The Basketball Podcast: EP 308 with Stas Ovdieienko on War and Basketball

RELEASE DATE : 21/02/2024
In this week’s basketball coaching conversation, Ukrainian Superleague head coach Stas Ovdieienko joins the Basketball Podcast to share insights on war and basketball.
Stas Ovdieienko is a prominent Ukrainian basketball figure, who has made significant contributions to the sport as a player and coach. Stas Ovdieienko boasts an impressive 17-year career as a professional basketball player. During this time, he achieved significant milestones, including being crowned the champion of Ukraine and securing the Superleague Cup.
Transitioning from player to mentor, Ovdieienko spent 2 years as an assistant coach before taking the reins as the head coach of BC Zaporizhzhia in the Ukrainian Superleague. However, tragedy struck when the war reached his doorstep—quite literally. Despite his dedication to the sport, the conflict forced him to confront a new reality.
Stas Ovdieienko’s journey exemplifies resilience, adaptability, and unwavering commitment to basketball, even in the face of adversity and I am grateful to share it with you.
Stas Ovdieienko

Listen Here:

Stas Ovdieienko Quotes:

“As soon as I made sure that my family is in a safe environment, safe country, safe situation, my first and only decision was to go to join the army to protect my country.”

“We had five foreign players, so we have American players, Canadian players, Lithuanian players and we had to evacuate them quickly . . and it was really hard to evacuate them because of the traffic jam . . We needed to cross 1000 plus kilometers to get them to Poland.”

“Basketball did shut down for half of the year, there were no practices and a lot of gyms were destroyed. Youth players from Ukraine who were under 18, they became refugees also. They came out of the country also. And I think our next generation of Ukrainian players are still somewhere in Europe, not in Ukraine.”

“We have six teams come together and play three days in a row, for example. But when the air raid sounds, the game is postponed. Everybody goes down to the basement, to the bomb shelter and waits till it’s over and then comes back to the gym to keep playing again. And this pause can take like 1 hour and 2 hours sometimes. It’s a hard situation. A lot of people are still involved. And I feel like a huge part of the basketball community really supported us.”

“Players who used to play with me 15 years ago, 20 years ago, they found me and texted me, ‘How are you and what do you need?’ A lot of former players are volunteering and sending us some stuff, sending us what we need. And we really feel that support from the basketball community worldwide. Canada, USA, everywhere. We have that support.”

“I decided to watch clinics daily, one clinic per day if I can. If I have some opportunity I’ll watch a game. Last summer, I watched March Madness, all the games and all the press conferences. And I can say this special kind of art, listening to those press conferences, to the American coaches, it was amazing. And basketball really helped me, mentally, to believe in tomorrow, to believe in life, that everything is going to be okay again and that everything will return and get even better. And I have to prepare myself for tomorrow’s better days.”

“Everybody understands it’s a huge happiness, a huge blessing to just keep the ball in their hands and be able to play, to compete, to have practices. Nothing can be compared with the normal basketball life, and it’s a real blessing.”

“Mental toughness is like determination. If something isn’t going well, somehow, we will find a way to get out of this situation. We need to teach that, to discuss it with the players . . Not only huge effort and hard defense . . mental toughness, for me, is also controlling emotions. It’s also playing through fatigue and giving a solid response on the court.”

“I thank everybody from the basketball community worldwide. It really helps when you daily get messages, ‘We need you. Stay safe.  Try to do your best.’ It really helps when you get those messages daily. That support, it’s amazing. It motivates me from inside. And again, when you are exhausted, it’s easy to give up. But when you get all that support, it’s impossible to give up. You will fight and then keep going ahead.”


Stas Ovdieienko Breakdown:

1:00 – Ongoing Conflict in Ukraine

6:00 – Impact of Conflict on Ukraine Basketball

11:00 – Normality

12:30 – Leadership

15:30 – Humor

18:30 – Mental Toughness

21:00 – Solution-Based Coaching Interventions

26:00 – Talk To Yourself

28:30 – Team Building

Stas Ovdieienko Selected Links from the Podcast:

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