Refusing to allow a life-changing event to dampen her infectious approach to life, Natasa Kovacevic continues to take on every challenge as a mere obstacle to be cleared.
In September 2013, Kovacevic was involved in a tragic accident that resulted in the amputation of her left leg. However, rather than seeing this as a setback, Kovacevic has become an inspiration to everyone crossing paths with her, taking on amongst other projects, the role of FIBA Europe Youth Ambassador.
With her first year in the role of Youth Ambassador rapidly drawing to an end, fibaeurope.com caught up with Kovacevic to see what she has gained from the position, as well as to hear about her other ongoing projects.
Talk about how you came to be the FIBA Europe Youth Ambassador and your initial reactions when you were asked to take on this role.
When I heard that I will become FIBA Europe Youth Ambassador I was honoured and happy. My basketball career was over but basketball will always be my first love and becoming a part of FIBA’s family means a lot to me. Activities with FIBA Europe are helping me to stay in basketball and to do what I love. I hope that I will help people, especially young players to learn, through my example, about basketball, but more importantly about life.
Tell us about some of the work you have undertaken thus far in the role.
It was a whole new experience for me. I was very excited to be back on the court, maybe in a slightly different role. The organisation was excellent so all my time was precisely programmed so there were a lot of activities. One of my favourites was talking with players and their families in seminars, and I felt like I was learning as much as I was helping.
It was very important to me to try to explain to young players that the purpose of basketball and sport in general is to make them strong for life. Young players can learn through me, that there is life besides basketball and the most important thing that basketball teaches us is to never give up until the last buzzer. No matter how hard the situation seems, it’s important to know that there is always light at the end of the tunnel.
It was pretty awesome to see them react and to talk with them.
Your first experience was to go to the EuroLeague Women Final Eight in Ekaterinburg. What were some of your impressions from meeting with the players and the city itself?
It was like a dream come true. As players we all dream about winning EuroLeague Women and playing in finals, and to be there live and watch and meet all the greats (Candace Parker, Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi), and to talk basketball with them was truly amazing.
Ekaterinburg is a beautiful city with a lot of cultural and historical places. I was amazed to see the place where the era of the Romanov dynasty was ended.
What have been some of the biggest challenges or surprises you have encountered?
In terms of my life and in terms of FIBA Europe, I believe that I am yet to meet the biggest challenges. I can’t wait to face them.
You have not just been busy working for FIBA Europe, but also working on your own foundation, can you tell us about the foundation and its goals?
I established a foundation that carries my name in March 2014 and my idea was to try to be the helping hand to young players in the moment of need. I have always known the importance of friends and family, but through my recovery I realised how much the support of all people that were around me at the time means to me. My wish is to help people experiencing life-changing moments and to help them get through problems.
The original idea for a foundation came from Luciano Capicchioni, the President of sports agency, Interperformances, who is a big support for me.
The foundation is now running, and our goals are:
1. Aid and support for athletes that happen to be suffering from a serious health problem
2. Promoting the importance of social security as the result of protecting athletes in cases of adverse events
3. Aid and support for young talents, not only in sport development, but also in gaining the right education
4. Promotion of women’s sport, particularly women’s basketball
The official website is www.natasakovacevicfoundation.com.
I am very happy for this opportunity to help others, and I hope that we will together help a lot of young players throughout Europe.
We also understand you are involved in some ground-breaking research with prosthetics in France? Can you explain how this came about and what exactly it is?
The support of the French Basketball Federation and also FIBA Europe is beyond words and I cannot even express my gratitude to them. I am very excited to travel to Paris where I will get a new prosthetic. It will be designed for running and I hope that this will allow me new possibilities. I am a realist, so I don’t want to get my hopes up, but it is sure that I will do my best to go as far as I can.
Where does your motivation and drive come from to be involved in so many different projects at such a young age, whilst still maintaining your studies and social life?
I like to be around people and I believe that I am a very energetic person. It just comes naturally to me. Of course I cannot be involved in all of this without huge help from other people. Co-operation with people like Elisabeth Cebrian (FIBA Europe Women’s Basketball consultant) and Radmila Turner (FIBA Europe Youth Basketball Co-ordinator) is so important to me, and I learn so much from them. Their skill and knowledge guide me through difficult projects, but everything is easy with such good people assisting. Also, I owe everything to my family, who help me all the time, and who are with me all the way.
I have an active social life and I like to go out with my friends. Currently I am studying in two faculties at the Singidunum University and Faculty of Sports in my hometown Belgrade. My majors are management and tourism, and I have a desire to do an MBA abroad. I push myself to everyday progress and I love when my day is full.
The year is now drawing to an end. What does 2015 hold for you?
I would like to quote Serbia’s only Nobel Prize winner, the writer Ivo Andric:
“I don’t plan anything anymore. I just live my life. Sometimes like I want to, sometimes like I need. It’s the little things that colour life. Little things are happiness. That’s why I love little things. And big bags. I carry them with me everywhere, because I owe myself a couple more walks between the expected and the unplanned.”