Ela on basketball

Ela has been playing Basketball since her childhood. Growing up with this sport, she learned not only perseverance and decisiveness, but also how to expand her comfort zone in order to reach new goals. What her weak spot is? Her determination to succeed, if you will. Pic: Thomas Wieland

What does your training routine look like?

As a team, we train twice a week for two hours. That’s the most we can commit to, as we’re all busy with job or family. You could best describe us as an ambitious hobby team. We play in Austria’s second tier, one below the Bundesliga. And don’t forget, the matches we have on the weekends, they count as training sessions too ;-). The season starts in September and lasts until May/June with breaks during holiday season. So you could say that there’s a match almost every second weekend.

This year there are ten teams competing in the second tier. Which means there will be 18 matches all together because we play a first and second round, plus the final four at the end.

What about the trainings?

Each training starts with warming up and stretching. Then it’s important to practice moves and tactics in combination with endurance and strength. Also ball-handling exercises are a must. We often play two against two or three against three. We don’t have strict tactical moves. It’s all very flexible with multiple options, which allows us to react on the actual situations in the game.

I’ve always played Center – that’s the position under the basket. However, with my current team the positions are not strictly set, thus I get to move a lot and don’t have to stand under the basket the whole time.

Favourite training place?

We usually train in school gym halls, our current one is in the 19th district in Vienna.

How did you get into sport and your specific routine?

Sport has always been a part of my life. I mean any kind of activity, whether it’s skiing, playing football with my brother, swimming, tennis or basketball. My grandfather founded a tennis club in Vienna, so I can proudly say I sort of inherited this need for activity.

 In terms of Basketball: It all started with a friend. My twin sister, a mutual friend and I were always hanging out together and played Basketball in our free time. One day we decided to attend a training of a U-10 team, that’s when it all „officially“ started. After two years we had to change the club and our friend stopped playing, but my twin sister and I continued. The training got more competitive, whereas at first it we did it just for fun. We both played until the age of 18/19.

 I then left Vienna for studying in Styria, another part of Austria. That’s when I stopped playing, because there wasn’t any training possibility within reasonable distance. As soon as I came back to Vienna though I found myself a new club and have been playing at Union Döbling for eight years now. Some of my current team members I even know from my first years in Basketball.

Why is the team called Vienna Ponies?

It was kind of a joke first, because four of our team members had bangs. (In Austria „bangs“ means „Ponyfransen“) Then it sort of developed into a „thing“ and we got merchandising, such as T-shirts and sweatpants. Even our fans started calling us Ponies. So we finally asked the club for a change in name, and from then on, it was official. We were the „Vienna Ponies“, although no one has bangs at the moment any more, except myself ;-).

Ela about to score
© Thomas Wieland

What makes you do sports?

Simply because it’s great fun. I don’t do sports to lose weight or to have a perfectly trained body. It’s just that without sport I would be missing something in life. Plus I would feel tired and unbalanced. Sport also brings me a lot of joy. What I really like about Basketball is the playful aspect of ball handling, being part of a team and playing together. It’s also challenging in aspects like coordination, tactics and competition. Moreover, I love matching myself with others, that’s why I’m still in a club. Plus, I have a great ambition for being exceptionally good. In fact whenever I try a new sport and enjoy doing it, I want to be very good at it. I even want to reach a certain level of perfection, which then allows me to progress even further.

How do you stay motivated to keep going with Basketball and not give up?

Competition, ambition and fun – that’s what keeps me going. Plus I do most of the sports with other people. I always feel the urge to move. If no other option is available, I even go for a run in order to move. Otherwise running is really boring to me. I also try to do core and arm strengthening exercise regularly, but all with my own body weight.

What are your thoughts before, during and after training?

Before: It always depends on my daily mood. Often at the end of a long day, I’m thinking, well this is going to be exhausting, or the opposite I’m really excited and looking forward to some movement. Sometimes, I have to admit, it’s difficult to be motivated, but then of course the team aspect helps, as I don’t want to let my colleagues down. Trainings are non-negotiable to me.

During the training: I don’t really have that many thoughts. I’m just really concentrated on the play.

After: I’m always in a good mood as it helps me to clear my thoughts. Plus I’m really satisfied that I got enough exercise.

How does sport influence your daily life?

Training makes me feel much more balanced. Sport in general helped me grow beyond my comfort zone in the past. As a student I trained a lot from the age of 13-19. Usually four trainings per week, plus I played in 2-3 Teams U16, U18 and Ladies. We also had intensive training camps where we had to push our boundaries. There was never much time left for other things to do. As odd as this may sound, these experiences now help me at work. Plus, my boss knows exactly that if I can’t go to my trainings, I’m not balanced, sleep unwell and thus I’m in a bad mood.

In addition, I’ve acquired a lot of perseverance trough my training. I remember feeling exhausted, but there was always the trainer, who pushed me even further. Often it is simply a mental barrier. You may feel tired but you still have 30% to give. However, you have to be really attentive and realise when these 30% are up and you’re exhausted for real. I do believe that these experiences helped me. How else can you make progress and get constantly better, if not by trying to overcome your boundaries and stretch your comfort zone?

Would you say you are competitive: when it comes to sport? In general?

I’m absolutely competitive, in sports as well as in real life. I want to stay open to new and upcoming opportunities, because personal development is important to me. I don’t have a specific goal, but I do have the ambition to take over responsibility and make decisions. Even if it was the wrong decision, you just need to start over and correct the course.

Ela in a match situation
© Thomas Wieland

Is there anything positive or negative you would like to share?

Basketball makes me determined, that’s a really positive aspect. The negative aspect would be that I’m very ambitious. Due to this character trait I can get really angry after a match, when I feel I could have played better, or when a move didn’t turn out successfully. In such situations it’s often better to give me some space and don’t talk to me for maybe 1-2 days, as I need time to think about what went wrong.

Usually we talk about what went wrong in the next training, which also helps a lot. Plus, there are moments, where your opponent is simply better and you need to accept that. Through the years and with more experience I’ve learned to deal with these situations, as losing and winning is part of the game. With my current team we even won the finals in 2013, 2015 and 2017, but winning isn’t the most important thing anymore.

What was your most memorable moment?

I like to remember great turns, or the atmosphere at the finals, with a large crowd. Or those games where the last throw did win the game, or at a younger age, where we won the state champion ship for the first time …

One funny story: Our average age is pretty high. I’m 31 now and that makes me one of the younger members of my team. Most of them are between 30 and 40. Once, we played against a really young team of 20 something. The biggest difference to younger players would definitely be stamina and speed of action. I mean we do have older players who are lively, but to be honest we need more time for regeneration these days – especially, if we play against opponents who are in their mid-twenties. Those kids are a whirlwind of action. But this doesn’t upset us, as we can counter with our experience and we for sure can „read“ their play. So we know how we can tease them. During this match a father once shouted: „How on earth are you not able to beat these ladies, their must be at least 20 years older than you?“ and our team bursted into laughter.

If you weren’t into sports what would you be doing instead?

Not an option 😉

In five key words: What are the best things about your training you want to share with the readers?

Team sport, challenge, fun, play, variety.

Your favourite motivational quote?

I don’t really have one. But as a team, we cheer, „Go ponies.“

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