Paseka and Nabieva on Coaching in China

Former Russian gymnasts Maria Paseka and Tatiana Nabieva embarked on an opportunity to coach the Chinese National Team last August. They both gave an interview with CCTV to describe what their new coaching positions have been like thus far.

Paseka first heard of the opportunity from a friend. “I have a friend from a TV station who told me about an opportunity to go to China to coach gymnastics. I didn’t even hesitate to accept the position, this is a very important working experience. Before I taught gymnastics classes for 1.5 – 6-year-olds, but I didn’t have experience coaching the Chinese National Team so I was a little bit nervous. After I arrived in China I discovered that I can help the gymnasts, that is good,” Paseka said. 

Paseka and Nabieva’s primary responsibility is to assist the head coach of each training group. The transition to becoming a coach hasn’t been as easy as they expected. The transition from thinking like an athlete to a coach has been the most challenging part, not to mention language barriers and cultural differences.

“The role of a coach is not easy, you must observe every single person and understand the level of every athlete’s skill on each apparatus. You must have different plans for different athletes. It depends on their characteristics to teach to their abilities,” Paseka said. 

Nabieva said “the Chinese girls are very diligent. They always finish their training assignments and never complain. At the same time they also think a lot, the only lack is their foundational training and their assisted training needs to be improved. If you pay attention to many different details, the whole training will show results.”

Paseka is in charge of vault training, while Nabieva trains with them on bars and floor. Several athletes have already mentioned their coaching techniques have given them a change for the better.     

Rising star Wu Ran said “when learning the technique for some new skills, their [Paseka and Nabieva’s] training drills are more advanced than the national coaches. There are some things I have never done before.”

“Although these training drills seem to be very simple, when you do them they can be a little scary and I can’t find the strength. Once I find my strength I can use it on the vault and it makes me feel like I have noticeably improved. My skills are so much better than before,” Wu said. 

Ye Zhennan, the delegation leader of the Chinese team, said “from the Chinese women’s team Tokyo Olympic performance finishing seventh, to last year’s World Championships where they finished sixth, the whole team is in a low period, especially on vault and floor where the team is overall quite weak.”

“Firstly, we are lacking the development of difficulty. Then, our techniques for training are not adequate. Therefore we invited two Russian coaches. The main idea is to teach our coaches how to think during training and use these new ideas and incorporate them into the overall training process,” Ye said.  

Outside the gym, Paseka and Nabieva talked more about their coaching styles with the athletes:

Nabieva said “I am a very quiet person, I am not like a Paseka-type of person, that type where when you meet a stranger you immediately become acquainted with them. In the gymnasium, I like to observe everyone first and see everyone’s training style. However, after I become more familiar with everyone then I can talk a lot. During the training I communicate with the athletes very smoothly.”

Paskea on the other hand said “I am more extroverted, more cheerful, my friends and my parents tell me I need to control myself. When I just meet a person I become very devoted to them. I know I need to control myself, but no matter what I treat people just like that because I’m very sociable.”

Being far from home, they both mention the thing they miss the most is the Russian snow days, but they’ve still been able to have fun in China. Paseka has been trying lots of different kinds of Chinese foods. Tanghulu (candied fruits), tofu, and youtiao (fried bread sticks) have been their favorites. Nabieva has been interested in checking out ancient Chinese architecture and visiting the Temple of Heaven in Beijing. They’ve both been studying Chinese and are enjoying a good time together.

The interview concludes with Nabieva speaking Chinese, “hello my name is Tatiana Nabieva. I am from Russia, I love you all.”

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