Even today, women in sport still don’t have the same opportunities as men. And as much as we talk about – and push for – equality, we just simply aren’t there yet.
But that doesn’t mean we are not surrounded by powerful, inspirational, and motivational women who are pushing for change every day.
Natalia Guitler is one of these women.
From competing professionally in tennis to becoming the first woman to win a world championship in teqball, Natalia continues to advocate and help pave a path for women in sport.
Turn your passion into a career
When I was growing up, it seemed like every adult in my life preached the same thing: do what you’re passionate about and your job will never really feel like a job.
But sometimes it’s not that easy.
Sometimes society makes you believe that you should keep your hobbies as hobbies, instead of turning them into a fulfilling career.
Natalia ignored society, grabbed her passion, and ran with it.
Natalia has been passionate about playing sports since a young age. She started off playing football, then her older brother introduced her to footvolley and she fell in love with it.
Shortly after discovering footvolley, she was introduced to teqball – the unconventional sport that combines football and table tennis.
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“I started playing the sport for fun with my friend and then I began to love it. I decided to film a video and posted it on Instagram.
“The owner of the Federation of France saw the video and invited me to play in the world championship for teqball. It was such an honor to be competing at such a high level with incredible athletes. During the championships in 2019, I experienced such a surreal moment. Through endless training sessions and teamwork, my partner and I placed first.”
Natalia was the first woman to win a teqball championship.
She proved that women are capable of succeeding among men, no matter the circumstances. By following her passion, Natalia not only started living a life true to herself, but also set an inspiring example for all women. In the next couple of years, she was the reason more women felt they were able to join teqball. She pushed for more opportunities for women, and the impact was evident.
Trust the game and trust yourself
Before Natalia became a world champion in teqball, she was also a world champion in footvolley. It was this sport that gave her the courage to truly be herself, both on and off the court.
“I started with footvolley, then teqball came later in my life. It’s funny because the only reason I started focusing so much of my time on footvolley is because I needed to take a step back from professional tennis.”
Once Natalia’s life became more focused on footvolley, there was no going back. She trained every second she could get and not only showed up for her teammates, but showed up for herself. As a woman in sport, she has faced discrimination, but she tries not to dwell on it. She takes this feeling of discomfort as a driver to show the power of women in sport.
With the rise of social media, Natalia uses her platform to show her true self and wishes to inspire others.
“I really try to show the real me on my account. More of my discipline, my work, my practicing and coaching. I want more people to get to know me while also teaching them about the things I love.”
Natalia wouldn’t be where she is today if she wasn’t there for herself; if she didn’t trust herself. At the end of the day, you can have millions of people rooting for your success, but if you don’t advocate for yourself, you’ll be stuck walking in circles at the start line.
With all of Natalia’s success in sport, she wants to continue to motivate those around her and push for meaningful change.
“At the world championships for teqball in 2019, it was an amazing experience because at the time, it was my first big tournament. With that being said, though, imagine if teqball would be in the Olympics, Paralympics, or just continue to grow and include more women.
“In the past, I kept saying that there should be more female tournaments. I genuinely pushed for this all the time because I think it is important. I want to play against women, and not just mixed doubles, because women need more support in this sport.
“I was so happy because all of this advocacy worked. The next year, they put in a female tournament. It was my first tournament with my partner, Rafaella. This meant so much to me and it was the start of something new.
As a woman who has played sports my entire life, Natalia’s mindset has really inspired me. I think that sometimes it is easy for us to be upset at the lack of opportunities women have in sport, but Natalia views it in a different way.
Instead of becoming resentful at the lack of opportunities, she uses this as fuel to a flame that pushes for change.
I hope Natalia’s flame creates sparks across the world so we can collectively continue to inspire equity in sport.