Nadezhda Grishaeva is a famous Russian basketball player. In the course of her career, she played for the Russian national team, as well as such clubs as Dynamo Moscow, Turkish Besiktas, and French Arras. As a member of the national team, Nadezhda participated in the 2012 Olympic Games in London. She also founded Anvil Fitness Club Moscow and started working as a basketball agent.
– Nadezhda, we know a great deal about your sports career, the fact that you launched the most fascinating and impressive fitness club in Moscow – Anvil Club, but you almost never talk about your work as a basketball agent. Can you please tell us how you got into this field?
For the duration of my professional sports career, I was represented by the famous American basketball agent Boris Lechitsky.
Boris took care of any and all organizational issues that I had as a professional athlete: contracts, transfers, insurance, promotion, and medicine. After I retired, we decided to continue our mutually beneficial collaboration. Boris lives in the USA and he is familiar with the WBNA basketball market. He works with promising young players around the world, helping them gain admission to top American colleges in the US to improve their basketball skills and have a shot at the WBNA. For my part, I am focused on young basketball talents in Russia, Europe and the countries of the Middle East.
– What is it that you do exactly?
I provide a full range of services to professional athletes, doing it honestly, ethically, and by building long-term relationships. We focus on advancing the careers of our athletes on a global scale, both on and off the court. Our company provides clients with the necessary tools to support all their career ambitions. You could say we are a small company that believes in hard work and communication with an unconditional commitment to the success of our clients.
– Is your business challenging?
– Challenging and extremely time-consuming. Also, you need to be able to work with completely different people. For the most part, our clients are underage athletes, which means we have to work with their parents. Parents of a gifted and promising basketball player is a topic for a separate and lengthy conversation. They have so many anxieties, fears, high expectations, as well as their share of resentment towards coaches and towards the federation. With some parents, it is easy to build rapport, they trust their agent, realizing that in many ways for the talent to develop and achieve success he or she has to have a well-structured career, with a clear understanding of goals and objectives. Then, there are parents for whom a child is like a commodity, they literally tell us: pay us this much, and we will sign all the necessary papers. Personal gain is their priority. There are also parents that make you wonder why they even need a coach, a team, an agent, or a doctor? They know everything and they understand the legal aspects much better than a coach with his professional knowledge and experience. I have just described a typical know-it-all parent. Of course, these are the extremes, and in most cases, we manage to find solutions.
– For how many years have you and Boris Lechitsky been involved in agency work?
– We have been collaborating for more than 6 years. We started working together in this particular field immediately after my professional career ended in 2016. In that time I also managed to find time to graduate from the Department of Economics of Moscow State University. My English skills are at the level of a native speaker, but I had to improve my Spanish. I specifically pay a lot of attention to the issues of education and improving my own qualifications. But more often than not you would hear an average person saying that sports agents are just businessmen eager to “make a quick buck” by foisting a player on the club to receive a commission. Of course, there are such people as pseudo-agents, you can find the likes of them in every field.
– Can we really compare the basketball life in Russia with basketball life in Europe and the USA?
There is no use trying to draw parallels with the USA, because… it’s just a whole new universe. We could have compared the basketball life in Russia with that in Europe, and not too long ago I would have said that the level was pretty much the same, but in the last two years there has been a significant change In Russian basketball and unfortunately not for the better. This happened largely due to the exclusion of Russian clubs and athletes from participating in international competitions, difficulties with organizing trips abroad and obtaining visas. That is why I am now focusing my efforts on the basketball markets in Europe and the Middle East. These markets have their own cultural characteristics and national traditions, which makes my work extremely complicated. Although you would think that the rules of basketball are the same, and the laws of the market economy are the same everywhere. I’m faced with the fact that in our age of freedom of speech, everyone says and writes whatever they want, and then it’s up to you to figure out what is true and what is false. For example, the yellow press writes a lot about me, but in 99% of cases these are fabrications and conjectures of journalists, not confirmed by either facts or documents. What is the point and why would anybody do this? However, this has nothing to do with the topic of our interview.
– What can you say about the current level of training of young Russian basketball players?
– The athlete training system always needs and must continuously be improved, however there always were, are and will be young talents in Russia. It’s another matter that now, as I have already noted, I am mostly focused on Europe and the Middle East.
– How willing are clubs to turn their attention to basketball players from the Middle East?
– The clubs look at them just like they would look at any other basketball player. The top traits that are valued in a modern basketball player is intelligence and willingness to play smart basketball. American college graduates are certainly more athletic, they literally are stronger physically. But what sets my players apart is their ability to see the court and make a sharp pass. To play in the USA, in particular in the WNBA, you need to get used to the league’s spoken and unspoken rules. It’s better to move there when you are young. You’ll have more time to adapt, and you’ll be able to absorb everything faster.
Unlike Russia with its fundamental basic sports education, a system of children’s and youth sports schools, schools of the Olympic reserve, and a system of training athletes and improving athletic performance built over decades, there is nothing like that in the Middle East. There is no comprehensive government system in place for the training of basketball sports reserves. It all comes down to the initiative of local private clubs and academies. But there are a lot of people who get involved and who are passionate about basketball. These are mostly expats.
– Do you now feel like maybe you ended your professional career too soon?
– This feeling of something being left unsaid in my basketball life was, is and will always be with me, but I don’t want to go back. I am now completely focused on my job as an agent and my business projects. As a person who easily gets carried away and tries to bring everything to perfection, I am 100% immersed in my current activities, and as for my professional career, who knows, maybe one day I’ll write a book about it. I have already come up with a working title: “The Grishaev Dynasty.”
Валерия Минакова живет в Омске, куда переехала из Казахстана. Но связи с ним не порвала и остается очень информированным сотрудником. Благодаря своей отличной памяти Лера моментально запоминает кто чей родственник. Это, согласитесь, в казахской политике главное.