November 29, 2023

INTERVIEW: Cook Islands Head Coach Judith Kuipers on taking the new job

Judith Kuipers is the new Head Coach of the Cook Islands and in this exclusive interview, she talks about the challenges she faces and how she got the job.

Judith Kuipers is the new Head Coach of the Cook Islands women’s team and in this exclusive interview, she talks about the challenges she faces and how she got the job.

Judith Kuipers
Judith Kuipers is excited to get going in her new job (Photo credit: VV Alkmaar)

The Cook Islands FA appointed Kuipers last week and the Dutch coach admits she wasn’t familiar with the Cook Islands because of football.

“Of course, I had heard of the Cook Islands but not because of football. I heard of it because of the great nature over there and the beautiful beaches,” she tells Football in Oceania.

So how did she get the job as the top dog for a country she didn’t really relate to football?

“A few weeks ago I was contacted by Paul Driessen of the Netherlands Oceania Support Foundation. He asked me if I was interested of becoming the head coach of the national team of the Cook Islands. He saw my Linkedin profile and thought I would be perfect for the job.

“I also work as the National coach of the Dutch Military Team. With that team I also have to work towards a big tournament. Besides that I also was a coach in the highest league here in the Netherlands.  These two experiences has contributed to the fact that he found me a suitable candidate I guess,” the 46-year-old explains.

Pacific Games the big goal

The Cook Islands are coming off the back of a disappointing OFC Women’s Nations Cup but Kuipers believes they have already started trying to improve.

“There’s not a lot of players and the level is much lower than over here in the Netherlands. But they are willing to grow and raise the level. Hopefully I can deliver my contribution to this. The fact that they contract a coach from the Netherlands tells me that they are very serious and that they aspire to develop football in the Cook Islands.”

Cook Islands Women
The Cook Islands team had a disappointing Nations Cup but are now looking forward (Photo credit: Avikash Chand/OFC Media)

The big goal for Kuipers and the CIFA is, of course, the Pacific Games in Samoa this summer, but she hopes she can develop football in general. Her contract runs until the end of that tournament, but she might stay longer if the project is going places.

“My main goal is to develop the national team of course but also football in general. We will work hard to achieve the best result at the Pacific Games but I also hope that the players and coaches learn from me. Like I will learn from them as well. In principle, I stay until the games. But who knows what will happen after? Maybe it will open some other doors. We’ll see.“

Philosophy is key

Like any other coach, she has a philosophy of how she wants to play, but Kuipers says she won’t try to force it down the throats of the locals.

“Naturally I have a football philosophy which I use here in the Netherlands. I will explain this philosophy to the coaches and players over there. In the meantime, I will listen to how their philosophy is and learn from it.

“I have an idea how I will play and train, but it also depends on what players I have and if the time towards the tournament is long enough to make big changes. I think it will be a mix between what is already there and my philosophy. This will be a great challenge,” she says.

Kuipers believes making the two philosophies blend and overcoming the cultural differences there might be, will be her biggest challenges, but she is hopeful that the Cooks will do big things in Samoa.

“The biggest challenge is the culture difference and to blend my philosophy together with their philosophy and make it work.

“So we will be ready for the tournament and make it a successful one. I am very excited to go there and will do everything I can to share my knowledge and develop women’s soccer on the Cook Islands. “

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