PRIME Interview with Mārtiņš Meiers
PRIME Athlete Management player Mārtiņš Meiers is one of the best and most talented Latvian big men. Since 2011 he has been regular Latvian men’s National team player and for the last two seasons he plays for the VTB United League club VEF Riga. We talked with Mārtiņš about his career and life.
FIRST STEPS IN BASKETBALL
My journey in basketball started when I was in the 2nd grade. My father took me to my first practice and from the first day it felt like I’m in the right place. I went to trainings with passion and big responsibility, my skills were improving and one day I suddenly realised that I have achieved pretty much. I’m from Lapmezciems, Latvia, but I had to go to to Jurmala to attend practices. I played in many teams at the time when I was playing in Jurmala Sports school, I played with players at my age and with older guys too. My coach thought that I needed to gain more expierence, so I had around 100 games per season. I started my professional career in Ventspils. Thanks to hard work and tense training schedule in Jurmala, it was easy to fit in the Ventspils team. I had deep passion for the game, strong will to prove myself, and I still got that in myself.
In my childhood my goals were very high, but luckily I had a coach who knew how to put me back on the ground. I think it is important to know your limits, it’s important not to overrate yourself at that age. You need to feel that there’s a lot of room to grow. I worked really hard, I attended all practices and sometimes even stayed in the gym and practiced with other basketball groups. Of course I am thankful to my coach who knew exactly how to motivate me.
Now I know that my game type is more closer to European style. I like teams who share the ball and play from defense. My performance this season is solid, so I need to start thinking abaut where to go next. I want to progress and show what I am able to do on the basketball court. Hopefully I will head to a club in Europe where I could show all my strengths.
There have been times when I’m thinking, wether I really need this, but it’s completely normal to feel this way, everyone has expierenced it at least once in their career. You start to recognize that there’s less time for family, for your friends, and you miss something out in school. But at the same time you understand how much you gain from it, how much it excites you. I have got through some hard times in my career and maybe that’s the main thing that attracts me – overcoming difficulties and facing challenges. I grew up in a family of fisherman so I know what it means to do hard work for a living. And basketball isn’t easy as well and I really like to challenge myself. The most important thing that you need to remember is to never do anything without a strong will and passion for it. You need to know exactly what you came for.
I always try to stay positive no matter what. It’s important to support and motivate not only yourself, but your teammates as well. Bad attitude will get you no good, it will lead to conflicts with teammates and maybe even couse some injuries while playing. I realized pretty fast that you always need to look at everything from the bright side first. I think I got this quality in me from my mother, she always supports me very much and tries to remind me about positive thinking in life.
After a game, you come home and you’re feeling satisfied for what you and your team have achieved. If you lose, you analyze what you did wrong, how to avoid mistakes like that in the future. I feel that there’s always still a room to grow, to improve my game. You must have this feeling in yourself all the time. You need to remember that no matter how clever you think you are, there will always be someone who knows better, so it is important not to get upset about your coach’s comments. It’s the same thing when communicating between teammates, you need to sense when to give in and when to stand up for your opinion. Basketball is a combination of many important details like, game tactics, relationships between teammates and your individual work. During the last year, I have focused more on myself. I have paid close attention to my eating habits, I read more books, took a few tests. I knew that my results are solid but at the same time I felt that I haven’t reached my maximum, so I tried to find out what have I done wrong, what could I possibly improve. When I started to follow doctor’s recommendations about my eating habits, I recognized that now I’m able to play much longer, my endurance is bigger and I fell better on the court. Before that, I played around 16 to 20 minutes per game, but now I can play 25 and more. You have to pay close attention on your eating habits, it is really worth it. At the end of the day, the only one that can stop me on the court, is myself.
LATVIAN NATIONAL TEAM
I was 18 years old when I had my first European championship experience with Latvian National team. That first impression and emotions were fantastic, it is a big honor to be a part of Latvian National team. The hard work in practice payed of successfully, I felt ready to play. My performace was pretty good so I got invited next year as well. Playing in the national team brings me a lot of positive emotions. Every game we gave it all like it would be our last one, and we fought till the last second. We had very strong will to win. The support from our Latvian fans gave us more strength, of course. Yes, I can say that I’m a patriot of Latvia. Our country isn’t that big, so anyone of us should be one.
JOURNEY FROM VENTSPILS TO GERMANY
During my first year in Ventspils, my coach was Silvano Poropat. I entered the team very successfully because of the help of the coach, and he spent a lot of time with me on improving my individual skills. Later on he got an offer to go to Germany so he suggested me to go with him. That’s how I got into team “Mitteldeutcher”. I though that was a great opportunity because the team plays in the highest level in Germany. Every game there was very hard and intense, even though we weren’t between the best teams, we fought till the end every time. We played one game in a week so we had more time to get prepared for each and one of them. We deeply analyzed our opponents game style and sets. I gained a lot of expierence from playing in Germany. Every team was different from the other– some played defensive basketball, some had great individual players, but some shared the ball very well. There were a lot of foreign players from USA and other European countries so I got the opportunity to learn from every on of them.
I have a dog – Jack Russel terrier that is widely known as the dog from movie “The Mask”. Me and my girlfriend enjoy long walks on the beach. On weekends I try to make time to visit my parents in Lapmezciems. One of my latest hobbies is hunting, I like to spend time in the woods. In the summer I prefer fishing. The best way to recover after a game is to go to a sauna and swim in a pool. It is difficult to get away from this city life, and I have to say that I’m closely focused on basketball riht now, and I think that I will find time to rest later.
THE MEANING OF COACHES
My first coach was Bronislavs Butans. He gave me a lot and not only in terms of basketball, he tought me how to be strong psychologically on and off the court. I have very friendly and sincere relationship with coach Gints Fogelis as well. While I was playing in Ventspils, he worked with me individually a lot, coach thought me new things and the work was very interesting with a lot of various excercises. Coach Bronislavs was very strict, a lot of players left because of that. I looked at his strictness from other point of view, I knew that these difficulties that I face now will make me only stronger. I know that the coaches want only the best for me and the only thing that I want is to win.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR YOUNG PLAYERS
First of all, you need to know your limits. Don’t overrate yourself because it will slow down your progression. I think that is the key how I achieved this much. I knew it from the beginning that I had to improve my game, and I know it now as well. The other thing that I would suggest is to change teams and environment around you. Get to know different game styles, learn from other players and coaches, gain more expierence. Of course, I would suggest to focus on eating habits as well, because it really helps to feel better on the court. I know that while you’re teenager, it seems impossible and unnecessary, but imagine if you started doing it right from the day one you could achieve much more. After all, the most important thing is to be sure that you have made the right choice, that you’re in the right place.
Interview by Santa Januševska