International Women’s Day Focus: Eva Minarikova

8 March 2021 marks International Women’s Day.

It’s a day that celebrates ‘the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women’ whilst also calling for equality – where men and women are treated the same.

No one government, country, charity or group is responsible for it and this year’s theme is choosing to challenge.

A challenged world is an alert world,” say its organisers. “And from challenge comes change” and British Judo members have taken this challenge head on – none more so than Kazoku Judo Club and Western Area Female Lead Coach Eva Minarikova.

Eva first step foot on the tatami when she was just eight years old back home in Slovakia in a small town named Malacky. Since then her life changed and she became part of the judo family for the past 27 years. She was always a sporty girl growing up but when a chance meeting with her local sensei in school, judo sparked her curiosity.

“I came on the mat and when I felt what judo is about, I never stopped developing and growing as a judoka. The feeling of being in control in judo made me choose this sport over any other,” Eva explained.

Learning how to empower my thinking, how to use someone else’s energy to my advantage is fascinating and then stepping into a coaching world where you can teach someone else what you have learnt and also teach people with disabilities is just fulfilling your life.

The Western Area Coaches Simon Ward and Eva Minarikova try and offer judoka in the area with as many opportunities to experience international randori as possible.

Eva has shared many exciting memories from throughout her time in sport, but her fondest memory involved the impact of the sport on the disabled community.

“My most amazing coaching experience was with a man who came to my club in a wheelchair after being inspired at the 2012 Olympics/Paralympics and after a few sessions, he put his wheelchair away and he started to walk better and even achieved competition level- he never sat on wheelchair again. I was very proud of the impact that myself and judo had on his life!”

Eva prides herself on providing a solid foundation at her club which has seen her players thrive on a national and international scale. Talented players have gone on to claim British National Championships with Eva sat in their chair. She regularly visits her homeland with her players for competitions.

She is always looking for ways to improve her coaching skills however. In 2014 she began to volunteer within the Western Area as the Female Coach Assistant before progressing to lead coach three years later.  Recently she became the youngest coach to have completed the Level 4 UKCC Judo qualification at Sheffield Hallam University.

Like any of our members, Covid has had a huge impact on Eva’s life for the past twelve months but this has not stopped her. She has seen her income levels drop, her time on furlough increase and her motivation for judo dwindling with her dojo closed for the foreseeable future.

Graduating with her UKCC Level 4 Degree in Sports Coaching has been one of Eva’s proudest achievements. Here she is pictured with her Mum and Dad at her Graduation Ceremony

“I am not that kind of person who likes to keep sitting home and doing nothing. However, as a full time judo coach, I knew that Covid was going to take all my income and not only that. Time passed and I started to lose my drive , my enthusiasm- motivation.”

“I have tried and successfully opened my valeting business and this business believe or not, started to give me my motivation back. People liked my work and that kept me going. But judo without contact was and still is hard. I could see how Simon Ward, the Western Area Lead Coach, was driving the area forward and I was thinking what I could do. Being a female coach for the Western Area, I wanted to restore a relationship between females not only in the area but across the country.”

“I devised a female-only session and started to spread the word with local coaches. Charlie Bond and Natasha Maslen (fellow coaches) encouraged me to go with it and we started the session on a recent weekend. Plenty of coaches said that during the weekend it will not be a good idea as people would like to rest, however I had exactly the opposite approach, because during a week the judo zoom calendar was already busy.”

“The sessions now attract international attendance and my enthusiasm and drive is strong like never before! I have met the amazing Janice Knight who is helping me with this project but most importantly, we have become friends.”

Kazoku Judo Club returned for socially distanced training in 2020 and is currently planning their 2021 plans once British Judo learns more from the DCMS and Sport England

Judo has given Eva plenty of challenges over the years, “especially when you are trying to make things right for everyone, but you cannot please everyone.” Although she speaks four fluent languages and three language basically, English is not her mother language and sometimes language barriers have created struggles with others.

“I felt discrimination on plenty of occasions as a female judoka/coach/person but my childhood taught me to be able to stand on my own legs and fight. Being stronger outside, does not mean being strong inside and plenty of time people made me feel bad and I could not cope with it. But I know, what judo has taught me is that I never give up and I always fight to the end.”

“My journey was not easy and never will be, because life has various obstacles in front of us, but if we will keep creating and have more ambitious dreams, then everything is possible to achieve. My life so far gave me: empowering myself to overcome bullying when I was a child, becoming a responsible coach, moving to UK, learning English, establishing my judo club, finishing my Level 2, 3, 4 judo coaching qualifications, becoming Western Area Judo Coach, trying to become mentor for people which will need guidelines, making my parents proud and most importantly making myself proud and NEVER GIVE UP. My life motto is: ”THE TIME IS NOT THE ENEMY TO ACHIEVE MY GOALS”

“Keep going people, life is short and if you want to achieve something, go for it and do it!”

Judo provides us with many challenges, but also the skills to overcome these challenges