Q&A: Getting to know Borja Calero, Villarreal Academy Coach

Villarreal CF
Villarreal CF
Published in
7 min readMay 19, 2023

Borja Calero has extensive experience as a coach and joined Villarreal CF midway through the 2021/22 season to work with the club’s international players in the Player Development Program.

Describe your role at Villarreal CF.

I am a football coach in the club’s International Department. My colleagues and I take care of the international players who are part of our Player Development Program. My role is to monitor and advise the footballers who attend the British School of Vila-real and coordinate the activities for the PDP Gap Year (+18) program.

My to day-to-day work includes meeting with the teachers, psychologists and coordinators who work with the players so I can get feedback from them on how the players are doing in all areas. I then meet with the players individually to talk about the these details with the intention of analysing, evaluating or correcting them if necessary.

We have to keep in mind that they do not have their families here, many of them are in their adolescent stage and need people to support them, setting guidelines to help them in their development and being there for them when they need it.

What is the best part of your job?

What I like the most about my job is the positive environment that me and my colleagues have created among ourselves at work. I think that this has a positive impact when it comes to transmitting confidence and closeness to the players so that they feel comfortable during their growth and developmental stage.

How did your interest in football start and how has it developed during your career?

From a very young age I have been a fan of this sport, my father instilled a passion in me for watching games and celebrating goals. When I was very young, my favourite player was Fabio Aurelio who played for Valencia, I liked him a lot because I also played in his position and I saw him as a role model to look up to and learn from. I started playing at school and for my town club, Picassent. I joined the club when I was 12 or 13 years old and played until I was 21 years old. When I was younger, I supported different teams; Valencia, Osasuna and Albacete among them, but I really wasn’t a fan of any particular club.

Then, as I have grown up, I have seen and experienced many different technical-tactical situations, firstly in my time as a player and later as a coach. Over the years I have watched countless games and I have been able to observe different players and high-level coaches, learning many things from them, and gaining different resources to see the game from different perspectives.

I went on to study teaching, specialising in Physical Education and I also did another degree in Sports Science, both at the Universidad Católica de Valencia. Subsequently, I also did two master’s degrees, one in Sports Psychology and another in Sports Coaching.

When I was studying for my first degree I did an internship at the Picassent Sports Centre. When I was there, I saw the need to create an under-16 girls team in the town, so I promoted it in the area’s high schools to see the options and try to make a team for girls between 12 and 16 years old.

We set up a team and while I continued to train these girls, I also went to the schools to continue promoting soccer for younger girls so that the club would grow. To this day, this method continues to be used and there are now four teams at the club, giving players of practically all ages the opportunity to play.

All of the growth at UD Picassent would not have been possible without the great work and involvement of the club’s board of directors, made up of the players’ parents and family members. I am very grateful to them for taking such good care of this project year after year.

When did you know you wanted to commit to coaching?

The moment I started to coach with that club, I stopped playing. I liked being a coach and training players much more than playing, and I wanted to invest more time in the project as it was really rewarding and made me feel really proud. After the Picassent women’s club, I was given the opportunity to coach at Valencia CF with girls who competed in a mixed children’s league where practically all the opponents were players with different physical differences. I was passionate about the idea and I worked there for two years where I gained a lot of experience. Then I had the opportunity to study abroad (Erasmus) in my last year of university in Lisbon, Portugal.

It was there that I was lucky to be part of the coaching staff for the SL Benfica U19 women’s team. I was able to experience a very competitive and very professional environment which was very valuable.

In Portugal it was not easy to adapt at first as it is a different culture, dealing with people is differnet, even the humour. The best thing that I took from my experience there was that I was able to grow and learn on a personal level. When I arrived I didn’t know anyone, I didn’t know the area or the language, far from family and friends, and for that reason I can empathise today with the players who are here in our program. I talk to them and the best advice I can give them is to be themselves and make decisions even knowing they might make mistakes, socialise and enjoy the experience.

What is your philosophy?

Throughout my life so far I have been focusing on my education to be able to dedicate myself to football. I don’t have a self-defined philosophy, but I think that with effort, persistence and hard work we are capable of achieving everything we set out to do.

In your eyes, what is the perfect player?

I don’t think that a perfect player exists. There are different personalities, different roles and different player positions in a squad. As a coach my intention is to find the right role for each player to be able to help them reach their potential and thus be able to develop significant strategies for both training and competition.

How have you changed as a person and as a coach during the past year?

During this past year I have been getting to know and learn the club’s methodology, I have been adapting to a way of working that is very different from that of being a coach on the bench every week and I have learned a little more about very interesting things from different cultures.

What are your goals for next year?

My goals for next year are to continue coaching, learning languages ​​and gaining more experiences. At the moment, I am studying English and am noticing that I am improving, little by little.

What advice would you give to young footballers?

To add to the above, I would tell them to be patient, that if they really focus their training and effort on a dream they will see results over time. I think this advice is applicable for all contexts in general when it comes to their studies, football, personal life etc.

What skills are necessary to become a coach?

I think there are many different types of coaches and many different ways of seeing and understanding both game situations and squad management. I intend to continue training continuously to be able to learn from many experiences because I think that the best skills a coach can have are to make the best decision at the most opportune moment, always looking for the best for both the footballers and members of the coaching staff individually, as for the entire staff in general.

Achieving that is often not easy and for this I think you have to make mistakes a lot to then be able to get things right. I think that analysing both the mistakes and the successes and learning from our own expereriences will make us grow as human beings in all areas.

What is the meaning of life?

Who knows? Life can surprise us with anything. I think that is what makes us feel really alive and awake, to experience having dreams and aspirations while not only enjoying the result but also the process to reach them.

Now for some rapid-fire questions!

Q: Favourite sport apart from football?

A: Handball. I think there are quite a few similar tactics to football. From time to time I put on a game, but I don’t usually follow it. I don’t think it’s as popular as it should be. I also like futsal, paddle, tennis and many other sports.

Q: Tea or coffee?

A: Coffee. Especially a drink that is traditional here in the province of Valencia called “El Cremaet”.

Q: Your favourite country for going on holiday?

A: I have only travelled to a few countries such as Italy, Andorra and Portugal. I would like to travel a lot more but up to now I have not had the opportunity. I would like to go to Costa Rica for example.

Q: Cycling or hiking?

A: Hiking.

Q: Nike or Adidas?

A: Adidas.

Q: Cash or Card?

A: Card.

Q: Beer or wine?

A: Both, but beer more. “La tostada” is my favourite.