Girls with Balls

Founder of HSE Women Basketball Club talks about her team, trainings and plans for next season.

Girls with Balls

Photo provided by Venera Mizhit-Dorzhu

Basketball is one of the most popular games in the world. «It gives me a sense of peace and quiet», «It's a place where I can forget about all my problems», «You have become my life, my passion, my inspiration», Michael Jordan and Baron Davis said about it. In terms of intellectual workload, it is compared with chess, and in terms of physical activity, it has no analogues at all. And for sure, it will not yield to any kind of sport in beauty and entertainment.

Isn't that why it has attracted not only gentlemen, but also young ladies for the second century? Girls from HSE know this firsthand! We talked with the HSE Basketball Girls club mentor Venera Mizhit-Dorzhu about how the team appeared, training with guys and preparing for performances in the Student Basketball Association.

Venera, hello! For several years now, we have been conquered by guys from the 5x5 and 3x3 basketball leagues. But we heard about the women's team only recently. Please tell us your story. When and how did it all start?

Hello! Honestly, we have appeared recently — only in the fall of 2021. It started, of course, with the desire to create a women's basketball university team. When I entered HSE, there were no girls in basketball at all — only guys. But I didn't want to stop playing it only because of this. That's why I came to our coach and asked him to let me and my friend go to training with boys — at least just throw the ball on the sidelines. And he allowed it! For what I am very grateful to him! Also, he said: «If there are 10 of you girls, maybe we will do separate training sessions for you. Or even the team!». Since then, «finding these girls» has become my dream and goal. For a long time, success was alternating. The girls came, I created groups for them on social networks, and then they all left. I found new ones, created new groups, and new ones also left again … Only 3-4 people walked steadily. This continued for 2 years until last September. Seryozha, the organizer of the men's league, as well as a player of one of the teams of this league, suggested joining forces and launching women's basketball together. With his desire to act everything began to develop further.

If there are 10 of you girls, maybe we will do separate training sessions for you. Or even the team!

In the fall, together with the guys, we held a traditional amateur First-Year Students Tournament. We invited everyone who liked to play basketball to it. And suddenly we found several girls from the 1st and 2nd courses who had played before, wanted to join a new team and participate in competitions again. We decided to take this matter seriously. We began training more often, and we got our own training time — only for girls. In addition, we held two more women's tournaments: «Let It Snow!» in January and a Spring Tournament at the end of February. Gradually, more and more people knew about us, and now there are 40 girls in the group.

Why couldn't you create a team before? Were there really no basketball girls in HSE before?

Surely, they were and are now. They are just used to be able to play for teams of other universities. Since we didn't have our own team, it didn't make sense for them to move to us from their already established teams. In addition, there was no active organizers who would constantly provide tournaments and attract new players.  

Tell us, please, who are in the team now.

The team consists of 10-12 people. These are the girls who train constantly and with whom we teach tactics and combinations. For others, basketball is more about a hobby.

The captain of our team is Sonya Saenko. She came to us in the fall under the exchange program from Nizhny Novgorod. She has been playing basketball since she was a child: first at a sports school in Izhevsk, then in the youth league for the Kupol-Rodniki team, participated in competitions all over Russia and won them more than once. Then she entered HSE. When I saw her for the first time at the First-Year Students Tournament, my first thoughts were: «This is exactly who we need! We must recruit her by all means!».

This is exactly who we need! We must recruit her by all means!

The next player is Vika Besprozvannykh. She is one of those who has been training with me for the third year. There was a period when she was seriously injured. Because of this, she had to stop training for at least six months. She recovered just in time for the same Fall First-Year Students Tournament. But she very easily joined the training process again, and now she continues to play great and train a lot.

The next one is Katya Sedova. She is a real professional in the truest sense! Now she doesn't go to our training sessions due to the fact that she plays in one of the current professional basketball teams in Moscow. But as soon as our national team starts functioning fully, she will join us again! Firstly, she will have no other choice, because it is impossible to play in two teams. And, secondly, she herself made it clear to us in September that she wants to be with us. In addition, it will be easier to combine training with study.

Next — Anya Sinitsyna, our center player. Anya is a unique find, because there were no center players in HSE before that at all. At the same time, she plays great not only on her own, but also on other positions. She is the main actor in all our combinations. We can't do anything without her!

Polina Kolesnikova also found out about us at the First-Year Students Tournament. She fell in love with basketball in the 6th grade at school. She used to play even in the CSKA youth team. Then she came to us, joined our team and is glad that she will be able to continue playing with us! Another first-year student, Vika, came to us also from the Tournament. She is from Siberia and played for her local team all her school years. Dasha Lysova spent her whole life in a sports school. However, due to injuries, she had to leave there. Now she is at the 1st course, and we are very happy to see her with us!

And I have been playing since the 8th grade. I came to basketball completely by accident. I was an excellent pupil at school, and the only «good» mark (6 or 7 according to HSE assessment system) I had in Physical Education. As a real excellent pupil, I had to fix it somehow. That's how I said «Hello!» to basketball. Time goes on, but I still can't stop playing this game.

Do you have any structure for team positions?

Yes. Tall girls play in the center or attacking positions. They throw balls into the basket and bring our team points. The smaller girls, like Polina and me, play mainly as a point guard. We are always behind the 3-point line and are responsible for the movement of the ball and combinations. When it is necessary, of course, we replace each other.

Have you had any experience of performing as a team?

Yes. We had one friendly game with the team of the Linguistic University. But we played without our main players and lost by a difference of about 20 points. But in my opinion, the game was still decent, because the «bench» is also a very important part of our team. Another game was with 15-year-old girls from the Professional Basketball Club «Runa». Then we also lost. But it was our first game as a team, and we didn't have such teamwork yet.

When and where do you train?

Our main trainings take place once a week, on Wednesdays, at 7 pm in the building on Armyanskiy pereulok for 2-3 hours. These workouts are for everyone. But our university team trains more, 3 times a week. Our coach is responsible not only for the women's team, but also for the HSE men's team. The girls go to them for additional training on Mondays. We have a very intense training process!

How do trainings usually go?

Our amazing coach Vanya is working with us! He divides the training into several parts. At first we warm up — we play some ball game or just run. Then we do ball-driving and speed exercises. Then we have a warm-up and throw training. The exercises are different every time — they are repeated at intervals of 2-3 weeks. Then we divide into subgroups and play with each other. Losers do push-ups. During the game, Vanya stops us every 5-10 seconds and tells us how to improve these specific moments of interaction during the game. In parallel, we are working out combinations.

Do you play «girls against boys» in training with guys?

Yes. But sometimes the coach mixes us up, so we lose with a not too crushing score.

How do you combine training with study?

All girls in our team were engaged in basketball professionally before entering HSE, and training is an integral part of their life. Therefore, they integrate not the learning process into training, but the learning process into training. They have been living like this for years, and they are doing great at combining! In addition, they have a high responsibility to the team. They understand that if you skip workouts, it is impossible to work out combinations well. They are great!

What are your plans for the future?

Very big! In the coming September, we plan to apply for real official competitions. They are organized by the Student Basketball Association (SBA). There are many different leagues in the SBA, including women's. The league is divided into subgroups: A, B and C. The lowest of them is C. Everyone starts with it. If a team plays well and scores a certain number of points during the season, then next year it moves to subgroup B, where higher-level teams play. Professionals play in subgroup A. We will strive, of course, in A. But we clearly understand that when we will start performing on the parquet, we will need some time to start playing like a real team. Because playing in training up to 7 points is one thing but playing by all the rules with time and fouls is quite another! However, both we and the coach are looking for this optimistic, so I'm sure we will succeed!

The second big task is to develop our own brand. Our team is part of the general HSE basketball community, which includes men's 5x5 and 3x3 leagues. Therefore, we want to have a single style to be with them as a whole. We are not very good at it yet, but it's a matter of time.

How can one get into your team?

First, you need to write me. Secondly, it is necessary to prepare a certificate of admission to training by doctor: without it is impossible to enter any sports section at HSE. And thirdly — come to training on Wednesday! And stay! It often happens that girls come to us for one training and then disappear. I ask them later what happened. Usually, they are either not ready for such workloads, or it is difficult for them to include trainings into their schedule.

Are there any minimum requirements for candidates? Is experience in basketball required, or do you take beginners with a great desire to learn how to play?

We have no restrictions! There are a lot of new ones now, and they become good players very quickly!

Can foreigners join the team?

Definitely yes! We already had the experience of interacting with them, and we played well! Last year, a girl from India came to us. We talked to her in English, and she played great! We still keep in touch with her. However, she was studying for a master's degree, and has already left back. There was another foreigner. But she had to leave when the online classes started. I hope she will come back to us! We will welcome any foreigners in our community!

We will welcome any foreigners in our community!

Who else do you need besides the players?

First of all, we need our own designer. Guys from the 5x5 and 3x3 men's leagues are helping us, but we need our own person who would be only with us all year! Also, we are looking for a photographer and an SMM specialist to cover the upcoming competitions and to create and publish our own cool content according to the plan.

Venera, thank you so much for an interesting conversation! Good luck to the team!

Thank you!

The HSE Women's Basketball Team will start functioning very soon! Therefore, if you cannot imagine your life without basketball, be sure to come to the main team for viewing! But if you can imagine it — come anyway! Next year guys promise more trainings for amateurs, more tournaments and more emotions from their performances! Something truly great is waiting for us.

In order not to miss any event, follow the official group of HSE Basketball Girls.

Interview by

Margarita Mayorova