Photo: Karl Nielsen/edited by Nazo
What is your name and age?
Brittany van Schravendijk. I am 24 years old.
I am the head coach of Kettlebell Sport at KOR Strength and Conditioning in San Diego, California. We have about 15-20 members that train specifically for Kettlebell Sport competitions.
What are you working with/as?
I am a group fitness instructor and personal trainer at KOR Strength and Conditioning, and I travel all over the world to teach Kettlebell Sport workshops. I post tips, instructional videos, and information on Kettlebell Sport on my blog (www.kbfitbritt.com).
Do you have a motto or any catchwords?
With respect to Kettlebell Sport: “Any skill worth having is worth working for.”
With respect to life in general: “Live passionately – do what you love, and you will never work a day in your life.”
When did you start kettlebell training? Why and how did you start?
I started lifting kettlebells in 2011, when I began working as an intern and eventually a personal trainer at Ice Chamber Athletic Performance Training. Before that, I had no idea what kettlebells were and even called it a “kettleball” when I was being interviewed by Sara Nelson for the job. I saw the Ice Chamber Kettlebell Girls lifting 20-24kg kettlebells and I thought “I could do that.” Turns out, I couldn’t, at least not right away… but they inspired me to start lifting. My first competition was a World Kettlebell Club competition in Chicago in October 2012.
Maybe more interesting, why did you continue doing it?
As someone who is athletic and used to picking up skills fairly quickly, I was baffled by how bad I was at Kettlebell Sport initially! I simultaneously loved and hated the fact that learning to lift kettlebells was so challenging, and there were always adjustments to be made to improve technique. As a very competitive person who missed out on competing at a collegiate level, this was my opportunity to get back into a competitive environment.
When did you start being a coach? Why did you do it?
I helped coach members of the Ice Chamber kettlebell team as part of my job description, but it wasn’t until I moved to San Diego in 2014 that I took on the full responsibility of making all coaching decisions for the team at KOR Strength and Conditioning. First of all, I love Kettlebell Sport and want the sport to grow. Secondly, I have always loved teaching and deciphering how best to instruct a particular person, because everyone learns differently. Third, I love the mental aspect of being a coach – helping someone get their mind right to perform at their best, which requires a good understanding of him/her as well as what motivates them.
What kind of education do you have in coaching?
Mostly just experience, although I have attended workshops by Sergei Rachinsky, Denis Vasilev, Steven Khuong, Ivan Denisov, and Valery Federenko. Currently my main job description is Kettlebell Sport coach. Over the past year I have traveled to teach workshops in the U.S., Canada, and Europe. On a weekly basis I coach 15-20 athletes who are training for kettlebell competitions. I also do private training with lifters who drive several hours to train with me, specifically for Kettlebell Sport technique. Most of my knowledge about Kettlebell Sport comes from the experience I gained at the Ice Chamber and being coached by Steven Khuong.The rest of my knowledge has been gathered from coaching and competing nationally and internationally over the past 4 years and interacting with tons of coaches and athletes.
As a coach, what is important to be like in order to get the best results from your athletes?
In order to coach Kettlebell Sport, you must have the understanding and ability to properly demonstrate all the competition lifts, as well as know the Physics concepts behind the pendulum and biomechanical efficiency. You should be able to write a training program that progresses athletes in a safe and rational manner that takes into account their experience level as well as all the other stressors present in their life.
Those are just the basics. The most important thing you can do as a coach is recognize that everyone is an individual and you have to take a different approach with each of them. To be a really excellent coach, you should have a good eye for picking out technical nuances in a lifter. You must be able to adapt your teaching style depending on an athlete’s skill level and learning style (visual, kinesthetic, auditory, etc.). Then you should be able to effectively cue them in a manner that allows them to improve their technique. You should always, always be looking for ways to learn more and improve your coaching skills. If your coach says they know everything – find a new coach!
I wrote an article on the attributes of a good Kettlebell Sport coach here: http://kbfitbritt.com/
What do you think are the most important personal qualities in an athlete?
Besides having the physical capabilities (strength, physical conditioning, and flexibility) to lift kettlebells, the athlete must have a strong level of commitment and motivation. Kettlebell Sport is not easy to learn, and it takes someone with real determination to go through the challenge of learning the immense number of technical nuances it requires to be successful in the sport. The athlete must have the patience to practice the same movements over and over again, making the miniscule changes that will lead to just a few more repetitions in a 10 minute set. Mental fortitude and perhaps a bit of stubbornness go a long way in Kettlebell Sport.
What is the most challenging thing being a coach?
Especially with beginners, I struggle with giving too much information and overwhelming them with corrections! I have to remind myself to choose just one or two things for them to work on at a time.
What are your own strengths as a coach?
I think my passion and enthusiasm for the sport shine through when I am coaching, which inspires my students to work hard. My background in engineering (Civil Engineering degree from UC Berkeley) gives me a good understanding of the Physics and biomechanical principles behind lifting kettlebells, which in turn helps me pick out inefficiencies in a lifter’s technique. Mostly I just spend most of my time immersed in the sport – training for competitions, coaching my students, traveling to compete, watching videos, writing articles, reading books and articles, talking about kettlebells…
What do you feel about single/double bells for women? What do you prefer as a coach?
I absolutely prefer double kettlebell lifts to single kettlebell lifts (besides snatch). I don’t think there’s any reason why women can’t lift two kettlebells. There can definitely be physiological challenges for women (i.e. large bust causing issues in the rack position), but men can also have physiological challenges with two kettlebells (i.e. inflexibility causing issues in the rack position). As a coach, I am open to coaching any style of kettlebell lift – I support all my students’ goals equally.
How do you think the future will look like for the sport (GS)? How do you think it will be for you or your athletes?
I think the future of the sport is equal lifts for men and women (double kettlebell events). The number of competitions, competitors, and qualified coaches will continue to go up as more knowledge about safe and effective kettlebell lifting becomes widespread.
Have you entered any competitions? Do you want to share your results?
Yes. Here are my best results:
103 repetitions in 2x16kg Long Cycle (World record in 63kg weight class)
69 repetitions in 2x20kg Long Cycle (World record in 63kg weight class)
234 score in 2x16kg Biathlon (World record for all weight classes)
210 score in 24kg Biathlon (AKA National record in 63kg weight class)
92 repetitions in 24kg Snatch
What/which are or were your personal goals in training? (long-term/short-term?)
My short term goal is to start competing in 2x24kg Long Cycle and to continue improving my 24kg Snatch score. My long term goal is to obtain a Master of Sport International Class ranking in Long Cycle, Biathlon, and Snatch with 24kg kettlebells.
What/which are your goals for your athletes? (long-term/short-term?)
The biggest goal I have for my athletes is for them to master technique with light kettlebells before moving up in weight – so they can continue to lift safely, progress without injury, and have fun training. In the long term, I would love to train those who have the time and dedication to Master of Sport or Master of Sport International Class level.
Which discipline do you like the most and why is that?
I’ve always loved Snatch – it’s the most technically complex and there is always something to improve on. However, over the past couple years I’ve really found my love for Long Cycle with two kettlebells – Long Cycle requires an immense amount of conditioning and mental tenacity that’s unlike anything else I’ve ever done.
What do you think is the most challenging in training?
The most challenging part of training is pushing myself as hard as I do on the platform. Getting into the right mindset for a test set can be challenging when it’s just me and the bells.
Do you have any training tips to share?
Constantly return to the lighter bells to refine technique. If you don’t constantly critique yourself, you will slip into old habits or technique will become less sharp. Video tape yourself or use a mirror if you don’t have someone to coach you. We often don’t notice mistakes we are making by feel – we need a visual cue to show us what’s really going on.
Do you have any funny anecdotes from competition or training that you would like to share?
At my last competition, I dropped the kettlebells on my head for the first time! It was at the end of the OKC California Open Kettlebell Sport Championships, and I was doing the jerk relay with 2x16kg. After 3 minutes at pace 20-25, I just couldn’t finish the last rep… and bonked my head with the kettlebells on the way down!
Who (or what) inspires you?
There are many lifters who inspire me, but mostly I draw inspiration from the fact that if I work hard and put in the time that other people aren’t willing to, I will get better and I will reach my goals.
Which exercise is your favourite?
I have always loved snatch, but over the past year Long Cycle (with two bells) has become my favorite!
Have you got any exercises that you hate doing, or that your athletes hates doing? Which one and why is that?
Weighted jump squats – they hurt!!!
Is there ever anything that makes you not prioritize training day?
Nope. Training is the most fun and important part of my day!
How do you eat? Do you have a special diet or a food-philosophy?
Eat real, unprocessed food! I eat tons of vegetables, fruit, sweet potatoes, and peanut butter. I don’t eat a lot of meat or dairy because factory farming grosses me out.
What is your favourite thing to do when you’re not ”kettlebelling” or coaching?
Practice handstands, hike, and go to the beach!
We thank Brittany for sharing with us and wish her all the luck in the world in her up and coming competitions, training and coaching. And handstand. And in life as well