After eight seasons in our Club, Radosław Kownacki, aka "Hands That Heal", goes back home to Pomerania. During this time, AZS AJP Gorzów basketball players won a silver and bronze medal in the Energa Basket Liga Kobiet games. Thank you for everything, Radek!
Piotr Kaczmarek: How did your cooperation with AZS start? Did you always want to work with basketball players?
Radosław Kownacki: I had always wanted to have a sport-related job because it gives a lot of opportunities for professional development. I worked with GTPS volleyball players for one season and I met Konrad Wieczorek, who helped me at work. After this season, he called me and said that there was an opportunity to start working with basketball players. There was a phone call, a meeting with the chairman, a meeting with the coach, and so it has been 8 seasons since then.
Is it not like the basketball Club's physiotherapist works in the shadows?
A physiotherapist in any sport works in the shadows. The less we are seen on the court, the better. The fans do not often even know who we are and why we are sitting there. They just associate us with the ones who serve towels and drinks. That does not bother me personally, because after all, that is also what I do.
What does the work with basketball players look like? How do you assess their awareness in terms of physical condition for games?
It is a tough question because there is a lot to say. Working with women has its own charm but there is always the other side of the coin. Their awareness varies. During these few years I have seen a lot and tried to help or advise those who needed it. Each of them has her own individual way of preparing for a game which is something that fans have seen more than once. There have been such basketball players who showed up long before the official warm-up, and there have been a few who barely made it before the first whistle.
The physiotherapist is with the team all the time. So you have to be some kind of a therapist too?
That is right, we are available 24 hours a day. I even went to the hospital at night. Sometimes I wondered if I was not a psychologist with the skills of a physiotherapist. A part of our work is also to listen, advise and comfort; it all depends on the situation.
During the games we frequently see different colors of tapes on the players’ bodies. What are they for and does the color matter?
These are elastic therapeutic tapes that have been known for several years. I was taught that color does not matter but it is said that there are nations that choose color depending on their needs. In the simplest terms, these are tapes that are intended to relieve or support a given joint, muscle or ligament, depending on the place and technique of application. There is also an anti-swelling technique so it is not like you go to the pharmacy, buy a tape, apply it and it is working. You need to know how to apply it for a particular injury or problem.
From your experience, what are the most common injuries that occur to basketball players and how to prevent them?
I do not think I am going to surprise anybody on this one. The most common injury is an ankle sprain. Then, a knee injury with different consequences including a ligament being partially or fully torn as well as meniscus derangements and various injuries and soreness due to overburdening, dislocating or fracturing. I won’t mention bruises or dislocated fingers in because, which are a staple. How to prevent injuries? Strength exercises, core stability training, relaxation, rest, and a proper diet. You have to remember to be focused during practice sessions. Otherwise, you may suffer a serious injury.
This season we had a journey of our lives for an away game in Krasnoyarsk. How to prepare for such a long journey and time zone difference so that the body can function properly at the game?
To be honest, the way we played does not leave much of a choice. We always fly early which gives us an advantage. It all depends on a person. Women need a lot of sleep but to avoid being even more tired, you cannot sleep for too long. It is true that Siberia is quite a long way away from Poland but it is not a tragedy. Travelling is a part of an athlete’s life.
It was your last season at our club. Where did this decision come from? Will we be seeing you in the field house with a different team?
The decision was taken mainly for family reasons. First of all, we have been the happy parents of our son, Stanisław, for over a year now. Working in sports in the EBLK basketball league and EuroCup games means that I tend to spend a lot of time away from home. I do not want to regret the fact that I missed the most important time in my life. Besides, my wife and I are both from Pomerania so we decided to go back there together. It is time for changes. We are building a house and renovating the office. In short, we are turning our life upside down. Exciting but hard times are ahead of us. We hope for the best as we will finally have our own house. Are you are wondering whether you will see me again? That is a sure thing. If only there is an opportunity, I will show up in the field house at Chopina Street. And God willing in the new field house, too. However, not necessarily for work purposes.
Let's get back to the previous season play-offs when we won the silver medal. At that time, the basketball players were more frequently at your office than in practice sessions. It definitely wasn’t easy. So why don’t you disclose a few unknown backstage details of this fight which allowed the girls to play?
This was clearly my toughest season, especially its final phase. Somehow we succeeded and we have our silver medal hung on the wall. Play-offs are difficult for all of us. The coaches have to figure out something fresh and boost the girls to do even better. After the regular season, being both mentally and physically tired, they still need to go through the play-off and I need to put all the effort in helping them (he laughs). There were a lot of injuries, misfortunes and tiredness but we made it. All this was possible thanks to Konrad Wieczorek and Rafał Bujko who helped me. If I had been all by myself in this, it’s hard to say what could have happened. Julia had been unable to play for a while, Masha really scared us in Gorzów but the culmination of our misfortune was the game in Wrocław. Annamaria did not play, Kiki played with knee pain and I had to leave the team for the first time ever because Ariel and I ended up in a hospital. Additionally, Laura ended up the game bruised as if she was in a boxing match and Sharnee had a cold during all the play-offs. Every girl had something to complain about. On the other hand, there were so many injuries and everything happened so quickly that there was no time to think about it. We had to give our best. The hours spent in the field house and in the hotel rooms turned out to be not that bad and we ended the season holding the second place.
So to conclude, how will you remember those years of working at AZS AJP and what is it that you will never forget?
It was a very exciting time in my personal and professional life. Always a lot was happening. It was as great as tiring. So at the end of the season I was glad that my life would slow down a bit. If I was to shortlist everything, it would take forever (he laughs). But frankly speaking my favorite, although without a medal, season is 2016/2017. Our team was truly decent. It was a pleasure to watch them play and work with them. The next one is the season when we won a silver medal. This is the first one for me and an another one for the club after the break. It felt amazing. Traveling to Siberia does not happen often either. Moreover, my last season in Gorzów was very special too. We finished so quickly and unexpectedly but we won a bronze medal to add to our the collection.
The first camp in Szklarska Poręba and the win with Hania Sługocka. What is more, helping the twins and Magdalena Szajtauer to climb up (he laughs). Every trip with Irek and Michał. I will not forget how Michał Kugler guessed songs played on the radio after one note while we were going by bus. He was also able to speak from the memory the exact results of games from a few or more years ago of different disciplines. We were shocked. I can't forget the doctor Sławek Dziobiak who was always with us when we needed him.
And our fans... They always did such a great job that I still wonder whether not to accuse them of partial hearing loss, at least in the left ear. Throughout 8 seasons, there have really been no better and louder fans. They have always been there. Even when we thought they would not get there, they would arrive singing "We are always there where our AZS plays..."
I am thankful to all the staff at the club for always being supportive. I will remember the head coach Darek as a man who likes to make jokes but when it comes to basketball, he takes it very seriously. There are a few details from the time of his studies in Moscow that I will also remember. I will remember Coach Robert Pieczyrak and his fight in the mountains as well as his extraordinary sense of humor. Moreover, his hierarchy of teams and organizational skills. You could have worked it all out with him.
I would like to thank the field house support staff for helping whenever they could. A big thank you to all the basketball players for their cooperation. It was a pleasure to work with you during these eight seasons. I would like to thank the board members and all the coaches I have worked with. It is hard to name everyone now so in order not to miss anyone, I would like to thank everyone who has influenced my work at AZS AJP Gorzów.