Nati Gutiérrez: “Languages are a huge help in getting your ideas across”

In our latest #womeninsport interview, Málaga-born coach Nati Gutiérrez spoke to Onuba Comms co-founder Nick Aitken about her role at SD Huesca Femenino, the challenges faced and the goals targeted by the club, and looks back at Spain’s FIFA World Cup triumph. 

The UEFA Pro Licence holder also made a point of underlining the importance of language skills in the global game: “The better my English, the better I’ll get my ideas across if I move abroad one day.”

[Haz clic aquí para leer la entrevista en español]

Onuba Comms: How is life at SD Huesca and what are your main areas of responsibility?

Nati Gutiérrez: To be honest it’s been a very good decision to come to this club. I really appreciate the opportunity and the working conditions here. Huesca value me on both a professional and an economic level. We’re a humble club without loads of resources, but I’m putting all my knowledge to use and learning a lot.

The role with most responsibility is as assistant to [head coach] Verónica Rodríguez. She’s a very gifted leader who’s good at delegating and works very closely with her coaching staff. We plan sessions together and analyse the info we receive about opposition teams. I also spend a lot of time in the office with our sporting director Azucena Garanto.

Nati [left] with Verónica Rodríguez. All photos are © @sdhuescafem.

The other role is about instilling a methodology. Last year we put in place some fundamentals on how to work with players in the youth system. We had a B team, which was a performance squad, and we’d planned on monitoring that team on an individual and group level, to get maximum output from up-and-coming players at the club.

However, the B team had to be disbanded due to economic reasons and now we’ve got a youth system. Only two of those players are still with us, the rest went to Zaragoza, which is 40 minutes away, to other local teams and some even gave up football, which is saddest of all.

At the end of the day, Huesca only has 53,000 inhabitants and the pool of female players is very small. It’s been a blow, because last season we’d earned a triple promotion, with the first team, B and C team all moving up a division. It was a historic achievement for the city and I was fortunate enough to experience it.

OC: What were the main reasons for that triple promotion and was there a common thread between the three teams? How is this season going?

NG: Years of hard work had been put in beforehand, there was a lot of talent, good planning in place and a very clear playing philosophy. The first team signed players who’d been at Villarreal and the B and C teams had players who’d been playing together for a long time. And then you add everyone’s desire to work shoulder to shoulder. Speaking about the first team, we were in a tough division in which we could only afford to lose one game. We got into a good dynamic and everything came off.

Celebrating promotion in 2022/23.

In terms of this season, we’re in the 2nd RFEF Group 1 and there are a lot of B teams of first-division sides, so it’s hard to attract players to Huesca, but we’ve still been able to strengthen. We’re on a positive run and I’m confident we can stay in this division, which is the main goal.

OC: What was it like to experience Spain’s World Cup win and what were key tactical reasons behind it?

NG: As a Spaniard and an ex-youth national-team player, just imagine how it felt – it was beautiful! I can remember crying at the final whistle.

There were players in incredible form individually, especially Mariona [Caldentey]. She’s someone who makes everyone around her play better and she interprets the game superbly. In my opinion, both her and Jenni Hermoso played spectacularly well. Then you had Teresa [Abelleira] making her mark in central midfield, the performances of Ona Batlle and Laia Codina in defence and Olga Carmona’s goalscoring from full-back. You had Salma [Paralluelo] too, showing great maturity and scoring lots of goals, plus Alba Redondo and the current Ballon d’Or holder, Aitana [Bonmatí].

Tactically, I think the playing style and the ability to control games, even when under the cosh, were key. The team created a lot of chances. That said, against Sweden in the semis the first goal didn’t go in until the 81st minute. And then in the final against England, their coach Sarina Wiegman lined them up 3-4-1-2 and changed it at half time because Spain were doing so much damage down the flanks. Even though the game stayed 1-0, with Olga again the scorer, it shows you how good a coach Wiegman is. When you see that something’s not working, you change and try something else.

Jorge Vilda and his coaching staff also got it right when it came to deciding who should play and by making the most of his varied playing resources. They wanted a more ‘vertical’ playing style, something Spain hadn’t done before. In the summer [before the WWC] I met [former Germany international] Monika Staab, from the Saudi Arabian Federation, and she told me: “When Spain can play several ways, and not just using short passing combinations, they’ll win the World Cup.” After the World Cup I remembered what she’d said.

Did the controversy surrounding Luis Rubiales take the shine off the team’s success? Despite everything, has winning the World Cup boosted women’s football in Spain?

NG: In Spain it [Rubiales] had an impact, because the issue of gender is very polarising, but the World Cup win has really boosted backing for women’s football. I’ve noticed it in the recognition it’s getting from clubs and the federation. One way or another, we’re attempting to make it as professional as possible.

Female players nowadays know it’s possible to make a living out of the game. Look at how much FC Barcelona Women are generating now, for example. And, what’s more, there’s the fact that sponsors are keener than ever to support this industry [as a whole].

That said, in terms of methodology, for example, I think that there are countries outside Spain that do much more analytical work, when it comes to improving individual technique. That’s something we’ve lacked here for many years, though there are clubs that have very well-developed internal set-ups.

OC: Given that methodological shortfall, plus the fact Spain have fewer registered players than many other countries, how have they become reigning U-17, U-20 and senior world champions?

NG: Through the raw material: the players. And Barça Women has helped massively, how many national-team players has Barcelona provided? Real Madrid are doing good work too, but it’s true they’re several years behind Barça.

OC: Staying on the international front, do you see yourself working abroad one day? And a question we have to ask, since Onuba Comms are translation experts: how important are languages when it comes to getting your message across effectively?

NG: I’d love to experience life abroad and I’m studying English, because I think it’s going to be a huge help in getting my ideas across. I’ve been working with a native teacher for over 18 months now and I watch series and films in English. I’m doing everything I can to expand my vocabulary, because I think it’s key knowing the fundamentals before going to another country. If you go there starting from scratch, you’re not going to learn properly. It’s like building a castle on foundations of sand.

Clearly I’m fully focused on Huesca, but an experience abroad must be very rewarding and I’m always open to new opportunities. The fact I’m involved in several departments here, both in terms of methodology and in terms of analysis, means that I’m refreshing my knowledge continually. Also, If you’re only open to being a head coach, then your chances are slimmer. On the other hand, if you know about implementing a methodology, carrying out analysis and coordination too, then you give yourself more options. And I’d say that it’s the methodological and the tactical sides of the game that I most enjoy.

Fancy continuing the conversation? Connect with Nati via LinkedIn or Instagram.

DISCLAIMER: All views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the interviewee in question only.

Experts in sports translation and only using the best native-language translators, editors and copywriters, we at @onubacomms believe everyone in women’s football should have the opportunity to connect with their global audience. Mail nick@onuba-comms.com now for a free, no-obligation quote.

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