern when Yamamoto went too far in his approach and was hit with Suguru's spike and when Yaku injured his ankle.

After Shibayama is subbed in and the team continues to feel pressured by Nohebi, Nekomata looks pleased when Kenma is able to lift their spirits better than he believed he himself could. He continues showing great joy when Shibayama is finally able to shake off his nerves and play like normal during the match. Nekoma would eventually go on to win the match and Nekoma is seen shaking hands with Coach Kiyoshi Ōmizu.

Tokyo Nationals Arc

Nekoma vs Kiyokawa

Nekomata is only seen cheering for his team.

Nekoma vs Sarukawa

In Nekoma's match against Sarukawa Tech High, Nekomata is revealed to have been the mentor of the teams current coach, Aritaka Shishio. According to Shishio, Nekomata values a setter who possesses brain power and game sense as they are the cornerstone of the teams defensiveness[1]. Like the Nekoma players, Nekomata sees that the Sarukawa team is dragging the match on in hopes of breaking Kenma. Despite this, Nekomata still praises the Sarukawa team for their tenacity as well as looking at the match as a whole and keeping themselves level-headed. Regardless, Nekomata is aware that his team will not allow Sarukawa to have their way in the game. When Nekoma wins the match, Shishio compliments Nekomata on how the current team seems more aggressive then previous teams. Nekomata goes on to compliment Shishio on his team and how well they managed to play given that they gave Kenma and the other Nekoma members a hard time.

Nekoma vs Karasuno

Although excited that the Trashcan Showdown is finally taking place, Nekomata is aware that this long awaited match is not the only reason that Nekoma and Karasuno have made it to the national stage and that the players themselves may be looking forward to this game more than he is. The announcers state how Nekomata is a long time rival of Ikkei Ukai and proudly stands as a true veteran while accepting the challenge from his friend and rival. After Asahi was able to do a block-out against the blockers, Nekomata is not at all surprised at how much Karasuno has changed and grown since they last saw each other.

When Yamamoto points out how Kenma seems to be more into the game than normal, Nekomata also noticed Kenma's interest and hoped that the young setter would stay like this for the rest of the game. While showing some annoyance at some of Karasuno's plays, Nekomata remains calm and collected throughout most of the first set. He joyfully watches as his players and the Karasuno players continue to push one another to new levels while feeling the exhilaration of playing against a strong opponent and that Kenma appears to be feeling this more than the others[2]. Nekomata's excitement and theory would be proven correct when Kenma noticeably put more effort into a set by running to get into place to make the set.

After Lev's first serve of the second set is easily stopped, Nekomata tries to help him understand that it is wasteful to do something 'just because' and how things may not always work the way he wants them to. After Kenma had attempted a repeat of getting Karasuno to miscommunicate, Nekomata admits how strong Karasuno is and how they will not be easily broken. When the score becomes tied at 23-23, Nekomata notices Kenma give him a signal and the coach right away has Inuoka subbed into the game. A brief flashback shows that Nekomata had requested Inuoka to become a wing spiker when Lev joined the team during Golden Week and would be given Inuoka's regular position as a middle blocker. Nekomata's reasoning for this was because he felt that Nekoma didn't have much to offer in terms of taller players and wanted to strengthen their chances at blocking since their ground defense was already at its peak[3]. Shortly after this, Nekomata has first year pinch server Teshiro subbed into the game in hopes of getting Nekoma to take the lead. Teshiro is quickly stopped but Nekomata would still ask how he felt making his appearance and seemed to understand Teshiro's emotions when he stated he felt like he was left behind.

After Karasuno managed to win the second set, Nekomata is shown in a flashback Kenma has of when he and Kuroo met as children. Kuroo had managed to convince Kenma to accompany him to a youth volleyball class and this would be when the two first encountered Nekomata. Nekomata would inspire Kuroo to become better at volleyball by stating that one should find joy in what they are doing and that they will become more skilled from this.

When Nekoma eventually lost the match, Nekomata would praise his players of their well played match and thank them for all the effort they put into the game. He in turn would be given gratitude by the players for coaching them[4].

Final Arc

Nekomata's last appearance is shown when he is in a video chat with Ikkei Ukai during the Japan vs Argentina match.

Statistics

Nekomata was a capable volleyball player when he was young. In contrast to Ikkei Ukai's brute force style, Nekomata preferred to observe and use strategy in his play. He was especially skilled in receives and saved many of Ukai's spikes when their teams played against each other.

Relationships

Nekoma High

Nekomata has been shown to care very much for his team. He has been able to show that he can allow the players to grow in their own ways and will sometimes pair certain players to better connect if needed, as when he paired Kenma to work with Lev when the middle blocker first joined the team in the OVA-The Arrival of Lev Haiba. Nekomata knows his players well and shows great patience with many. After Nekoma's defeat at Nationals, Nekomata thanked the team for all their hard work and received the same from them in return.

Karasuno High

  • Ikkei Ukai: The two met when they were in their second year of middle school during a volleyball match and from this their long time rivalry began. Even though Nekoma would defeat Karasuno numerous times over the years, Nekomata acknowledges Ikkei as a good friend and worthy opponent; speaking highly of Ikkei to the current Karasuno team after their practice match against Nekoma. The two stayed in close contact with each other over the years and had their teams face each other as often as possible. When Nekomata had learned that Ikkei was retiring from coaching due to his failing health, Nekomata was both concerned and disheartened that his rival would no longer be around. During the Final Arc, the two are shown to still stay in touch.
  • Keishin Ukai: It has been hinted that the two met when Keishin was still in school. Nekomata has a friendly rivalry with the younger Ukai and has pointed out his similar appearance to his grandfather many times. Nekomata occasionally teases Keishin but does show to care about him and often drags him along to go drinking during the training camps.

Quotes

  • "The team with strong spikes doesn't win... The team that drops the ball loses, and that's what it means to 'connect'." (To himself, Season 1 Episode 13)
  • "Your enthusiasm will be returned in kind. If you try hard despite your awkwardness, the students will follow your lead." (To Takeda, Volume 4 Chapter 34)

Trivia

  • Current Concern: When he goes out drinking with Naoi, he gets smashed too quickly so it's no fun.
  • Nomenclature
    • Yasufumi (育史) - Educate/Raise, History
    • Nekomata (猫又) - Cat, Once again
  • Coach Nekomata has a kanji with the meaning "to raise/to educate" (育) in his given name, while the Ukai's have a similar kanji (養) in their family name.

References

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