Ines Subashka: How did you get involved in sports and to be more accurate with basketball?
Kiril Raykov: Before I started practicing basketball, while I was still in kindergarten, my family and I used to live in Vratza ( a city in Bulgaria). My dad was in the military and he was serving there. My mom took me to a dancing class. When I was in first grade,my mother’s dream was to become a musician and as you could guess I was in a musician class, where I used to sing in choir and played the piano. ( Laughing) In fourth grade a really tall man, came in the classroom. I and one of my friends were the tallest, so he spot us immediately. He took a basketball out of his bag and “invited” us. Right in that moment, when I smelled the basketball I forgot about the piano and my career of a musician. This was 16 years ago, and the tall man is George Velchev. Since that moment I’ve been true to the “orange ball”.
IS: What motivates you to wake up every morning and face another day, filled with the enthusiasm and the goal orientation you demonstrate in everything you do?
KR: For me, the most important thing in life is to have inner drive and motivation. The irritators in the world around, such as money, material benefits or what other people think of you, are misleading. If you do no thave an inner spark, which could lead you towards your goal and if you are not dedicated to what you do, you are lost!
IS: Nowadays, most people seem as if they gave up living and just keep on existing. What is it inside of you, that keeps the spark burning, gives you strength to dream and never give up, in the name of doing only the things you love?
KR: Unfortunately the reality in Bulgaria is such, that most people are lost in their daily lives and become slaves to their own lives. They do things, that don’t bring them pleasure. They resemble machines, which are spinning in an enchanted circle, and their life slips as a thin fiber. Everybody should light his own sparkle every single day. The faith in your own abilities and in what you do is the key point. You should not lose faith, even for a short moment, or doubt the path you are walking and the goal you are chasing. Creating a plan, which you could follow step by step, get you closer to success, and solving some small tasks on the way to your main goal, make you feel better and have the potential to motivate you.
IS: What would be your advice to people who give up on their dreams, because they might seem unachievable?
KR: One of my main statements about life is “Never give up”. When you are already feeling the pain, this means that you’ve walked quite a distance further to your goal. Why would you stop now? You might need just one more step, to get where you dream to be. One of my coaches once told me “ If you want to score, you have to go with the thought of dunking the ball.”
So aim at the stars, dream and set big goals and then go ahead and fight for them.
IS: How do you stay in shape? How do you train and how do you eat?
KR: As a professional basketball player, my shape depends on if I am in season or out of season. Since I was young, I’ve always been more incline to the conditioning part of basketball. I’ve always preferred to stay in the gym or do some kind of sprints and jumps, than shoot or dribble the ball.
During the season, due to the number of practices and the official games, I do not have the opportunity to build my physical qualities and I am just trying to sustain what I’ve build during the off season.
Summer is the time when I emphasize on my physical conditioning and when I take the time to work on my weaknesses. I try to build and perfect different qualities, while I am still taking the time to work on some technical details that are part of the game. I love using different kind of sports, like wrestling, box, swimming, beach volleyball, football. During the years, I’ve tried a lot of different training methods in the gym. But lately I am emphasizing more on Olympic lifting, bodyweight movements, basic, compound movements and free weights.
I am emphasizing on my lower body and my core.
When it comes to my nutrition it once again depends if I am in season or not. During the season I include more carbs, while I try to keep the proportions between proteins:fats:carbs almost even, and during the summer I decrease the carb intake.
I am a fan of the saying “ Eat what you could grow in your garden or kill in the woods” and “ Do not eat if there is a label for the content of the product”.
IS: How do people around you treat your lifestyle? Do they accept it or are they considering it fanatic and obsessive?
KR: I am happy to say that I influence people positively. They don’t just accept my lifestyle but most of them are trying to emulate me and try to change their bad habits. Just consider the fact that my parents started eating healthy and working out. I think this is a sign I am on the right track!
IS: Was there a moment in your life, when you wanted to give up- to quit waking up early in the morning, working so hard in the gym and in the kitchen and being so disciplined? Moments when you wanted to quit? What kept you going?
KR: I’ve had plenty of moments like this. A couple times, I was about to quit basketball, but every time, I found strength deep inside of me to keep fighting and never quitting.
IS: People who know you and who follow your work- both as a professional basketball player and as a coach, are aware that you were invited to become part of the coaching team, of one of Nike’s youth camps in New Jersey. How did they notice you? What did you expect before you went there and what did you learn from the experience?
KR: Last year I was in USA for a tournament, with the Bulgarian national team and I was recommended to the head coach of the camp in New Jersey. So after the tournament was over, I flew to New York. Initially I was nervous, because this was my first time as a coach. I was surprised in a good way. I did my work with ease and I felt pleasure from doing it. I learned a lot from the head coaches and I would say it gave me a lot not just as a coach, but as an athlete as well.
IS: In a week you will be in USA again and you will once again join a youth basketball camp as a coach. What would you like to teach the future basketball stars? What would you like to show them, that they could learn and apply in future, on the court and in life as well?
KR: My goal, besides teaching them the basics of basketball is to teach them of good discipline, character, goal orientation, team work and the most important- to just have fun. After all basketball is a game. If they could take a part of my enthusiasm and dedication, I will be more than pleased. The biggest award for me will be if they manage to apply this on the court and in their lives.
IS:What is your training philosophy and what would you like to do in the future?
KR: My philosophy is to have fun while working out and burning fat. Time will show it, but one of my alternatives if I do not choose to be a basketball coach is to become a conditioning coach. And why not become the conditioning coach of one of the best teams in NBA?
IS: How would you finish the sentence “I work out, because…”?
KR: because this is my life and who I am.
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