Blog de Sportiw

Portrait, Edyta Falenczyk professional basketball player & sports psychologist

Hello Edyta, could you introduce yourself? Tell us about your journey in basketball.

My name is Edyta Falenczyk, Im 30 years old and coming from Bydgoszcz, Poland. I started to play basketball in primary school, probably I was 11 or 12 years old. My school announced the recruitment for a new basketball team. I was tall and skinny and pretty good in some other sports so they asked me to come. I didn’t know much about basketball, maybe I saw it somewhere on TV or on the streets but back then I was singing in the school choir so… I didn’t dream about playing basketball, noone in my family did sports but I took it as a challenge and imidiately felt in love with it.

 You’re also a psychologist specialized in sports. Why did you choose this path? 

Taking the path of higher education while I already reached high level of playing basketball was just integral part of growing I guess. I was dreaming to go to collage in United States but it didn’t work out in the end so I decided to study in my hometown where I was playing in top and first division and I did 5 years of psychology (master degree) and then I took another step and another 1 year study of psychology in sport in Warsaw. Also my parents always pushed me if it comes to education because “sport is not forever thing.” And back then I get upset and angry because I thought they are not believing in me in basketball but now I know it was not the reason and Im really grateful that I finished my study.

If you asking me why psychology, I can say it was more conscious choice than it was with basketball. I could say basketball was choosen by the heart but psychology by the mind. I think I was always wandering about life itself and always wanted me and people around be the best of themselves. I was trying to help when it was any issues and back then my teammates had injuries, so for me psychology was something that could teach me how to actually be helpful. Then making decision about reaching psychology in sport was like another step to take, especially for me as an athlete it was the greatest way to grow and also to my sport environment to do better together and make some the good changes. I always try to share my knowledge whenever is the chance for that.

How did you manage to balance studies and basketball at such a high level?

You asking me how I balanced study and sport… I feel like I knew myself enough to know when it’s time to push and when it’s time to rest or let go. A lot of times I was just extremly tired but I put personal goals on my list and I just kept going always believed that I can reach them. I think I had a purpose and I felt what I do is just right, so it kept me motivated. I also had people around who supported me on this way and I was being optimistic but for sure it’s easier to find the balance when you just love what you do. 

What values do you consider essential in basketball, and how do you embody them in your daily life? 

I think the most essential values in basketball and also in life for me are: health, responsibility, courage, love, friendship, trust, passion, dedication, empathy, joy, satisfaction, growth, ambition, optimism and support. I feel like this list could be at least twice longer but I find them most common in my life for sure.

You’ve played in Lithuania, Iceland, Poland, Italy! How has this influenced your development as a player?

Yes, I already traveled a bit and it’s always great experience to get to know new culture, amazing people, all the differences and find out the things that we all share. It is not always easy to make those changes but it is also so inspiring to me. I believe I grew a lot as a player and as a person. I had a chance to be in different roles in the teams and play on different levels and that gave me a lot of experience and chances learn new things, new skills and also build my identity and self confidence. I was in good and not so good situations along the way so I learned how to see things from different perspectives and found out how to deal with each of them. I think the ability to adapt to new situations is what you need when you thinking about playing in other countries. Also if you keeping your mind open and having healthy ways to manage the stress and good supportive system you are going to handle everything.

Have you been supported/advised throughout your journey? 

Throughout my journey I always have my family and my best friends by my side but not always they could give me the support I needed cause they just didn’t understand what Im going through as a player. I had also a lot of difficult situations and some people did not wish me well so I think having someone who you could plan your career with and someone who will be by your side protecting your rights when it’s needed it’s really important. I also believe that having sport psychologist is one of the greatest way of support. Along my journey I met amazing people who could understand me more and became close to me and Im so grateful that basketball let me get to know them. 

There’s increasing talk about the importance of mental health among high-level athletes. What are your thoughts on this? 

As you pointed out mental health among the high-level athletes is important and I’m really happy that we talking much more about this nowadays removing the stigma. Taking care of our heads like we are doing it with the rest of our bodies is normal and neccessery. Athletes at first are humans with the same other human beings problems and it’s just dangerous to expect from them to be rocks who not feel or express feelings same way. Recently I watched documentary of Giannis Antetokounmpo which showed me a lot of things that I couldn’t even imagine watching him holding his second MVP thropy and making some hilarious videos while he was really struggling and not coping with the grief after loosing his dad to the point he didn’t want to play anymore.. Or the second example- Ricky Rubio who decided to retire cause of the depression. Now he gets back and joined Barcelona team but he made the break to take care of his mind first. That’s the courage for me. In my opinion psychoeducation and normalize taking care of mental health is really important and also Im trying to share it on my instagram psychological account daily

How do you integrate mental, physical, and technical preparation into your training routine? 

I think to integrate my mental, technical and phisical preparation into my training routine Im just trying to stay mindful and observant. The work Im putting in is off the court mostly. When I know what is my weak pionts or what’s problematic for me Im trying to notice it and then work on it in any possible way. By reading my body and staying focus what’s going on in my mind I can use the techniques I already know. For example if I see Im stressing out then Im using breathing techniques or meditate. If something distracting me Im trying to stay grounded by counting or labeling. I got my routines before the games almost every game day looks the same for me, to keep myself in good mood Im listening same playlist to stay focused Im doing same exercises and shooting routines, everything got the meaning for me. Im trying also to keep healthy habits with my sleep and nutrition and feed my brain by watching, listening reading valuable things.

Do you see an evolution in terms of recognition of women’s basketball competitions? 

Do I see an evolution in terms of recognition of women’s basketball competitions.. I’d say yes it’s going further with it but I think it’s still underrated. I’d like to see more people talking about us in media and showing support. I believe that women’s working really hard and dealing with a lot of obstacles but still they showing high quality and trying to be the best they can and being a role model’s for youngers generations so we should really appreciate it more in my opinion and support more

What, in your opinion, are the main barriers to full legitimacy for women in the world of sports? 

I think the main barriers to full legitimacy for women in the world of sport are lack of equality in the society we live in. We are living in the world when women have to fight for what already should be equal for everyone. A good example is the earnings in the world of sports and the gap between men and women, which is often huge. In my opinion I think that holding women accountable for what they bring to the world of sport, their competences and efforts could change a lot in sport for the better. Women are great leaders so if we let them show their full potential we can only reach the top. 

What changes would you like to see in how women’s basketball is perceived and supported globally? 

I would like to see more people enjoy watching women’s basketball and coming to support them on the stands and not being so judgmental. I would like to see that we are treating equal as a basketball players (men and women) and having the same opportunities to grow. I would like people to recognize more valuable women basketball players and treating them as a role models not only because they reached their goals by also of how they did it. 

What do you think of the adidas Breaking Barriers project? 

I think that Adidas Breaking Barriers project is the greatest way of support gender equality and of encourage girls and women in sport to follow their goals and dreams cause no matter what they deal with they worth to chase them. It doesn’t really matter where you come from or what label was already put on you. This project open gates and give opportunities to break any barriers left together. 

Finally, what are your plans for the future?

My plans for the future are still closely connected to basketball and sport in general. Im staying on the way to be the best I can be as a player and to achieve my goals. My post-career future is already part of my present but I see myself as a sport psychologist supporting other athletes along their journeys.

The last thoughts are about Sportiw. I discovered you guys on instagram. I think I was searching some other ways to find a club and I found you really useful. Even thought Im working with agent I still feel like it’s a good way to create my basketball CV by myself showing some more than only statistics. Sportiw is the great way to connect to other teams, coaches and players and get inspired by them as well. Your platform is definetly full of opportunities if you know what you searching for.

Thank you Sportiw for this interview. For the National Women’s Day I’d like to wish to all of us to be brave enough to express ourselves and never doubt our worth!

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