A Visit to Brazil

Someone once told me to continue to learn no matter what level you are at as a coach…I knew wanted to immerse myself in an environment that would challenge my thinking and yet at the same time, I wanted to be able to apply what I learned from my experiences. I would say that I was able to accomplish this and much more during my visit to Brazil.  

My decision to return to this country was an easy one: winter in Canada and summer time in Brazil. All kidding aside, four years ago, I was fortunate enough to have visited Bernardo and his professional women’s team, then Unilever, now Rexona-Ades. That experience resonated with me for many reasons and being able to return was an incredible opportunity and privilege.

Although several years had passed since my last visit, it seemed like time stood still. The Rexona staff was the same group of people that I met four years ago; they are ageless wonders. The longevity and relationships this staff has fostered together is part of the foundation of any successful program. This speaks to the quality of work that they bring to the Team on a daily basis - the athletes receive the highest level of care and knowledge.

Being able to be in the gym with this group of athletes was a privilege – their work ethic and pursuit of excellence was incredible to witness. Whether the drill was simple or complex, the attention to detail given with every contact exemplified what it means to be a professional athlete. Yet as accomplished as they are, they were so very welcoming and had a humility about them that was down to earth and you couldn’t help but respect them both as athletes and as a great group of people.

This starts from the top down – this is Bernardo. His ability to be inclusive and share his knowledge not only with me but with the many people that ask for his time is a gift that few people have. The man has rock star status in his country and is mobbed wherever he goes and yet he treats everyone with patience and kindness.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the people of Brazil. We hear mostly about the negative stories and very little about what is good about this country. The people of Brazil are hard-working and kind. Every day, I saw just how hard they had to work to earn a living. For some, their monthly incomes are what some people here would earn in an hour.  

I can only speak from my experiences and there are multiple examples where complete strangers went out of their way to help me out. Whether it was waiting for over an hour at the airport counter for connecting passengers with only 30 minutes to catch my next flight (did I mention that I still had to get a boarding pass, check my bag through and my Portuguese is VERY limited) or going to Saquerma with a full bus load of people and hoping the driver would remember where I needed to be dropped off (not really sure if it was an official stop along the highway) but as I mentioned earlier, someone was always there to provide assistance.

The fans of Rexona-Ades are some of the best fans a team can have regardless of the sport – they are knowledgeable and passionate. Listening to them chant for Fabi as soon as they realized she was injured (I didn’t even know she was hurt until I heard them calling her name in unison) or cheer on the Team when they were sensing the opponent was threatening, they could give a lesson or two to many groups that call themselves supporters.

The relationship between the Team and the fans has been fostered by a vision of engaging the Team within the community: Rexona is accessible to the fans whether it’s through autographs/photos and social media but they also encourage social responsibility as well. During one of my visits, a state of emergency was in effect in one part of Rio. Due to the flooding, many people did not have water. The Team held a promotion for several matches where those coming to see the Team play were asked to donate whatever they could – this was the price of admission. During the season, the players and staff volunteer their time with young kids throughout the community. Their wish is to use volleyball as a vehicle for learning and to teach them that it is possible to have a better life through education and hard work - this is Bernardo.

Rexona-Ades may not have the largest budget or have the ‘biggest’ players but their strength is as One and they have a vision that goes far beyond the court – this is
Rexona Volei!

The volleyball, yes….a picture is worth a thousand words….I hope you enjoy…..

Music Credits: "Let the Groove Get In" by Justin Timberlake and "It's Time" by Imagine Dragons