08 Mar. 2020
On International Women’s Day and throughout the month of March, the IHF celebrates women in various roles in handball in a special series. Part one focuses on new Costa Rica Handball Federation President Silke Mendez Perez.
One week from today, Silke Mendez Perez will start her four-year term as President of the Costa Rica Handball Federation (CRHF).
“It is a great responsibility, a great commitment to the sport that I am passionate about. I take on the position with great optimism and enthusiasm in pursuit of achieving the goals and objectives that my team and I have set for ourselves,” says Mendez.
Almost 34 years since the CRHF was founded, Mendez is the first female to hold the position of federation President.
Looking at the current situation in sport globally, Mendez believes there is still a path forward for women’s sport in general, and women in sport.
“There is still a long way to go for women’s sport to become equal to men. I think that despite the progress we have made, we still face difficulties. I am aware that change is happening, but not fast enough, so we must continue to fight to show that we deserve opportunities and to change the macho culture day by day,” says Mendez.
“In recent years the role of women in sport has been growing; the myth of the strength of men against the weakness of women lacks credibility in these times.
“More and more women stand out for their ability in various disciplines, breaking limitations and stereotypes. We have gained ground by showing the world that we are not the weaker gender and that we can perform any type of sports.”
From the court to the boardroom – three decades of handball
Mendez’s experience in handball dates to 1981, when she was studying at the Monseñor Sanabria Vocational School in the Canton of Desamparados. “On that occasion, the team needed someone in goal, and I did not know what that was about,” says Perez, outlining her starting steps on the court.
Those steps marked the start of 27 years playing handball. “I was part of the process at youth level, first division, and had the honour of representing Costa Rica with the women’s senior national team. During that period, I had the joy of receiving several awards for my performance.”
In 2010, Mendez joined the CRHF following the recommendation of the General Secretary of the federation’s Board of Directors. She was Treasurer until 2012, and Vice-President from 2012 until 2016, during that time sharing responsibility for the country’s first beach handball course as well as competitions and national teams. Perez was also a member of the Development Commission of the Pan American Team Handball Federation.
In her professional life, 56-year-old Mendez is a business administrator for a real estate group and is treasurer of the Sports and Recreational Handball Association HB.
Blending successful past strategies with new targets
Like many emerging federations, the CRHF are focused on both national team and grassroots development.
“Since 2013, when Costa Rica were crowned champions of the Central American Games in the women’s category, many doors have been opened to national handball, especially at the state level. However, in the last year, we have noticed a decrease in the number of teams, which shows that we must return to strategies that were used years ago that gave good results to Costa Rican handball,” says Mendez.
“Our commitment is and will be the contribution of fresh ideas that will allow us to grow and develop in a sustainable way at a ground level (school/youth/senior) in both categories, as well as to look for the best tool that allows for strategic planning that strengthens the performance of the national teams.”
The short-term strategy concentrates on technical and other areas, with key focuses including development of minor leagues, talent identification, and a homogenous national team system. Led by Mendez, the CRHF also aim to improve training and licensing programmes for coaches, strengthen the commissions within the federation, conduct analysis of different working areas in the federation, and actively integrate individuals on the Board of Directors into various activities organised by the federation.
In the long-term, Mendez hopes to ensure improved international positions for the national teams, helped by the creation of a stronger player base. She also lists development of beach handball and strengthening of the CRHF refereeing commission as key targets.
Mendez starts her mission as President of the CRHF on 15 March, 2020.
Photos courtesy of Silke Mendez