For this year’s International Women’s Day, we’re featuring six new interviews from inspirational women who are carving out extraordinary careers in motorsport.
Tell us a little bit about yourself
My name is Zala, I come from Slovenia and I’m 23 years old. I’ve always been passionate about different sports but my interest in motorsport was only sparked a couple years ago by a friend at the university. I found this sport so unique and different from any other traditional sports as there are numerous intrinsic and extrinsic factors that ultimately contribute to one’s performance.
Tell us about your dream career, and what it would look like
My dream goal is to become a performance coach for elite motorsport athletes or pit crews, particularly for those in the higher/elite series (F1, F2, F3). As a driver performance coach I would oversee drivers’ physical fitness by delivering strength and conditioning sessions and monitor their wellbeing, nutrition, and recovery status. Such role requires year-round work and strong organizational skills to be able to adapt to drivers’ packed schedule and coordinate with the multidisciplinary team (driver coach, nutritionist, physiotherapist etc.).
Alternatively, I’m also interested in doing research work for motorsport companies (sport biomechanics, physiological data analysis, etc.). There is a lack of scientific literature regarding motorsport athletes compared to athletes in traditional sports. Therefore, being involved in research that helps improve understanding of the physiology and biomechanics of this sport is also something that is meaningful to me.
What are you currently studying?
I’m currently doing my studying at Mid Sweden University for MSc in Performance Optimisation (Focus in Elite Sport). Before that I completed a BSc Applied Sport Science at the University of Edinburgh.
What’s your experience as a woman on your course?
It is very inspiring to see females across various positions in motorsport as this sends a powerful message to all the other females out there working towards similar goals. However, with majority of roles in motorsport being male dominated, people are still surprised to see a woman aiming towards such career. Nevertheless, I would say that my experience so far has been very positive as there are numerous initiatives being put forward, to improve the involvement of the underrepresented groups in motorsport.
Majority of the people I interacted with so far (from this sector) do recognize that the importance of improving the inclusivity is highly beneficial to the long-term sustainable development of motorsport.
Did you do any extra-curricular activities/work experience?
I’m writing a master’s thesis on S&C practices in motorsport which allowed me to connect with a lot of driver’s performance coaches. Besides growing my knowledge about driver science, this experience has given me a good insight into how things work in motorsport and allowed me to evaluate what my next steps should be in order reach my career goal.
Who is your favourite female role model in motorsport?
It would have to be a tie between Angela Cullen and Gemma Fisher. They are two very inspiring women who have contributed massively to the physical fitness aspect of motorsport and are also my personal role models.
What’s the best thing you did to get you to where you are today?
I would say being proactive and persistent towards my goals. I have been told since the very beginning that this area is hard to get in especially for me being a female and having very limited practical experience in any sport. It’s about thinking outside of the box – what can I do that is different but will still get me to where I want to be. People will notice your effort and ambitious if you present yourself confidently, as a hard-working individual.
What’s been your highlight so far?
Without a doubt speaking 1-1 with F1 driver physios/S&C coaches. And also, just building a network with people of within motorsport. There are so many inspiring individuals out there who just wish to drive the development of this sport. Seeing the dedication of people who wish to improve this sport is very motivating.
What would you say to girls who aspire to work in motorsport one day?
Don’t let anyone discourage you from following your dreams no matter how unrealistic they may seem. If something is difficult it doesn’t mean it is impossible. Just keep that vision in front of you and plan your life accordingly. And if you fail at some point, learn from that.
Talk about it with others, share your experiences, both the positives and the negatives. Try and see obstacles simply as opportunities and appreciate any feedback given as that is the only was you can improve yourself. With the motorsport sector being very competitive, the grind never stops, and you must be patient. It may not happen in the next few months, but if you keep trying, keep showing up – there is no way that you won’t succeed.
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