Sergio maintains his sporting vigil
Graciela H. Ortiz is Sports Editor of the Buenos Aires Herald and worked closely with Vigil throughout his period in charge of Las Leonas.
"Success,” says Sergio 'Cachito' Vigil, “is always going behind a dream."
Vigil should know. He is the successful former coach of the women's Argentine team (Las Leonas, The Lionesses).
Vigil quit his coaching job with The Lionesses after two Olympic cycles, but he may be returning to work soon, in May or June. Hockey, of course, will continue to be his passion, but he is still unsure whether he will stay in Argentina or go abroad. If he leaves the country, it will be to train a club, not a national team, as he says he could never play against Argentina.
One thing he is sure about is that he will not return to the women's national team and he will not be head coach, a post he doesn't enjoy.
"I resigned because I believe there are cycles in sports. No deep transformations are possible in less than four years. The best thing is to coach a team between four and six years, and in some cases, like mine, you could speak of two Olympic cycles."
"I believe that deep transformations start to become evident from the third year onwards, and after that third year you start to reap your harvest. But I'm convinced that more than eight years is good neither for the system nor for the team. Because when you work intensively and exploit all the potential of each person, and by this I mean players and technical staff, there has to be a stop at some point. The team eventually will need a new face, a new voice, a person with a different perspective."
"And for the coach who decides to stop it is very important to take some distance, because when you’re in the maelstrom, with competition after competition, you lose perspective and the possibility of growing."
Vigil keeps voicing his dreams: "I would love it if, in a few years’ time, many coaches and technical staff could gather to celebrate the victory and growth of Argentine hockey at world level. I also dream of getting together with all the former coaches who set the foundations of Argentine hockey, because I can never forget those players who had to cover their own expenses in order to represent Argentina in world championships. They have all left an indelible imprint."
Vigil started to play when he was nine years old. He played until the year 1999, always for the Club Ciudad de Buenos Aires. He was a player until 1997, and a player-coach until 1999.
From 1983 to 1985, he was a member of the U21 Argentine team, and participated in the Pan American Games in Orlando, USA, and also in the World Junior Championship in Winnipeg, Canada, in 1985.
From 1986 to 1991 he was a member of the senior national team, representing Argentina in two world championships (London 1986 and Lahore 1990). He also participated in the 1987 Pan American Games in Indianapolis and in the Champions Trophy in Amsterdam in 1987 (the first one for the Argentine men’s squad), in which eight national teams played. But he never made it to the Olympic team - he was removed from the Seoul '88 and Barcelona '92 rosters.
"It was frustrating. Paradoxically, my first trip with the women's Argentine team was to Seoul, in 1997, for the Telecom Cup. I was full of angst, listening to the music of the Olympic Games and watching the stadium I had this thing coming back to my mind."
''But life has its twists and turns, and the first great podium of my life was with Las Leonas in Sydney 2000, in an Olympic Games. I never made to the Olympic team as a player, but I did as a coach," Vigil says, full of gratitude for the girls who made it possible.
Vigil started to work as coach at 15 years old, as Andrés Rosso's assistant for the club Belgrano AC. Still in his 16s, he trained the U15 and U17 teams at Club Los Cedros. He was in charge of the latter’s first division for six years, starting at age 19 and also serving as general coordinator.
He then went to Italy as player and coach for HC Bra at the Piamonte from 1990 to 1992.
"That year I returned to Argentina because they offered me to coach Ciudad de Buenos Aires women's first division, a dream I had since I was a kid," he recalls.
"Everyone said that team was a ‘kindergarten,’ as all the players were so young, and they all thought we were in for relegation. That ‘kindergarten,’ I remember now, included Cecilia Rognoni and Mariana González Oliva, both 15 years old, and also María Paula Castelli, who was a bit older. We ended up fourth," he adds.
From 1994 to 1996, Vigil coached the U18 national school and in 1996 he was named top coach of the school.
Vigil’s big break came in 1997, when Luis Ciancia offered him to coach the women's Argentine team.
Today and tomorrow
Apart from spending more quality time with his family - his wife Marcela and his 16-month old son Thiago – Vigil currently gives in-company lectures on team work, leadership and motivation. He has given more than 70 lectures at different companies - from gas stations and banks to funeral parlours.
"In fact I'm not resting. Although I'm not training teams right now, I'm analysing the whole series with the girls, the matches and key moments, from a technical, tactical, and physical/mental point of view. I'm taking note of all the positive and negative things of those years, and I’m also studying new strategies and analysing what could be done to improve hockey in Argentina, from the development stage of players to high performance. In fact, I'm working on a thesis."
"I'm also considering which aspects of my coaching could be improved, and I have started to take English lessons. I would like to speak it fluently in six months," he says enthusiastically.
"And I still have to decide whether I will go back to school, for a degree in psychology or counselling, or a soccer coaching course. Mind you, not to train players, but to manage professional players.
"Hockey is not an amateur sport anymore. It's not professional as regards the compensation received by players and coaches. Still, hockey players are going through the same things as professional athletes. This is why I need to look ahead to what’s going to happen." he reflects.
There is also a Thespian side to Vigil: he is an actor and has performed in several plays, but that, for the time being at least, "is on stand-by. You can't have two high-performances activities," he says with his usual passion.
Back to the issue of success, Vigil doesn’t seem to be able to fully explain why his tenure was so successful.
"However, I'll tell you what success is for me.
"Success is falling and rising with even more stamina than before, digging out the gold inside of us. It’s a permanent quest; it’s attaching more importance to your dreams than to your goals and objectives.
"My dream was to achieve the most closely-knit together team in the whole planet, the most passionate and intelligent to live and coexist with. This task never ends; you have to work on it every day.'
"Our goal was, firstly, to stay among the top four in every tournament, then to climb on a podium, and after that to reach the first place in a tournament. Then, to become world champions, and finally, Olympic champions. The only thing we could not achieve was to win Olympic gold, but we were Olympic medallists twice, and our goal was to be better and better every day, in every aspect.
“I can't explain the reason of my success, because success, to me, is more akin to moral values. Being successful means being a champion of life," Vigil concludes in his usual unassuming tone.
This, no doubt, is what he instilled into his players. As Leonas captain Magdalena Aicega puts it, "I believe Cacho concentrated on individual growth and human values. He put together a spectacular group, and the rest came on account of that."