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IWD | Marija Lojanica: “Handball is my sport!”

March. The month when the world marks International Women’s Day. This day is special for the Be8player project because today we present you the first out of seven interviews we did with the women from the handball world, ahead of 8 March 2022. The goal is to celebrate International Women’s Day by emphasizing successful women in handball and putting them into the spotlight.

As a part of the IWD celebration, we talked with seven women, as there are seven positions in the game of handball, and the first up is Marija Lojanica, Telekom Veszprem fitness coach. You already had the chance to meet Marija in a previous interview we did with her but let us present her once again. Enjoy your read and stay tuned because there are more great stories to come.

How long are you performing your job as a fitness coach?

I am a fitness coach for 22 years. Immediately after I finished my studies, I started working in a school as a teacher where I was for 12 years. During that time, I was also working as a handball coach for the younger selections. At that time, I realized that being a fitness coach suits me way better, so I decided to head in the direction of fitness in the handball world. In my 22 years of experience, I also worked as a masseur and physiotherapist with the Serbian female tennis team. But handball has always been my love, so eventually, I got back on that path.

Have you ever played any sport? If yes, which one?

I played handball in my hometown, Kraljevo, but then I moved to Belgrade because of college. I began my studies in the Faculty of sport and physical education, and due to the obligations, I didn’t manage to coordinate the classes and trainings. Also, I was in athletics for some time, I played a little bit of basketball, volleyball…I like sports.

You are working as a fitness coach in the Telekom Veszprem A-team, as well as in the Veszprem’s academy. Can you tell us a bit about it?

The main goal of this program is to prepare young players for the A-team. The Academy is structured really well and I think that regional clubs should implement this idea in their handball schools. The goal is to educate all the young players, so once they become a part of the A-team, they can continue to develop. They have to be familiar with all the training basics, how to do the warm-up, as well as to work in the gym. They have to know everything that the A team is doing. Of course, everything is organized according to their age, strength, etc. This year two players from the Academy joined the A team and that transition went very smoothly. In Hungary, they are doing a great job when it comes to that. There is an extremely good financial state support, and they really take care of their younger selections. I can say that working for the Academy is a pleasure.

What does the typical Marija Lojanica day look like?

I get up very early, around 7:00 or 7:30 AM. The first thing on my to-do list is to drink coffee with a lot of milk and two cookies aside.  Without that, I can’t leave the house. Then it’s time for my work. Usually, when I have training with the team in the morning, I do my workout before. After the team training it’s time for a lunch break, after which I am going home. When I am home, I always prepare for the next training. The end of my working day is around 7 PM. Sometimes, I go out for dinner or drink after work, but mostly I am rushing home to prepare for the next day. It’s not that exciting, but it is my everyday routine. When I have a rest day, then it’s different.

Among all of your obligations, do you have some free time for yourself?

Everything depends on the match schedule. Usually, on the day the team is playing EHF Champions League, we come home around 4 or 5 AM. After, it’s usually a free day for the players, but not me, since I have to do my job at the Veszprem Academy for younger selections, while Saturdays and Sundays are usually reserved for the national championship.

What do you like to do in your free time when you are not in the gym or hall?

When I have some free time, I like to spend it outside of my apartment walking around Veszprem. I have a really good company and that is Dimitar Manevski, a physiotherapist who was also working with me in Vardar. We have some pretty serious tours, not under 10 or 15 kilometers, so basically, we are hiking around Veszprem investigating the city. My trips in the nature actually bring the best out of me, it fills me up with energy. I am interested in photography as well. Also, I like to spend my free time with my friends.

Handball is a very dynamic sport, and therefore the job of all those involved in handball. Can you single out the most interesting and challenging part of your job?

Get the most out of every athlete, teach them the importance of physical preparation. Make them stronger, faster, more powerful. Give them that sense of security. The challenge is to push the boundaries, but only with teamwork.

Can you single out your favourite handball memory?

Winning Champions League with Vardar in 2019. It was a special year.

In addition to handball players, you had the opportunity to work with other athletes. Do you see yourself in another sport in the future?

No. I worked in tennis, then individually with football players, basketball players, volleyball players, handball players, etc. Nothing can replace teamwork in my opinion. The old saying “never say never” but from this instance, handball is my sport.

Is there a person who has an impact on your professional career?

I knew what I wanted to become “when I grow up” in the eighth grade. Further education went in that direction. Of course, life is unpredictable, and you can’t plan everything, but you have to have some direction and goal. I can’t say that anyone has had an impact on my career other than my parents who gave me the opportunity to be who I am.

Why do you love handball?

I fell in love with handball in elementary school. My older sister was on the school team, so I followed her everywhere and I soon started training on my own. Love was born then and still lasts, only now I am on the “other side” of 40x20m.

What advice would you give to all women who have desires and ambitions to work as fitness trainers?

Honestly, it doesn’t matter if you are a woman or a man in this business. Goals, aspirations, motives, and desires should be the same. The advice is simple, you will succeed if you love your job, if you live it, and if you are constantly improving. There is not too much philosophy.