Head Coach Jonatan Giráldez’s Introductory Press Conference: Full Transcript

Washington Spirit  |   June 27, 2024
Head Coach Jonatan Giráldez’s Introductory Press Conference: Full Transcript Featured Image

On Tuesday, the Washington Spirit held a press conference to officially welcome Head Coach Jonatan Giráldez alongside General Manager Mark Krikorian. Giráldez shared an inside look at his vision for the team, plans for the remainder of this season and the future, and provided insights into his coaching philosophy. Plus, he opens up about why he chose to join the club.


Opening Remarks:

Mark Krikorian: I guess it would be a pretty bad joke for me to take credit for discovering Jona (Jonatan Giráldez). Everyone knows Jona and the quality and success he’s brought for a number of years now to Barcelona, making them the best in the world. So, I think identifying and securing are two very different things. It’s been clear for a long time that he’s a leader in the industry, regarded as the best coach in the world, and we are thrilled to have him here. I can say with full certainty that through the efforts of our owner, Michele Kang, and her drive, determination to surround herself with the best. She spent the time the energy, went to Barcelona and was able to show Jona that this project that we are all involved with is quite a worthwhile project. I will be the first to publicly welcome Jona to us, and it’s great to have you here.

Jonatan Giráldez: Thank you Mark, thank you for your welcome, and thank you everyone for being here today. For me, it’s always in the beginning a special moment. I am very happy to be here, to be part of the family, Washington Spirit. When I decided to join Washington in that moment I remember the beginning of the shock for me and my family had to have the tough decision, but I did not need too much time to decide that I, me, we wanted to come here because many reasons, many things. I won everything in Barca. I was really really lucky to be part of Barca’s family the last six seasons, at first as assistant coach and the last three ones as a main coach. I wanted to have the desire to have a new chapter, a new challenge. For sure living here in Washington, knowing different players, different culture, different staff members, and, for sure, the big vision that Michele Kang has. When Michelle and Mark showed me all the process and all that they are building, it was crazy. It was very easy for me to take the right decision and after the first few days here, I am trying to understand the whole process, the industry, how its working, the team because they are performing really really well. But, I’m very, very happy to be part of the family in Washington Spirit.


On what was the moment Jonatan decided the Spirit was his next chapter:

JG: For me, we are from Galicia (Spain). We wanted to move in that moment to Barcelona because we felt that it was the best step for us in terms of growth as a student in that moment. We wanted to earn a little more experience around the world and around football. I had the opportunity to be part of Catalonia Federation, working in different areas — a teacher, assistant coach, physical coach, main coach — I was doing a lot of things there. Next step in Barca, for sure the growth was amazing in the last few seasons, especially the last three ones because when you are training the best players in the world, what the club demands of you in terms of the desire to compete and to win every single game, it was really special for me. After winning everything we won, to move on to a new chapter, a new challenge.

When Michele and Mark explained to me, the family, what they are doing here in Washington, for me was really important because one of the most important things is to understand all the process for the players. The players are the most important thing. We have several people working around the players. For me, this is the base to build something important because I have the same perception. In Barca when everything started seven, eight, nine years ago, maybe the performance of the team was not built good, but we were building important things for the future, and I think the team the last three seasons showed it a lot. And now, the feeling I have is the same. There are many, many people working around the players. We have everything under control. The players only have to think training, competing—that’s a lot, by the way. It’s so important for me to be part of that and understand the staff members we have around all the players, the vision to be — not to be here to improve my English — to be here to create something special. A team for the future. And I joined Washington because I want to compete for winning. In the end, when we are competing, we are competing for winning. It is a process. We are working a lot. I have a huge respect about what they are doing so far, but I want to help as I can for the coming weeks, months to try to be a successful team for sure.


On Jonatan’s interpretation of the NWSL:

JG: For me, growth. It is a really competitive league. All the games I am watching, anything can happen every game. A lot of goals at the end of the game. That’s crazy. As a show, it’s really, really good. It’s interesting because, for me, when you are part of an important process in terms of building something, when you suffer to win, that is the best moment to grow and have good management of emotions. When you win a lot, when you win every week, and it is victories. That is like, ‘Okay, you are suffering, but it’s not so, so special.’ Here, I think because of the growth of the players, my case as a coach, it will be personal and professional growth, I am sure about it. This kind of feelings when I have to manage the situation, important moments when you are playing finals — Champions League in the past or important games — I want to have this kind of feelings every week, and I think here, I suffer a lot to be.


On entering a situation where the team has already accomplished so much:

JG: They are performing really, really well. I have to say nothing about the performance because everything is going good. I think everything I saw in the beginning, the first training session, preseason, first friendly game in the preseason, the growth of the team is really, really good. They are showing an amazing performance every week. They are really mature. It is not easy when the main coach is not here, but they are competing really well. All the work that the players and the staff members are doing has been perfect.

For me, it’s what I said to Mark and the players: What I want is to keep helping and try to find the best timing to understand what I smell every day and connect with the players, connect with the staff members, with the supporters, Audi Field, the city. I need more time to understand the atmosphere around the players, but the only thing I want to do is keep helping. The most important thing is the players, so I am here to be part of the whole team and together try to get important things.


On what Jonatan was looking for in taking this job:

JG: For me, when you change — I was really comfortable and happy at Barcelona, I have to tell you that because that was my feeling — but I am 32 years old, I can improve a lot. Being with other players, with other staff, with other completely different culture, different supporters, speaking a different language, it’s a challenge for me everyday. I am learning a lot being here everyday. I could stay in Barcelona, for sure keep growing every week, but it’s not the same. With 32 years old, I think something that we wanted in the past, and we had the opportunity to join.

In Washington, they respect me a lot, my decision to end my career in Barca until the end because I wanted to be professional until the last day. We could compete for many important things. Finally, when you get all that you wanted in terms of trophies, it’s special because it was really hard in the season in that moment to decide to not be a part of Barca family for the next season. It was a difficult situation and decision for me, but I made it in December, and then a lot of people criticized the decision, “Why are you leaving? The performance of the team will go down,” but in Barca, all the people working around the players showed incredible professionalism, and here it is the same thing.

I was not being here as the main coach, but the team is performing. We are connected in terms of what we can do, but being far away is too difficult. Like I said before, I have a huge respect for everything that they did so far, and I am looking forward to keep competing, keep learning, keep helping the players to be part of an important team.


On what Jonatan learned about the Washington Spirit while being away as the Barcelona coach:

JG: An amazing process in terms of what we want to build when we have the ball, when we don’t have the ball. Adri’s (Interim Head Coach Adrián González) job has been amazing. All the staff members are working together, and I am really happy to be part of it because the connection we have on the players on the team and the staff has been good. That is the base to grow. I remember the first training session in the preseason, I remember the first friendly game, and now the situation is totally different. We are in good shape, I think, but we can improving. That will be the challenge for the future.


On staying involved with the Washington Spirit while coaching for Barcelona:

JG: I was trying to be focused 100% on Barca. That was my priority until the end of the season. I was connected with Adri, especially with Adri, with Mark (Krikorian), with other staff, but especially with Adri speaking about what we want to do in terms of training, preparing games. I repeat being focused on Barca because when you are working two sides, you can’t be 100% on one of them. That was really clear, pretty clear for Washington. Trying to help being so far away, it was not easy. So 99.99%, it was deserved to what they are doing so far. What I want to do now is add to the performance they are having and try to improve it.


On what made Jonatan the right coach for the Washington Spirit:

MK: I think as a coach, any of us that have the background in the game recognize the quality which his teams played and the beauty that they played with and level of sophistication and technical quality. You can break this down is so many different ways. In terms of the model of the play, they’ve just been just wonderful to watch. But for me, there were other elements that I thought were really important that were kind of in the same spirit as Michele Kang. Part of it is humility. You see him sitting here today answering all the questions, and it is with great humility and respect. I think it started in the beginning with us respecting him and his process, and him respecting what it was we are trying to do. Understand that together we want to try to grow this Washington Spirit group in a way that may be a little bit different than what would be traditional. For me, I think beyond all of those soccer pieces that he has, the person that he is is very important as well. I think he is going to come into the community and be a leading member in the community, as well as a leading soccer brain.


On bringing the Spirit back to championship success:

JG: As soon as possible. We don’t have to put a roof. That would be a big mistake. We have to put focus on training everyday and trying to improve your performance — be professional in and out of the pitch. For me, as coach, based on my experience, you have to give all each day, each training session, but you have to take care of yourself after your training before the (next) training. By the way, we have so many people working around the players is for that, to help them understand that high performance life is not only about training, it is about being professional 24 hours, seven days, each week.

What I don’t want to do is put a roof, a goal. What we want to make is improvement everyday and have the desire to compete to be the best. I love when we train 100% of our intensity, trying to beat each other each training. I don’t want to speak about long time (ago), I want to speak about tomorrow. What we did today, what we have to do tomorrow, and as well as possible be ready to compete again. I’ll try to be, I want to be, the best team in America. That is the focus and Michele’s vision and everything she is doing around the players around the club is going the same direction. I recognize that they are working a lot in that direction, so to be part of that for me is really special.


On the steps being taken to ensure stability for the players during this transition:

JG: It is about not making big changes. I know how Adri works, and we were speaking a lot along the season in terms of what we want to do with the ball, without the ball. That is the priority, for sure. The leadership is not the same because we are different people, but step-by-step introduce myself in the training, speaking, showing videos after the game, try to connect. In the end, when someone new is coming from another country, speaking another different language. I take care of the feelings I have every day to understand the process. Do we have to put a date — ‘OK, I need one week, two weeks, three weeks?’ I don’t know. It’s every day trying to connect a little more to understand that everything that I’ll do will be the best for the players and the team.


On the growth of the NWSL with a recently sold out Audi Field:

JG: I had the opportunity to leave in an important moment with the club. We had Guinness Record attendance in the stadium. We went with a lot of people to compete the final Champions League. The connection with the fans is very important. I always say to the players that we have to give reasons to come to the stadium every day. It is not just to say, ‘Come, please.’ We have to give them the feeling to be part of the process. When you can share your (happiness) with the supporters, when you are winning, when you are competing, when you are raising trophies, it is the best, special moment. I have nothing to say in the past in terms of what we create. In Barca, it’s totally different. Connect with the supporters, with thousands of people going to the stadium every week. The connection with the fans, that is a big responsibility. I want to be part of it. So I say, train everyday and compete every game to understand that we have to give them reasons to enjoy the next week again. I don’t like if only one day 19,000. I want 19,000 every week. That is our responsibility on our side — give them reasons to repeat every week.


On what Jonatan’s first interactions with the players was like:

JG: Good feelings. I am seeing a strong connection between the players, between staff, and all the job they are doing is special. The days for growing that is really, really important. I am trying to have different meetings, be involved in the trainings, the meetings, and speak when I have to show something in terms of performance through video, and all of that. And right now, the feeling I am having after training today is step-by-step moving forward. So far, I have to tell you that I am really happy, and it is everything that I expected.


On where the Spirit is at during this point in the season and Jonatan’s plans for the rest of the season:

JG: I think it’s what I said before. For me the focus is to improve and have the strong mentality to want to be better. I don’t like it when we only speak about winning or losing. For me it’s much better than that. What I like to do after each game, it doesn’t matter the result, it’s what we did. Find what we have to improve, understand that we are doing important things with the ball and without the ball, but we can improve many, many things. We are in the middle of the season now, and I’m open-minded to understanding that the process simply (tells) me that nothing is done. We did nothing so far. So, try to work every day, understanding that after the training you have to recover. Before the training, you have to make the protocols to be the best in the training. That is 24 hours, every day when you have to train. For sure, when you win, you have to enjoy, but the next day you have to be ready again to compete, to recover as fast as possible for you to be ready for training the next day. This circle, this wheel, it’s the greatest culture, to be ready for that.

Then, another important point for me is that when you win it’s easier to be happy because you are competing well and you are winning. When we are start the game losing or we lose a game, how would you react? The important thing is not what happened, it’s how you react. I think these kind of things you can train it. You can put it together in the training and put the focus on that. To have good emotions, manage the emotions when you are competing, as well as when you are losing. Be as professional as possible to understand that process is the whole season. We are working well, but we have to keep going.


On coaching Ballon d’Or winners and the Spirit’s future growth:

JG: It’s what I said, the players in the past. When we win important trophies, if the team has a good performance, it’s much easier to get individual recognition. So, I don’t like to speak about individual performance because for me the team means more than individual players. Our focus is the same: Win as a team. Do everything as a team. Believe as a team. Compete as a team. And then if we win, the recognition for the players will appear, for sure. I was a part in the past many, many times. I have to tell you because my experience is to every day go to the training, understanding that the team is the most important thing and work together. Then, let’s see what happens in the future with an individual player. I am very happy with the current players. They did a good job, the quality in terms of the Draft. They are showing a good performance, but we did nothing. We have to keep moving forward.

MK: In terms of the club, I think that it’s a similar philosophy as to what Jona’s been speaking of. For me it’s about the foundation, and if we get the foundational pieces right, and that starts with the staff and Jona’s mentioned a few times now that we have a great performance team. We have a great medical team, we have a collection of experts in a whole lot of different ways. The technical staff we have put together, I think is quite special, also. So, when you look at all of those things, I think the sky is the limit. The results will follow if your habits are good. If you’re doing things properly and if we can get all of these more elementary pieces right and build the proper foundation, the results on the field will follow but also opportunities for the club to continue to grow and advance will be important. I think it’s really difficult to say what the end product looks like. This landscape of women’s soccer in the world just continues to explode and evolve. As that continues to grow, I think we have the right owner in Michele Kang to go out and continue to promote our team and give us the best opportunity to have the biggest possible following we can get.


On what Jonatan knew about Washington before coming here:

JG: I had not too much time. I arrived a few days ago. I was here two times in February and a few weeks ago. I remember, more or less. I’m trying to learn every day. For me, right now, the beginning, the most important thing is to have a good relationship with the players and with the staff. The facilities and all the people that are working there. I know the history of the club and what they want to become. We want to be the best team. That is the reality, but in the end, we have to not put the pressure on winning trophies. Like what I said before, it’s the process. The trophies are a consequence if you are working well. If you are not working well, if you are going the same direction, or you’re not. Maybe I am saying the same thing that I said before, but for me, what I want to spend my time on is understanding that the process is really, really important. Every day understanding that when the players are going to the facility to train, they have to show the best. For the people that are working around the players, we have to help them to show the best possible performance and never compare. We have special players. What I want is the characters that they have, try to place it tactically and all of that, but have our own identity in terms of gameplan, model, and football in general. Let’s see what happens, but the feeling I have right now is good.


On building relationships with the players:

JG: Look for me, soccer language is universal when you speak about situations during the game. It’s easy to connect with the players because we have visions about this situation — you can’t do that, in this other one you can do another thing, and speak about football. Step-by-step, try to connect with the player as a person, a human being. That is very important. Sometimes the performance is not being as we expected because we have personal problems, and we have to solve it and have the player as well speaking about football, speaking about personal life. What I am trying to do is to speak the same language, connect with football, with soccer. I always say football, but I want to say soccer. Then, try to be as close as possible in personal reasons. Everyone has a life. Everyone is coming from far away, so trying to connect on that. Sometimes 90 or 100% is more approach with the players, so we have to be as smart as possible to understand what they need and help them as much as possible.


On Jonatan’s goals and aspirations for the season and the biggest transition for him:

JG: Everything. When you work in another country, speak a different language, find a house for living, know the people every day what we are working on the characters of the players. The game plan will be different because we have different characters of players. My transition in this case is what I said before. What I want is to speak the universal language that is football. Understanding which ones are the characters of the players, trying to help them as much as possible, especially in the beginning because we have to compete in a few days, we have to compete against Bay FC, and the next week. Personally, I can see that when you make an important decision you have the desire to move and want to keep growing as a person, as a professional. I think it’s much easier having good adaptations, especially in the beginning. All the connections I am having with the staff member and all the players has been good, so I feel good, and I’ll feel better in the future.


On the style of play developing in the NWSL and Jonatan’s emphasis on possession:

JG: Good question. Everyone who watches the games here. They run a lot. Physically they are so, so fast. They are so fast. What I like, what I try to do is be a little closer between us when we have the ball and when we don’t have the ball. Understanding when we have to run, when we have to develop different styles in terms of possession phase. My experience, my view, my idea is very important to understand what we want every day. In terms of transition having a little more of the control of the games. It will be challenging because they are not able to do that in the past. I repeat the same, they run a lot physically. They are the best players in the world, maybe. It’s understandable for me, from my view that when you are playing, try and find the advantage in the game. Sometimes the advantages are behind the defensive line, sometimes they are in the pockets, the sides, depending on the game. Trying to help the players find solutions during the game using training, using video to understand that the most important thing for me in football is try to find the right advantage in the game. That would be the priority, especially in the beginning because that’s what I want.


On the financial restrictions for NWSL team building and his involvement in player recruitment:

JG: The roster preparation, 100% on board with what they did with the young players. That was really important and for sure the connection, the conversations, the meetings we had for the future, for my beginning, we are connected. I think we have a good relationship. I think when you are working together into the team, you ned to have good feelings in terms of respect for who has to make the decisions but try to speak the same language, be on the same page. All the person that we are working together to understand what kind of profile we need to improve our team for now, for the summer, for the future, and in the end, for me, what I want is to have the most competitive team, the most possible competitive team. Everything that we are doing, with James (Hocken), with Mark (Krikorian), all the staff who are working around the players, around the roster, is going in the same direction. What we want to become is to find a good profile to help us. That is simple to say, and now we have to finish our job.


On what changes Jonatan plans to make to the team:

JG: It’s not about changes, it’s about improvement. Keep improving. We played a good game against Gotham, but we can do better things. When we were speaking today, it was about what we did OK, what we have to improve. It’s not about changes. The methodology is clear. The direction is clear. We put focus in and off pitch every day to try to be the best possible professional. Be committed in the training with the competition, try to find a good connection with the fans, with the crowd, and then play with the football. I think that is simple to say, but in the end, it’s the process that we want to do every day. Especially for me, what I want to now is change nothing, it’s to help them, to keep going and moving forward because the performance of the team has been good. They are having a good season on table, and now we are in the middle. We did nothing, as I said before. We are going in a good direction, but there’s room for improvement, for sure.


Closing remarks:

JG: Thank you to all the people that came today to ask the questions and get to know me face-to-face. I promise to improve my English for the future, so we can connect a little better and I can say exactly what you want to hear. Always trying to speak about soccer. That is my priority as a coach. What I said before is the biggest priority for me: A challenging situation, and what I do is give my best to achieve a great performance with the team, and what I said before, I am very happy to be here.

MK: I just want to thank you for coming out and supporting our team, and the club, and women’s soccer, and women’s sports in general. Together we’ll continue to grow it and get better and better, but we couldn’t do it without your support, so thanks for all being here.

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