PRIME interview with Oskars Ernšteins

Oskars Ernšteins is one of the most recognized and sought-after strength and conditioning coaches in Europe’s basketball. His expertise is recognized not only in Latvia, but his stable career in Europe’s highest level basketball clubs proves that he is a world class professional.


It all started with my love for basketball. When I was 7 years old, I first went to my very first basketball practice. For a kid I had pretty serious goals and I started to invest time and work to reach them. I have always been interested in how to develop my skills, how to improve myself. At that time my main goal was to become better on the basketball court. After graduating high school, I traveled to America and choose to play basketball and study at Anderson University. For four years I studied kinesiology – body and movement training.  My career goals were already clear since I was just a high school student. It’s no secret that a basketball player’s career is not always long and stable, so getting good education is very important.


The coach in Anderson University gave me a unique opportunity – to become a trainee in the university’s basketball team after I completed my studies. Along the job at Anderson University I was able to assist the physical fitness coach for the National team of Latvia. I had the opportunity to study and see how to work with professional athletes, and get to know the environment better. After a year, the head coach of Latvian National team Ainārs Bagatskis offered me to work with him in Ukraine. That was the start of my professional career. I love my job because one of my hobbies is to exercise I support healthy lifestyle as well. It’s hard for me to watch how young, or even experienced players suffer from injuries, especially those that can be eliminated. That’s one of the main reasons why I spend a lot of time searching the right approach to reduce the risk of injuries.


After high school I traveled to America, studied there for 4 years and worked as an assistant for another year. My professional career started in Ukraine – Kiev “Budivelnyk” where I worked for 2 years. After Ukraine I spent 2 years in Russia with Basketball Club “Nizhny Novgorod”, last year I started to work in Turkish basketball club “Darussafaka Dogus” together with one of the top head coaches David Blatt, and I will stay there for the next season as well. Every summer I join Latvian national basketball team and also help several national youth teams. My work is very dynamic, so I can’t complain about boredom.


I am working together with physical fitness coach Viktors Lācis according to our developed system. It is a big honor to work with the Latvian national team and huge responsibility as well. The atmosphere when working only with Latvians is a bit different, the guys already know each other since childhood, the atmosphere is very pleasant and friendly


I work with every player individually. In the pre-season we take tests to see the strengths and weaknesses of each player to work on. As every coach, I have my own approach to the training process – a rational explanation of why it is necessary and how my training methods will help later. The most important things in my profession are the organization of work and availability of inventory. It’s important that players do not have to think about anything other than basketball. Of course, traveling, early and late flights, workout scheduling and load planning, are things we have to be able to adapt. For an example, in the last 9 months we were on the road for 71 days. It is easy to find difficulties but you should try not to focus on them. First of all, this will be my 11th year abroad. To get what you want, something needs to be sacrificed. In this case, I do what I love, but my family, relatives and friends lose. Our contact is not as close and frequent as we would like, but any professional athlete or coach is facing such a problem.


Motivation comes from discipline, when you are committed to follow your goals. First of all, I try to set an example both on and off the court. My job is to reduce the risk of injuries, so the players can feel good and reach their maximum on the court, it results as team victories. As a physical fitness coach, my achievements can be measured by athletes’ achievements. The team is a united mechanism – players, coaches and all staff members. We all work together, have a common goal and everyone is trying to do their best to achieve it. The key to success is to do what you love.


In the 21st century you can find everything on the Internet, you just need to look for it. I mainly gain new knowledge through books, video seminars and researches. I am a member of the National Physical Fitness Coaches Association, we have a forum where coaches communicate with one another, exchange information and discuss about any sports related topic. All you have to do is to search for what you need.


My goals are gradually divided, there isn’t one big and unrealistic dream. I believe that if a person develops and works for the best of his conscience, new opportunities will follow and you will be able to move forward. We need to focus more on what we can control. It is necessary to invest in work, be well prepared to sacrifice something and to be self-disciplined. Of course, there are days when you want to relax, but when you go to work, you have to be positive and full of energy to motivate yourself and the people around you.

Interview by Santa Januševska

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