December 13, 2017

Sergio Vigil, field hockey coach

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

‘I have the responsibility of spreading values’

Sergio Vigil
Sergio Vigil
Sergio Vigil
By Gabriela Padín Losada
Herald Staff

Buenos Aires, August 11, 1965
Studies:  Physical education, graduated in ISEFI (Instituto Superior de Educación Física Hugo Quinn) and now studying ontological coaching.
Job:  River Plate sports manager.
Main achievements: Coach of the women’s national field hockey teams from 1997 to 2004.

Apart from being a successful coach, Sergio “Cachito” Vigil has become a kind of inspirational figure for having led the national women’s field hockey team through the process of creating an identity based on fair play, effort and happiness: the “trade mark” Leonas. He now works in River Plate and is enjoying the success of his book Un viaje al interior (A Trip to the Inner Self). Vigil welcomed the Herald at the River Plate museum to talk at length about his favourite issue: values.

Why have you written a book about philosophy?

When I was eight years old, I noticed that I had a different view of the world. It was a great shock to perceive that people were valued by their appearance and I began to write. Two poems published in the book were written when I was 12 and 14. I decided to rebel against a world with which I did not agree.

Why did you include in the book the story behind the creation of the name Leonas?

It was an intense and emotional moment. I had that story in mind hoping to share it with other people. The book was not about sports and I did not want to take advantage of the Leonas’ success to make the book successful. The book starts with an interview as a way to honour all the journalists who helped me to think deeper. In the beginning of the dialogue between superficiality and profoundness, I was indentified with profoundness. I was afraid of being superficial if I included the Leonas’s story. But while the book was being written I stopped listening to my own rationale and I tried to grasp the essence of my own answers.

So, you changed your mind during the writing process...

Yes. I met with the publisher three times where I was recorded talking about my thoughts so I could later transcribe that “dialogue.” The format of the book had not been decided on before the third meeting when it was clear to the publisher that it would be a theatre play. I retold the story as real as I remembered it. It has facts and emotions. I was afraid of forgetting any fact. Allowing myself to make some mistakes was a long process. The only thing I would change is when I mentioned that the team’s chief Claudia Médici “stole” the jerseys because she was annoyed with me, but the intention was to highlight her courage not to question her honesty. Also, when I talk about the wrong interpretation of the format of the tournament in Sydney 2000. She was not responsible for that mistake.

The format of the tournament was published on the Internet...

Yes. I assumed that she read it and she did not realize there had been a change in the format. We were all responsible for that but the only name mentioned in the book is Claudia’s. Now I see that situation as a space for learning.

Apart from that, the book was well-received. The fourth edition is being published soon. I wrote it for human beings and especially for teenagers. It is being performed in some schools as a play. I encourage the students to use it as a generator of more questions. A real trip to our inner self.

You often give conferences for companies about encouraging employees. How can you equate sport with work?

My first meeting was in 2001. Karina Masotta and I were invited to Walmart to stay 15 minutes and answer questions from the employees. We stayed for an hour and a half. It was a productive meeting and when we returned from the Champions Trophy, I was called up by Microsoft to encourage their salespeople because they had begun to have difficulties in selling their products. I used three videos to generate emotions and a Power Point presentation to introduce concepts. It was very successful.

Is the aim to develop a sense of belonging to the firm?

I try to work on three items — collective work, leadership and motivation with the person inside the professional to enhance his or her skills. Enterprises and sports are similar. Both have specific targets.

But economic success does not always reach to employees...

Yes. There are differences.

It’s difficult to be confident with a small salary...

This also happens in sports teams. The best player does not receive the same income as the others.

But nobody starts playing hockey for money...

The idea is to leave what in coaching is called “the context of obviousness” to realize why we do this work. Both a player and an employee have the possibility of either winning or losing. The difference is that sport is experienced with passion. At this point, I make the difference: it can also be seen as “working life.” I am sure that many young people who have the chance to not work, choose to do it. A job is a space where we live all types of sensations of the rest of our life, so at the meeting I put forward the idea of considering work as just part of one’s life. Not work just being about money. It’s true that sometimes you don’t work in what you like. But here you have the challenge of keeping on fighting to find the right job. A player trains 70 percent of his career to compete in the other 30 percent while an employee “competes” 90 per cent of his time and “trains” 10 percent. The idea is to reinforce this 10 percent.

What about passion?

Sport does not imply passion by itself. As well as in a job, passion is out there, waiting to be taken on. You have to take it. Sometimes, we are concerned about issues that are out of our control. We must try to connect with the best of ourselves. If I treat everyone impolitely, the result can’t be good. We have to work more on the drive than on the target. The difference between being number one or the best is that the latter does not negotiate his or her values. I found out that I have the responsibility of spreading values. If I don’t defend the values in which I believe, I can’t stand up in front of an audience.

Do you think that the Leonas remain faithful to the values you instilled in them?

The Leonas were born in 2000 but that birth was the result of a long process. This “Leona gene” which put special values into the play must be preserved because these values have given health to hockey.

Do you agree with the decision to name (Carlos) Retegui as both national teams’ coach?

Before answering, I want to clear up that I was the coach at a turning point of the national team but I am not interested in this post nowadays.


I have decided many years ago that I am more useful to hockey development from another place. So, I reflect on this issue sincerely and with respect for the sport that I love: hockey is more important than individuals. Having a single coach for both teams is not good for hockey. Beyond the results both teams have in the World Cup, it is not healthy because each team needs special attention. Carlos is an excellent coach and he surely accepted because he is always enthusiastic about hockey but it is not a “happy” decision.

You were not successful as men’s team coach. Are both teams different?

I decided to resign from the men’s team before failing to qualify for the Olympic Games (2008) because I felt that I hadn’t connected with them and asked the coaching team to stay because that team had the conditions to have made history. And after the third place at the Champions Trophy (2008), that coaching staff left the team to coach the women’s team! The essence of the national teams’ values must be cherished by all of us.


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