Jimena Rojas becomes only the second female coach to work with a professional men’s football team in Costa Rica after Delia Villalobos in 1996. After studying football at the University of Leipzig in Germany, she went on to coach a women’s team back in her home country, before being appointed as Assistant Coach at the men’s team ‘Club de F?tbol de la Universidad de Costa Rica’.
Having been told as a child that football was a man’s game and she was not allowed to play, Jimena now faces the challenge of being the only female coach in the league.
A big thank you to Kate Hamms for translating the interview!
Can you give us a little insight into your sporting background?
Football arrives late to my life, as a child I was never given the opportunity to play since my father said it was a man’s game. Because of this, growing up I played basketball but when I turned 18, a very close friend of the family, pleaded with my dad on multiple ocasiones to allow us to play in a qualifying tournament to play in the National Games. He insisted so much that my father finally gave in and allowed us to play (my younger sister Melissa, my twin Evelyn and myself). It was at this event that the U19 National Team Scouts spotted us and all 3 of us were called into the National Camp and this is how this new adventure that would eventually turn in to my life calling began.
I played in the Women?s First Division for 13 years, during which I played 5 years on the National Team with both the U19 squad as well as the Senior Team.
What was your first experience of coaching and what is it that you love about coaching now?
I started coaching youth teams about 10 years ago, I started with a U15 and U17 group in which we won two National Finalists Titles.
In the Women’s First Division, I had my first experience as an Assistant Coach & Fitness Trainer in 2012 of one of the most renowned teams in the country. I then went on to be the Head Coach of this same team for two years.
What I love most about coaching is the opportunity to maximize a player’s abilities both on and off the field. I am able to do this by having a structered work plan; giving them the neccesary tools so that on the field they are able to make the best decisions that will benefit the objectives that our club has set.
Am I right in saying you spent some time working / coaching football in Spain and Germany? What was your experience like and how did it help your understanding of coaching football?
I had the opportunity to further my education abroad, I was first in Germany where I was able to gain a specialized degree in football at the University of Leipzig; I studied there for 6 months in 2011. In 2013, I worked for the Olympic Committee in Costa Rica and I was granted a scholarship at Saint Cugat’s High Performance Sports Center in Barcelona at which I took a specialized course in Applied Science to Elite Sports Training.
You are one of very few women in Costa Rica that coaches men. Is this something you are aware of when you coach? Have you come up against any problems because you are female?
The truth is that I was chosen based off of my academic resume, my internacional experience, my professionalism & knowledge of the game. I’ve been preparing myself for years and I now get the opportunity to accept this position on the coaching staff thanks to the objective evalutation realized by the Head Coach Omar Royero and due to the unconditional support of the Board.
Do you feel you have to prove yourself as a coach more than perhaps the male coaches do? And do you feel extra pressure because you are female?
I believe that all of us coaches, male or female, must prove our worth through the work shown by our players on the field, they are our business cards. Our employment with the club is based off of results so we must constantly be self analizing and planning our work based off results obtained over the course of the weeks so that we are able to enhance our players technical, tactical, physical and psychosocial abilities so that we can accomplish the goals we have set for ourselves at the beginning of the season.
I do feel an added responsibilty as a female in this position since I am the only woman to actively be coaching on a Men?s First Division Professional Team. With this assignment, we as women can prove that we are capable of working in this field and actively better the sport here in our country. I have always been known for my work ethic, my scholarly habits and my passion for the game, but I have defintely been amazed with the impact that my appointment as Assistant Coach has created on a National scale which has motivated me even more to make sure I get this right so that more doors will continue to open for other female colleagues.
What advice would you give to women who currently work alongside male athletes / players?
Keep pursuing your dreams, believing is achieving and you must conscientiously work hard, so that you start to gain the respect of others. Today in age, sports is immersed with profesionals from differentes fields which allows athletes to develop as a whole person which will enable the athlete to maximize their sports abilities. That is why we should always try do be the best so that we can provide the right triggers to that to they will shine.
What advice would you give to women who want to progress in their career as coaches?
It is very important to believe in yourself, that you are capable of going after your dream and that you can not be afraid of failure or success. That you must be willing to invest a lot of time in yourself and that you must develop your coaching philosophy. You must always move forward without worrying about those that may criticize your work. Be faithful to yourself and walk with personality always looking forward and tell yourself over and over again that I am not stopping until I reach my goals.