: Natalia, it’s truly an honor to have you with us. Please give us a bit of your background: your involvement in sports, how you got into coaching/research, and where you currently are now?
Dr. Natalia Verkhoshanksy(left) with her father, the late Dr. Yuri Verkhoshanksy
NV: I might say that I have been involved in sports before I was born. My mother was a member of the USSR national Track-and-Field team (she was a silver medalist in the discus at the Helsinki Olympic Games) and when she was pregnant, she still participated in competitions. I grew up in a sport family and on the Track-and-Field stadium, which was just next to where we lived, and where my mother and father usually worked with their athletes. Track-and-Field was a part of my life, but when I was fifteen, my father brought me to a tennis coach and this sport became my favorite. Unfortunately, I never reached the top because I started very late, but it was not a problem for me: I liked the training and often felt that the “process” involved me more than the “result”. My experience in Track-and-Field helped me to see how to apply the training methods used by runners and jumpers in the physical preparation of tennis players.
In 1972 I became a student of the Moscow Central Institute of Physical Culture and Sport, where I also began my first scientific research. I was involved in the metabolic aspects of tennis physical preparation. I started my early research at the cathedra of Biochemistry under the influence of the leading scientist in the field of bioenergetics, Nicolay Volkov. My baccalaurean thesis was dedicated to the methods of evaluation and development of maximal anaerobic power. The results of the research indicated that increasing maximal anaerobic power is related with improvement in strength abilities. So, I started to investigate how the training methods elaborated by my father could be applied for this purpose. As a result, my PhD thesis was dedicated to applying the Block Training System for increasing the speed of tennis displacements. Some years later, when I worked with the Soviet national tennis team as a member of the Scientific Assistance Group and as their physical preparation coach, I was the first who successfully introduced the barbell squat in the physical preparation of the soviet national tennis team.
In the early 1980’s, after finishing my post graduate studies, I continued to work in the Central Institute as a lecturer and researcher. In my opinion, that was the most productive period in the history of sport science. I was witness to the development of new ideas and some of the most advanced scientific debates regarding the preparation of high level athletes. However, at end of the 80’s, when my father lost the possibility of developing his research and the atmosphere in the Institute became too heavy, I decided to change my work.
I worked as a lecturer at the Physical Education cathedral in the Moscow Technical University where I lectured on Track and Field, ski, yoga, callisthenic gymnastics and, at the same time, I worked as tennis coach.
In the early 90’s, I was a professional in the fitness industry and worked in several Moscow Fitness gyms as an instructor of Bodybuilding, aerobics, postural gymnastics, and Yoga. I elaborated my original program “Body Shaping Rock Music Workout” which helped a woman to become nicer and happier. I thought that it would be my work of my life, but soon I returned in sport.
In 1996 I was invited to Italy to work, together with my father, in the scientific department of the Italian Olympic Comittee.
I have been a physical preparation coach of the female Italian national basketball team and the junior fencing teams. I was the physical preparation coach of the 1999 junior fencing world champion. From 2003, I lecture in the motor sciences faculty of the Italian University Tor Vergata (Rome).
DR: What are some research topics that you are currently pursuing?
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