THE PATH – BREAKER : COSTA RICAN SKIPPER SOFIA BOLAÑOS

Bejeweled by relaxing beaches, majestic volcanoes and teeming with wildlife, Costa Rica is akin to paradise for nature lovers. With national sports craze mostly confined to football, it is astonishing to know that cricket was first played in Costa Rica in the late nineteenth century, and even though disappeared after WWII, was revived in Central America in the 70s.

Today we have had the opportunity to interact with the leading lady in Costa Rican women’s cricket, skipper Sofia Bolaños, a pioneer striving for the development of the game in the nation each day.

Hi Sofia, can you tell us a bit about yourself?

My name is Sofía Bolaños, I am 28 years old, born and raised in Costa Rica, I have a twin sister that also plays cricket. I am a Physical Education Teacher and I am studying a master’s degree in investigation at Universidad de Costa Rica and my area of interest is Paralympic and adapted sports.
I am also the captain of one of our local women team – Kiskadees-, which I am also the coach.
I love nature, being outside, reading and being in movement.

In a country where cricket has been only recently on the rise, what was it that drove you towards it?

To answer your question I may have to give a little background. At the university, there´s an annual symposium with conferences and they used to bring workshops too. When I attended in 2016 a Cricket workshop took place and I went because I did not know what it was about.
It was a fresh, communicative, polite and encouraging game. It was a challenge to lear it in a time frame of no more than 3 hours. I think that what drove me towards it was how aware you must be of your surroundings, the ball, the others and yourself. The adrenaline to get the ball as close as possible while fielding was there in the moment when the practice game started.

Costa Rica was granted ICC full membership status in T20s in 2018. How important do you think that event was for the progress of cricket in the country?

Well, when CR got the T20s status the girls were not playing as we are now, so it was a huge deal for the boys that have been playing from some years before.
In the girls’ case, we were introduced as it, it gave us a big mindset to start with.
Having said that I think it gave us an objective to look towards, trying to organic the game nation wise.

How has it been to become captain and lead the team in matches?

Being a captain was an amazing challenge! So, the CR women cricket team has had just 2 international encounters. The first one was on the Central American Championship that took place in Mexico last year and then here in Costa Rica we had an international midseason against Belize.
I was the captain for the matches against Mexico and was a supporting player for the players that were captains in the matches against Belice.
First time as a national player and got assigned the captaincy, what a challenge right? You have to be a support for your team, lead them in the thick and thin, have a clear mind, can listen and ask questions to them and also be able to perform on the field, I think that is one of the best sensations of the game. It is a lot of responsibility but I think it is enjoyable.
Thankfully I have the chance to be a captain of one of our local teams, and I have (and the girls that have been on the national team) improved a lot in the game, not just technically but mentally and strategically.

Awesome! So, in this period of quarantine, how are you keeping yourself mentally and physically fit? How important is it to stay positive in the current situation?

Well, I already have the physical training going at home so I just upgraded from 4 to 5 sessions per week and have been doing longer yoga sessions too. Both of them help me a lot physically and mentally fit.
One of the pillars of my life is my sister, so having her around helps me a lot, yo know to speak out loud your worries and positive thoughts too. My family, friends, and teammates are there for me too, having a casual conversation with them about a recipe, food, a video, training at-home activities, non-COVID talks (haha) and mostly knowing we all want to back to the training sessions soon.
Being realistically positive is very important, I think we know we are going through a difficult phase but you can do is stay home and try to do things that you like, pass the time the best ways you can, communicate with others virtually.
We know that our national entities are doing there best the go thorough this pandemic, we value and appreciate that and I think it also gives more tranquility to all of us here in Costa Rica.

Where do you wish to see Costa Rican cricket in the forthcoming years?

I wish to see Costa Rica participating in more regionals and international competitions, the sky is the limit, and I even think
Olympic Games and World Cups are on the list.
But also with more local teams, leagues, and matches. Having the different U-15, U-19 teams (and more), National Team, elderly and even wheelchair and blind cricket team for girls and boys.
I want to be present the day that you walk down the street and you see the kids or youngsters playing and talking about cricket as they do about soccer nowadays.

How are the playing facilities in the country and how is the game being developed there?

In Costa Rica, we have one facility that has space for the official matches, it is located at Los Reyes Polo Club.
Besides it, we have to be very creative, we used local soccer fields (baseball fields too), parks, and other available spaces.
The game is being developed by the National Federation ( Federación de Cricket de Costa Rica), capacitation for the physical education teachers, workshops and presentations are being displayed with the idea of more people knowing and participating in the game.
We also have the boys national league, and since last year we also have one for the ladies.

What is your way to unwind after a match or some full day practice sessions?

After a match with my local team, I like to listen to girls at the end of each game, check that went good and what needs to improve from their point of view. I also check the scoresheet and make my notes. For the national, and my local team, after a game or training session I like to finish with some words, a big part of cricket is performing as a team and performing as a team member, so I like to thank and reinforce the value of all of them.
After the game or full-day scenario, I like to listen to music, have a short nap, and mostly, have a good meal (haha), even ice cream.

What has been the greatest milestone for you in your cricketing career?

Oh, that´s a hard question. I have many (haha).
I think it was on the fourth match we had against Belize. We had lost the previous 3 games and had the challenge of their bowling on the previous games, that thankfully got better. There was a lot of pressure and I had the conviction that we were able to win those matches.
So when we enter this game we had a strong and convinced mindset.
Being able to score runs and setting the atmosphere for my batting mate and the team was my achieved goal.
But we did not stop there, then we had to field. I got a wicket (an LBW), a catch, and another wicket (stumped) as a keeper.
Being the Player of the match mattered a lot to me, it was proof that a lot can change when conviction and security in yourself and the team (you with them and them with you) are present.
I keep closest to my heart, very dearly, some others:
1. The first time my sister got 3 wickets as a bowler in the same match. It was one of our firsts matches as a team (local) and I was the keeper (that is my usual position).
2. Our performance as a team (local) in our national women league.
3. Going to 2 super overs of a match in that league.
4. Being part of the Americas Development XI team.

Which international cricketer do you admire the most?

As a keeper – batwoman I admire Sarah Taylor.

And finally, tell us your motto in life and how it inspires you to do better each day.

My motto is: be kind, work hard, try again, enjoy the ride.
I think life is an adventure, sometimes you are up and others you are down, so try your best to overcome and enjoy the opportunity. Kindness and perseverance are not just for the persons around you in this ride but also
Hearing first-hand about your experiences was indeed entertaining and we thank you Sofia, for taking out your precious time for this interview. We wish you the best in all your current and future doings.