Lisa Simao: "The WIWA seminars changed my life"

Lisa Simao
European Athletics

Lisa Simao at the 2017 WIWA Seminar in London

European Athletics continues its series of profiles of prominent women’s athletics leaders on the continent by talking to Lisa Simao, a familiar face at competitions for almost two decades – both domestic and international – in Portugal and further afield.

What was your earliest involvement in athletics?

I started competing as an athlete when I was 12 and I was actually quite a good middle distance runner at school. Even though I swam, played football and basketball, it quickly looked like the right sport for me.

How did you come to move into officiating and administration?

I became pregnant when I was 16 so I couldn’t realistically train anymore due to the lack of time. However, I wanted to stay involved with athletics and wanted to do more within the sport I love so I decided to become an official.

Later, at the age of 21, I started to get involved with Portuguese Athletics Federation, that was in was 2003. I was progressing with my career as a local competition official and then I started to get appointed for national competitions in Portugal. However, two years earlier, I was already in contact with the national federation because I had become part of the regional officials’ commission.

In 2007, having become a Level I official the year before, I started working directly with the federation to help establish the communications department, which didn't exist at the time, and I haven’t stopped since.

What happened next?

My direct contact with European Athletics started in 2008, when Portugal hosted the last edition of the former European Cup (First League, Group A) in Leiria before this competition became the European Athletics Team Championships the following year.

I was the communications manager for the Portuguese Athletics Federation at the time and the Media Manager for the event.

In 2009, Portugal hosted the first European Athletics Team Championships Super League competition, again in Leiria and I was, once again, the Media Manager.

In quick succession after this competition, Portugal also hosted the SPAR European Cross Country Championships in 2010 and the European Cup of Race Walking Cup in 2011. I was regularly in contact with European Athletics over a long period of time during these years and then in 2012, when I became Portuguese federation’s Competition Manager, the contact naturally increased. In 2013, I took the Level II course for officials and started to work at European Athletics competitions.

Have you been directly involved in Women’s Leadership activities?

I participated in the first Women in World Athletics Seminar that was organised in 2013 by British Athletics in Birmingham. I was 30 at the time and it was a very important moment for me. I went there with the aim of learning as much as I could and to improve at both my job and in my personal life.

It was there that I learned so much about myself such as how to improve various areas of my skills and to direct my attention towards the goals I was aiming to accomplish. I learned a lot about interpersonal relationships and about how to motivate, both, myself and others.

I came away from the seminar inspired and I set some goals for my personal life, for my professional live and also for my role as an athletics official. I am happy to say that since then I have reached all of them.

Inevitably, there are sometimes difficulties in fulfilling your goals but at the seminar we learned how to deal with them.

After each seminar, I felt more self-confident, more able to assert myself and, where appropriate, take a risk.  During these seminars, I learned so much about myself what skills I had at my disposal. Sometimes, you are not aware of what you have and how capable you are of overcoming the fear of the unknown and uncertainty.

Coming home, after the first seminar, I faced up to myself and decided what I wanted to achieve, as a result I made some radical changes for the better in my professional and personal life.

I attended a second WIWA seminar in 2015 and then held a similar Women’s Leadership event on a national level in Portugal, which aimed at empowering other women and help them to achieve their own goals.

I thought it was time to give back in this area. We had various lectures from coaches, officials, a nutritionist and a psychologist. They all shared their specific knowledge and their experience and participants were sent by the regional federations in Portugal.

Can you describe your life at the moment?

I still work for the Portuguese federation where I am the Competition Manager and also a Board assistant. I do a full day’s work at the federation and then my other work in athletics comes after that, so I might do about 50 hours a week, and sometimes more, dedicated to athletics depending on the competitions that are coming up.

Also I am a European Athletics International Technical Official and on the current ITO Panel so sometimes officiate at international events like last year’s World Student Games in Napoli, Italy and the European Youth Olympic Festival in Baku, Azerbaijan.