Natalja Novikova

Name Surname: Natalja Novikova

Country: Latvia

City: Riga

Nationality: Russian

Sector: Culture and Sport

Position: Founder of organization Tennis for Everyone and charity fund Kaleidoscop within the association LiveIntegro

Natalja has many years of experience working in finance sector in different enterprises. Also, she’s been a finance director of manufacturing company. At the moment, the hard work in organization 'Tennis for everyone' and in charity fund 'Kaleidoscop' describes her the best. Both organization and fund are created by Natalja, with the help of friends, family and like-minded. In 2017, Natalja was ranked no. 63 in a worldwide wheelchair tennis ranking.

I started working right after I graduated, after the university I worked in Riga Radio manufacture as an economist, I did a little programming too. I worked there for 11 years, and after that I started working as an accountant.

For 25 years, I worked as a chief accountant, and later I became finance director. Mainly I’ve worked in manufacturing companies, also in leasing and even in construction company. I’ve gained very good experience and I’ve established good relationships with my former colleagues and partners. To be honest, I like manufacturing companies the best, as you can see the whole process of the industry – people working with their hands, being close to nature, you can say. Unfortunately, nowadays there are less and less companies which work that way, but we cannot influence that. I’ve also attended a lot of courses, seminars, and trainings, mainly connected to various finance and legal questions.

When I was in a wheelchair, I suddenly remembered my childhood dream to learn French. So, I went to the courses and was very surprised as it wasn’t so hard as I thought it will be. French is no harder than Latvian or Russian language. Three years in a row I’ve been in France for tennis tournaments, and each year I think that I should return to learning French.

At the beginning, when I needed to start to use a wheelchair, there were a lot of physical activities planned ahead – physiotherapy, physical trainings, and to be honest, it is very boring. You just cannot live like that both because it is physically hard, and because after those physical activities you feel so worn out that you haven’t got any time left to do anything else. Also, there was a time which I spent at home, making different things with my hands – I draw and made decoupage.

After that, I started to play tennis. At the beginning, I trained myself only once a week, tennis as a physical activity was something completely new for me. After 3 months, I was offered to go to a tournament, only then I realized what it really meant. I’ve never done sports professionally, yes, I did gymnastics and I swam, but it was nothing like this. I also realized both how hard and interesting tennis can be. When you find yourself in a tournament, you get this really special feeling, you are among people who are like you, who have the same problems, but the thing is, you don’t notice those problems, everything is made accessible and there is very comfortable feeling. The second thing is, you can travel a lot – you meet with people from many different countries, you get to know what and how they do things. I played for 2 years and little by little I became more independent and I realized that I’m not satisfied with how things are organized – both practices and competitions.

When I started to play tennis, I didn’t want to ask for any money to someone else, I felt ashamed even, moreover – how can you ask for something if you haven’t accomplished anything yet? So, I used my money to go to those tournaments. And I thought – as long as I won’t rank at least as No. 100, I won’t ask for anything. This year I am No. 63 and that is a very good achievement. I believe that you must go and talk to people, that’s why I always say yes to new opportunities, new projects, because it’s important to establish new contacts and collaborations.

I’ve always worked as a manager who leads her team and I have understood that you cannot do all things by yourself – you need to be able to explain the problem to your fellow colleagues, you also need to empower them by providing them rights, if all you can do is to control them, you cannot achieve anything. This was partly the reason why I created my own organization – Tennis for everyone. At the beginning, the main focus was sport itself, we did get donations from friends, relatives and strangers, and we used this money to go to the tournaments. I think that this is important work we are doing, it’s important for everyone – when I started to play, I think that no one knew about this kind of tennis. Facebook, however, is a good tool to use to show and inform people about us and our activities.

After that, I was thinking about starting to photograph. So, my husband gave me a camera. I also went to courses and there was this task where we needed to photograph some kind of a field, there wasn’t even the smallest grass patch, but it turns out that you can find a lot of interesting on the ground as well. I was amazed by it and I started to take my camera with me to tournaments, I started to photograph people and how they play. To be honest, photographing is a very hard work, first, you need to prepare and understand what it is you’d like to photograph, you cannot take the same photos over and over again, it’s boring. This year, there was an exhibition in St. Petersburg, I’ve been going there for tournaments for 3 years now and this year they decided to make an exhibition. They always have professional photographers, but this time they decided to exhibit my photos, perhaps in that way emphasizing the fact that tennis isn’t the only thing we are doing.

After a while, we decided to create something for children – for 2,5 years now we have project called Kaleidoscop – mostly organized by team of volunteers, the format for this event is creative photo session and some entertainment, for example, dances. I believe that events like this are important especially for children, as they can get the specific experience like anyone else.

First, when I was in a wheelchair, I started to understand the problems and obstacles you face – how it is when you don’t want to go to the grocery store, because you think that everyone’s staring at you, also – there are places in which are difficult to get in. Most of the problems are in the head, you need to try living a life in which you can do what you enjoy.

This year we also started a new direction, organizing an event, in which we wanted to create an extraordinary atmosphere. We invited women – both with special needs and without – to dinner, during which they could share their experience, discuss their professional career and speak about problems, and obstacles. Now I see that we have these many directions, before it was more like a hobby but now it has taken another level, I think. And there are a lot of people who need these kind of events – but they feel fear or they do not have financial or physical abilities to get to these events.

Before, I played tennis among adults but we didn’t have the opportunity to involve children, so I said to my fellow tennis partners – “let’s go and find them, it’s not possible that there aren’t any children”, it didn’t happen. When I founded the organization Tennis for Everyone, we went to one of Riga’s school where both children with special needs and without learn together, we showed them a demonstration of the exercise and offered them to join. We signed a contract with the school, there were exercises once a week just to see how much of an interest there is. We get invitations to many events, including to the sports night, where the idea is to gather together all kind of children. I’ve realized that we must be everywhere – to achieve something, you also have to invest a lot. Soon we will go to Lithuania and they are asking us – “where did you get the children? We also want them!” That is a lot, as well, in that way we are serving them as an example. It’s really important for children to understand that they are needed, that there are a lot of activities going on and that they can be a part of it. We need to show them that mother isn’t the only person out there, that there are a lot of people who are employed, with families, active. To continue the improvement, we offer them to take part in all activities and events as much as possible.

You must invest a lot of time and work working with relatives and parents, for their children they do a lot of things which shouldn’t be done. There is only one mother which I know, who constantly thinks how to prepare her daughter to live independently. Most of parents, come to trainings and still try to help their children to navigate wheelchair, but it is not allowed. Children must learn that by themselves.

Previously I have worked in positions which demand to manage employees and staff, so my ambitions may be one of my main motivation for doing what I do. Of course, I want to help others as well, but from the other side you want to prove yourself and the others the things which you can do, especially if you are limited to do something. You don’t want to tell the others and yourself, that yes, previously I worked in serious position, but what kind of person you are now? What are you capable of now? It is not meant only for others, that way you feel needed and you can be among people. Of course, you can also lie on the couch and watch TV, it’s a lifestyle as well. I think it’s good to have ambitions – you want to do something that is exciting for yourself and necessary for others. You can go further and help others, improve yourself, do something important and do something in general, to occupy yourself with something you like. And if that thing excites and interests you, it’s even better!

If financial situation wasn’t an obstacle, there would be a possibility of doing more, even the phantasy works different when you don’t have to worry about money. Also, there could always be more connections, more contacts, there is always this need to persuade someone. Sometimes, when you think of an idea, you start to improve that and suddenly you think – does anyone even need this? There are doubts which need to be left out because it can be bothering and it can slow the whole process down. These obstacles will always be here, maybe on smaller scale, but we just need to go for the goal. I’m not a guru in this whole process, but I know how things should be done, and if you do them right, then everything will turn out just good.

Reaction from other people inspires me! I don’t believe people who say that they do everything just to please others. To achieve something, you have to be strong, you won’t be good enough for everyone. Of course, I enjoy what I’m doing, but most of all I get inspiration from people who are around my and their reactions – you see that they are satisfied with my work, you feel that you haven’t spent all that time for nothing, they come, participate, they are happy, these activities are necessary for them. Second thing is that also other people get to know what are we doing, mostly through the media. That inspires me, as well. It’s nice when you are acknowledged, and then you realize that there is a purpose to continue all that.

I consider myself to be determined to achieve my goals, I have creative thinking, I can be insistent, if needed, I have very good communication and persuasion skills. I’m good with organizing, planning, maintaining and analysing projects.

There are things which I can do properly but there are also a lot of things and skills which can be improved. Nevertheless, I try my best to develop and apply all these skills to my daily professional life. I am a fast learner who is able to apply new information to daily tasks, I react easily to changes. Also, I am a good listener – I listen to people and their problems. I’m good at making collaborations and I enjoy working in a team!

I think that it’s not worth it to do anything only once. If you start doing something, then see that as a direction further and find opportunities which will allow to continue and develop the idea.

Yesterday in Facebook I stumbled upon video where actor Benedict Cumberbatch reads an excerpt from a letter written by artist Sol LeWitt. Of course, there are some exaggerations, he is an artist after all, but my idea is that – what tips and advices there can be? Simply – do! You can watch the video here: