Evgeni Plushenko: “I occasionally hear well-known foreign coaches and athletes, how happy they are that the Russians are finally removed.”
Interview with Evgeni Plushenko. About his school, coaching approach, problems of Russian male skaters and ban of Russian skaters.
source: matchtv dd. 8th September 2022 by Sergei Podgornov
You have a big academy. As a coach you work with both boys and girls. Explain – what is the specifics?
Evgeni Plushenko: I like to work with both. They are completely different in psychology, attitude to the training process. Boys take longer to form, their head falls into place a little later. Girls are more responsible, they need results here and now. With guys, it takes time.
But I don’t have such division. This year I also worked with pair skaters on technique. We have new pairs that Arina Ushakova and Sergei Alekseev are working with. I gave them this area of responsibility, because I simply can not work with everyone. But before the start of the season, I managed to work with the guys on technique. In the future, I will also have ice dance.
Evgeni Plushenko: Yes, the school is growing. In a month, arena opens in Moscow – there will be two ice rinks, a hotel, and gyms. The conditions are very good. This year I changed my approach – I’m not in a hurry. Previously, I had a desire to beat everyone, to get a momentary result.
Now I have changed my wishlist, the method of preparation. I understand that today we need to work, wait. We have promising figure skaters: Sofia Titova, Veronika Zhilina, Alisa Polyakova, Maria Mazur. And the guys are good too: the Sarnovsky brothers. Their 10-year-old sister Sophia is growing up – also with an excellent perspective.
That is, the amount of people who want to do figure skating didn’t become fewer.
Evgeni Plushenko: There are a lot of good kids now. I want the athletes to skate longer and preferably without injuries. Because there are coaches who, at the age of 12-13, are already rushing skaters to do quads. It is clear that figure skating has advanced in terms of technique. But if we talk about girls, for example, then I don’t want them to finish at the age of 15.
Extensive training methods are not for you?
Evgeni Plushenko: Yes, it has always been like that. I myself tried to skate as long as possible. The coach led me accordingly – he removed loads somewhere. I try to follow this approach.
At competitions, not all boys at the age of 16 jump quadruple jumps. Girls perform quads at the age of 13-14. Why?
Evgeni Plushenko: Boys jump quads at 16, just not as much as girls. Today, even 12-year-olds were doing quads and triple axels. So everything is fine. Now the guys have started to gain momentum. It’s just that they are generally a little late in development. But some guys confidently go to quad Lutz, and toe loops, and make them.
Your student Kirill Sarnovsky took second place at the Moscow Championship among juniors. How do you assess his prospects?
Evgeni Plushenko: Kirill showed the program that we prepared for these competitions. He did not try quadruple jumps, because there are nuances. He did his job well, took second place. After a short Kirill was the first. Therefore, we go further, restore the quads.
The key problem of modern Russian male single skaters is the lack of consistency. You have never failed programs completely. Do you have an understanding of how to achieve consistency?
Evgeni Plushenko: Now I face the problem that sometimes athletes do not hear me. Even today, the guy skates in the warm-up, I tell him to do the element, but he does not hear. All because of being very nervous. Our athletes need to change their approach and understand that if something does not work out, it’s not the end of the world.
Are we all too focused on the result?
Evgeni Plushenko: Yes. You need to enjoy your skating! Parents also put pressure, if something did not work out. Don’t do this! On the contrary, they have their whole life ahead of them, you need to give them freedom, let them develop. If something doesn’t work out we will think, look in the training process and change it.
Many of our athletes are very uptight. Those guys who skate freely, they cope. Arseniy Fedotov skate today – he didn’t care at all.
He is 12 years old. Maybe he still does not understand the responsibility?
Evgeni Plushenko: Well, maybe. But it’s still great. If he skates like that now, then it is likely that he will be able to perform at the top level in the future. If they don’t put too much pressure on him. It is important.
For example, my son Sasha. At his age, there are guys who are already jumping triples. We are slowly working on them. I don’t have a goal for him to spend five or six hours on the ice, go to additional training. He has his own schedule. He enjoys figure skating.
Sasha sometimes says to me: “Dad, let’s go skating on Sunday.” I say: “Today is not necessary, you have a week ahead of you, during which you will work at full strength. Enjoying the process is your job.”
Because sometimes it happens like this – my athlete saw the judges and says in shock: “How many of them! I’m not sure I can do a triple!” But he can jump quads! On the contrary, skate for them, open your soul! This is what I would like to change. But parents influence a lot.
Pressure with expectations?
Evgeni Plushenko: Yes, they choke, they crush with expectations. Don’t do this. Of course, sometimes it is necessary to demand, but not to pressure.
I know that some hockey coaches don’t let parents to trainings. What about you?
Evgeni Plushenko: We have a second floor in the academy – there is a restaurant with a view. Parents can watch their children skate. Sometimes we invite them to open training sessions so that they can see the training process.
Hockey coaches do this so that parents do not interfere in the training process. Has such happened in your practice?
Evgeni Plushenko: Yes, that’s why we parted with Nastya Zinina. She had an injury, and I told her that we would not jump for a week. It is necessary to recover and do other work: layouts, spins, step sequences, gliding, imitations … The athlete’s reaction was inadequate, and then her mother intervened. If parents get into the training process, then we have to part. It is not right.
I explain to them: “When you send your children to school, you don’t sit at a desk with them and don’t tell teachers how to work.” Some people understand, some don’t.
You enjoy coaching – it’s clear. Is it possible to say that you were so influenced by Alexei Mishin?
Evgeni Plushenko: Alexei Nikolaevich is a great teacher and specialist! Of course, I took the best from him. I have been skating under his guidance for over twenty years. He led me from the age of 11. And I didn’t even have a thought to move somewhere, go to another coach. Alexei Nikolayevich is a teacher, mentor, second father for me. I trusted him completely – I did everything he said, even when I had an Olympic gold medal.
Of course, when I had my opinion, which was based on certain feelings, we corrected some things through dialogue. So now I try to listen to the athletes. The “I am the boss, you are the fool” approach is fundamentally wrong. Every athlete is an individual.
Of course, it happens that athletes, feeling this, do something wrong. Consider such approach a weakness. But only because they skated in other schools. Now we have many of our own athletes, we teach them how to prepare properly. This takes time.
I really enjoy coaching. I am glad that we have our own school, which belongs to me and Yana (Rudkovskaya). Because at one time I was tormented – I had to rent skating rinks. Now we have our own ice. In September, we will begin construction of the second ice rink for the Angela Plushenko school in the Moscow region.
Are there any problems with the coaching staff?
Evgeni Plushenko: When I started, I fired 17 coaches. Because there was a wrong attitude on their part. Few people know that I, as a coach, did initial training at an early stage. A three-year-old child came to me, and I skated with him. For me, it wasn’t shameful. I worked with athletes who had the first youth category, I came to training at six in the morning.
Then I started recruiting coaches. I stand at the rink at 6:30 in the morning, there is no specialist on site, and her group is waiting. I think where is she? I go out into the street, and she stands – smokes. After that, she was fired. It happened that children were beaten on the ice, thrown to the board. There are also such experts.
Evgeni Plushenko: Yes, it happened that children got concussions. I immediately said that there is no place for such things in Plushenko’s Angels. I will not allow children to be pinched, given a slap upside the head, or humiliated. We make sure that children treat their sport with love. Only in this case a good result can be achieved.
When I saw on the recording from the cameras how one of the coaches throws his four-year-old daughter on board, I was shocked. How is this possible? It’s your child! Now this madam works in another school, I will not say which one.
Did she find a job without any problems?
Evgeni Plushenko: Yes, she was taken to another school, despite the fact that I immediately fired her.
That is, there is a shortage of quality coaching staff.
Evgeni Plushenko: Of course. There are really top coaches, and there are those who only behave like top ones, although in reality … But to be hones, this is happening in all sports.
As far as I understand, you have the opportunity to grow your coaches. For example, Elena Radionova joined your team.
Evgeni Plushenko: Lena is a great professional! She is our choreographer. She did excellent programs for Veronika Zhilina: a short program and two free programs. She also choreograph for other girls too.
We also have Sergei Verbillo, he works on gliding, choreographed programs for my son Sasha. Dima Mikhailov, Sergei Alekseev are excellent coaches. They are all young, but I took them four years ago. We have come a long way. Today they work independently – they work on programs, take athletes to the competitions.
We have more than 30 coaches, we have enough. Ivan Skobrev has recently joined us as a physical training coach. Choreographers from the Bolshoi Theater work with us.
Now I am opening a ballet school in my academy. Together with multiple world kickboxing champion Sasha Lipov, we are opening his martial arts school. Gradually we grow, we develop.
What goals do you set for yourself in your coaching career?
Evgeni Plushenko: Of course, I would like to raise Olympic champions and world champions. To do this, we create the most comfortable conditions, we finance athletes. My partners and sponsors help. On the territory of the academy, we built a hotel where athletes stay free of charge. No need to travel far, waste your nerves and strength in traffic jams. For my part, I will do everything to achieve the goal, but it takes time.
It happens, of course, that the coach takes some unique athlete, and the next year – the Olympics. He wins, and the specialist then believes that he brought up this athlete. There were and are such coaches.
How much does it pressure that international competitions are closed for our skaters?
Evgeni Plushenko: Of course, I would like to perform abroad, skate with the whole world, travel, see the level. But our figure skating federation, the Ministry of Sports and the ROC – well done! Made a large number of domestic competitions this season. Well, what to do? We can’t just give up everything now.
Maybe in a year they will freeze and change their minds – they will remove these sanctions from us. We need to get ready and keep working. Our athletes are the strongest.
World figure skating suffers greatly due to the absence of our skaters.
Evgeni Plushenko: One hundred percent. They are afraid of us. I occasionally hear well-known foreign coaches and athletes, how happy they are that the Russians are finally removed.
But after all, a medal can have the maximum value only if it is obtained in a competitive fight. Don’t they understand it?
Evgeni Plushenko: Well, someone wants to get it easy.
Did it surprise you?
Evgeni Plushenko: Yes, these statements surprised me.
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Kamila Valieva: “I read that everyone hates that I agreed to skate this program. But I’m glad to share this. The opinion of the fans doesn’t affected me. Only the opinion of my coaches.”
Some may be happy to get the medals easily, most are not. There’s no real figure skating scene without the Russians, like it or not. That’s why we, figure skating fans from abroad, watch the Russian Grand Prix before international competitions. Power and strength to you, guys. Can’t wait to see you back, once the rabies is over.