The JOGO Line-Up with Cecilia Rognoni
Behind every successful company, there is a winning team. At JOGO, this is a passionate bunch with the drive to revolutionize the world of football as a collective. In The Line-Up, we would like to show off the brilliant people behind JOGO. In this week’s edition, our Office Manager Cecilia Rognoni.
“I’m happy here. It’s a new chapter in my life.” Her eyes light up and a bright smile crosses what is already a happy face. Cecilia is in a good place. In a previous lifetime, she was hailed as one of the best field hockey players in the world. Nowadays, she is famous for her ability to ‘make things happen’ and an awesome banana cake. JOGO‘s brand-new Office Manager loves every bit of the ‘second chapter’ of her life, in which she strives to be the best once again: in her work as well as being a busy mom, prepping her three lovely kids Nina (12), Max (10) and Bruno (6) for life.
Cecilia grew up in the Argentinian capital of Buenos Aires, in a proper sports family. Both her mother and father were gifted athletes. Lidia Potocki was a former sprinter (200 meters) and sports teacher, while Horacio was a promising field hockey player and part of the Argentinian team of the 1972 Munich Olympics. In the end, Cecilia would follow in her dad’s footsteps and grew up to become one of the faces of the generation that gave birth to the myth of the Las Leonas, the Argentina women’s national field hockey team.
“I started playing hockey when I was five years old, but there are even photos of me holding a stick when I was two. You can say I was born with the stick in my hand. I don’t recall any other way of living in my early days. It was all about going to the hockey club, Club Ciudad de Buenos Aires, and just being there the whole day, especially on the weekends”, says the now 44-year old Argentinian, who soon noticed she had potential. “I was lucky with the genes from my parents: my dad was a smart, talented player with strong motor skills, while my mom was lightning fast. It was the perfect mix for a promising career.”
‘One wow moment after another’
The latter is an understatement because Cecilia is one of the most recognizable names in women’s field hockey history. During her turbulent career, she earned 150 official caps for Argentina, won several personal awards and a lot of silverware with Las Leonas, which helped popularise field hockey in the country of tango. “Our silver medal at the 2000 Sydney Olympics was a real game-changer. It was the first time an Argentinian women’s team made it into an Olympic final. So even though we missed out on gold in the final (against Australia, ed.), we changed the history of our sport in our country.”
“After our success, field hockey instantly became the first sport among women. Nowadays, you’ll see everybody with a stick in their hand—at school, in the street and even in the poor neighborhoods. We also made it possible for the next generations to make a living from their sport. We, the old generation, were still financially supporting ourselves”, the former world-class defender continues. “In retrospect, it was great to be part of a team which changed things for the better and people are still talking highly about. We even became instant celebrities in Argentina. People were grabbing us on the streets, asking for photos and signatures. Some other girls liked the attention and being in the spotlight, but it wasn’t for me.”
Still, the spotlights were all around her in 2002. The year Cecilia claims to be the best one of her playing career: “2002 was one wow moment after another. I won with Argentina the World Cup in the Australian city of Perth, received the FIH Player of the Year award as the first-ever defender and was named sports personality of the year in my country over the likes of Lucian Aymar and Agustina Soledad Garcia. And on top of that, I also won the Olimpia de Oro, the Golden Olimpia, as the first field hockey player.”
Coming to the Netherlands
Cecilia often played against the Dutch national team during her active career, not knowing she would eventually end up in the Netherlands, find love there, and even start her own family. Fleur van der Kieft, a former Dutch field hockey player, convinced her in the end to make the step. “Fleur and I go back to the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and became best friends. Since then, she tried every year to get me to the Netherlands to play, but I wanted to study and have something more in my life than hockey. So when I finished my studies in Tourism and Hotel Administration, I finally packed my bag and joined Fleur at HC Rotterdam.”
After getting married and having her first child, Nina, lingering knee problems forced Cecilia to end her professional career in 2010. “But I didn’t want to give up on hockey completely, so I picked up some courses to become a coach. After Max was born, I felt the need to spread my wings, so I decided to hand out my resume to clubs within a 2km radius from my house in Amstelveen. That’s how I ended up at HV Myra, a small hockey club in the area, where the work was easy to combine with my job as a mother. I started training children in 2011, but immediately, the men’s team coach asked me to be his assistant.”
As an assistant coach, she mainly worked with men. First at HV Myra, later also at AHMC Rood-Wit and HC Klein Zwitserland. “I always found it easier to work with men because I could level with them and get to the point. I like to say what’s on my mind and to share my feelings directly. In the last two years of my trainer career, I worked with women, and I constantly needed to think about how to address things. That was very difficult”, motivates Cecilia.
She decided to stop coaching shortly after her spell at the first women’s team of AH&BC. “After my contract ended, I wanted to spend more time with my kids, especially in the afternoon and on the weekends. That’s how I ended up at JOGO.“
She started the next chapter in her life by getting to know herself and her skills. “I followed a program for ex-athletes at De Sportmaatschappij and did some personal tests to discover my strengths in the business world. I found out that I would be a great Office Manager, so I opened LinkedIn and searched for a similar role in the area”, tells Cecilia. “I got a whole list with job ads, but the one of JOGO directly caught my eyes. I started to read the requirements, and I noticed that I could tick all the boxes. Besides, it was just around the corner from my house.”
Also, the fact that JOGO has all to do with football triggered Cecilia to send out her application. Just like for any other Argentinian, football is like a religion for her. “Where other families sit together in front of the tv to watch a movie, we were watching a football game. I’m still doing that every weekend. I highlight in my calendar which games I like to see and tell the kids that ‘mommy’ can’t be disturbed for the next hours”, laughs Cecilia, whose family is historically supporting River Plate. “So when I heard JOGO was a football startup, I was even more convinced that it was the place I wanted to be.”
The feeling was entirely mutual, and since the 1st of June 2021, Cecilia is JOGO’s brand-new Office Manager. “As a real team player, I love the dynamic of our team. At times, it even feels like I’m on the field again. It’s also a big plus that the work is never the same. Every day I need to make everything happen in the office: organizing operations and procedures to preparing payrolls, and more. At JOGO, I can kick-start the next chapter in my life and grow as a person and get better, just like I used to do in my sports career.”
Asked about her ambitions with JOGO, Cecilia is quite clear: “I want to be the best in what I do and give the best to JOGO. When I’m doing something, I like to do it well. Or better: perfect. Besides that, I would love to see our talent development platform also in Argentina in the future. First for football, and later maybe for hockey?”
Parenting, cooking and golf
Besides being fully committed to her new job, Cecilia invests a lot of her time in parenting. “I want to educate and raise my children with the best of both cultures and hand them all the tools so that they can easily find their way in life.” When time allows, she also likes to cook and play golf. “I love to make cakes. My banana cake has become my signature trademark and is already a hit at the office. Whenever there are some bananas over, I take them home and show up the day after with a fresh cake”, Cecilia says proudly. “I also picked up golf, and I love it. I still need to get a license to be able to play everywhere, but I tend to forget. Is golf an Olympic sport now? No, no more Olympics for me!”