Jenilee Limada describes herself as a “laid-back leader” but says the WISH Women in High Performance Pathway programme is helping her to have difficult conversations.
Trinidad and Tobago women’s sevens assistant coach Limada was put forward for the programme by her union as she plots a journey that she hopes will one day lead to a full-time coaching job.
Limada, who currently juggles her rugby commitments with work as a graphic designer, prefers to empower her players to make decisions rather than rule them with an iron fist.
“I like to be able to be the person that they can come to if they need anything, but I also like the idea of giving athletes the space and time, and also the knowledge, to be able to figure things out for themselves,” she told World Rugby.
“As much as I would be there to guide and be a presence in terms of leading them in the right way, I would also like them to take the opportunity to be leaders themselves.”
Limada, though, recognises that in order to progress in her coaching career, there will be times when she needs to deliver news that a player might not want to receive.
That was something that the Trinidadian focused on when she attended the WISH residential week at the University of Hertfordshire, in England, last month.
@wish_pathway coaches learning to GROW their coach-athlete relationships "Goal - Reality - Options - Will" ... and have an excuse to take part in some very competitive table tennis! @UniofHerts pic.twitter.com/LOJX0H0tGx— wish (@wish_pathway) August 15, 2022
Speaking to different coaches from different sports – seven Olympic disciplines are represented on the course – helped give her a perspective on how different people with different personality traits handle similar situations.
“One of the things [I took from the residential week] that I'm using right now is how to have difficult conversations,” she said.
“For me, I kind of shy away sometimes from having confrontation and that kind of stuff, so it was really refreshing for me to get some insight on how to have difficult conversations, and how to phrase things and how to approach a situation in a way where it wouldn't be a confrontation but more of a conversation.
“That was really something that I took away and I'm using right now within my coaching career because most of the girls that I'm training right now, I either played with them at my club or I played with them on the national team.
“So, now that my relationship with them has changed into more of a professional relationship it's difficult for me to manage those relationships while being an authoritative figure.”
Same issues, different sports
Limada reveals that one of the first things she told her fellow participants when they met in person last month was that she doesn’t find it comfortable talking in public spaces.
Despite that, Limada enjoys interacting with people and so made a point of searching out someone she had not previously spoken to at breakfast every morning, discussing coaching and life with them over a morning walk.
One of those conversations, conducted with a coach from a different sport, left a particular mark on Limada.
“We were talking about goals that we're going to set for the future, and our goals were kind of the same. It was just different sports,” Limada said.
“While we were going through it, we had to go through all the challenges, or the things that we'll need [to do] to get to that particular goal, and both of us had the same challenges and the same issues.
“One of them was dealing with males within the sports and how they see us, and just talking about that, we kind of realised that we had basically the same goal. It was just different sports and just a different place that we were living.
“We not only had some of the same challenges but some of the same solutions as well.”
She added: “It was really nice to have that different perspective and be able to get those solutions.”
Following the end of the residential week, Limada and a couple of her peers found themselves with some time to pass before their respective flights home, and therefore headed into London.
The group boarded a tourist bus, and although Limada saw some sights – including Big Ben and the houses of parliament – she is not 100 per cent sure which ones as there were no spare audio headsets and therefore no guide.
If the Trinidadian achieves her career goals, though, she will have plenty more time for sightseeing in the future. Limada hopes to one day become a full-time professional coach, something she concedes may not be possible in Trinidad and Tobago.
“Eventually, I want to be able to coach full time,” she said. “I don't know how possible it would be… but for me, I would definitely take the opportunity, if it arises.
“In five years, I would like to be able to be an experienced coach in terms of coaching outside of Trinidad and Tobago as well, getting that experience with another team and being able to see the difference in having more elite athletes.
“Because right now, our athletes are not being paid, so they are part-time as well. But it would be great to be in an environment where the athletes are 24/7 athletes and being able to see that difference.
“So, for me, that's the goal within the next five years, to be able to coach somewhere else and get that experience.”