Bernardo Rezende: In our federation people think that everything is easy for us and you don't have to do anything

2014-03-27 20:00:00
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In an exclusive interview for Bernardinho talks about the mess in CBV, his team Unilever Rio de Janeiro, Logan Tom, cycling, how to guide a player and many, many more!

First of all I would like to talk about your team. Brankica Mihajlović has joined Unilever just recently. How does she feel feel in a new environment?


Bernardo Rezende: That's right. Brankica took part in the European Championships, where she got injured and she has joined us a few days before our departure to Zürich, so she's had less than a week of training. She didn't really get a chance to know Brazil. We've played two games before leaving to Switzerland and she has entered the court for a few minutes, so she could feel the atmosphere. She still has a lot to learn, but she has a great potential and I believe that she will be a key player in our team this season. She likes the team, loves to spend time with the other girls, to stay in their company and that is also important. She brings a lot of positive energy to the group and I think she's capable of great things. We have followed her game for quite some time, so we know what to expect from her and which elements need to be improved. She is also aware of this issue and is eager to learn. And we are here to help her the best way we can.


Last season you've signed a contract with Sarah Pavan. I think she has made a nice progress in her game. How does it look from your perspective?


Sarah? Oh, definitely! She had a good, very stable, season. She's a Canadian and her national team doesn't play at the high level, so she doesn't have too much opportunities where she can develop her skills by playing with various teams. It's difficult to get that international experience, that is so important if you want to play at a really high level. I think her last season in Italy was not too successful. It was better here in Brazil. We were able to improve some elements in her game, including the defense or her movement. We've worked on the technique, on consitency. And as a result, she was able to really help our team. There are some very good teams in the Superleague, some great foreign players have come to play in Brazil, so it also gave the whole league a lot of diversity. Sarah is an excellent volleyball player and she has a bright future. We are very happy to have her with us.


I also think that she's stronger mentally. Has it been something you were working on too?


Yes, I agree. You know, it is a constant evolving process. Each player has to learn how to deal with pressure, needs to grow, to mature, and this is not something that comes to you in a day. It was an entirely new experience for her. She had to learn how to live and work in a different environment. She also met with a slightly different volleyball culture, different system. Our league differs from the others - the best athletes in the world, Olympic champions, are playing here. It is not easy to just go on the court and face them. But the more you do it, the more you play against them, the more you adapt and this, let's say, "fear", disappears. We play matches more frequently than in Europe, so there's also less time for recovery, both physical and mental. But every victory over such a strong team can only pump up the player more.


I have a friend in Brazil who lives in Rio de Janeiro and always cheers for Unilever, so we often talk about the team. She always spoke very warmly about Amanda, calling her "the heart of the team", despite the fact that she's not playing much. Could you tell me a bit more about her role in the team?


That's very true - Amanda is a very important player and person. She doesn't play much, she mostly help us in the back row. As you've mentioned - she has great serve, digs a bit. But first of all she always works for a team - whether it's during the training or outside the court. She's always working on building bonds between players, fully devotes herself to the group. She's there when a new player arrives, she helps with the introductions, supports them, assists with whatever they may need. And she spends equal time with others. Amanda is our leader - a very important person for the whole group. This is someone you always want to have on the team. She's been playing with us for the last 10 years, so she knows everything inside-out. And her role hasn't really changed - she was and is incredibly important to us. Amanda has a passion for volleyball - she loves the game, loves to stay in the gym.


Some time ago we did an interview Angelina Hübner. She said that despite her  experience and years spent on the court, she would gladly listen to some advices from coaches, but they don't really do that anymore. So I would like to ask you about Fofão. From your point of view - does she still need a coach, someone to guide her?


I think everyone needs a coach, someone who can help in a difficult time, in a particular situation. Someone to take off the pressure from the player, say few words of encouragement. Of course, thanks to her experience she may need that less than the others. We have worked together a long, long time ago in the national team and she was always listening to what I had to say. She always wanted to learn more and more. But the most important thing is that she just loves what she does and the age of 40 she has the same passion as before. Thanks to that she is still here.




Photo 1. Fofão and Bernardo Rezende (source:




You are known for a very individual approach towards the players. How do you figure out how to help and lead a player as you have contact with so many of them? What is your secret?


To be able to teach someone or to guide someone, you have to know him. First you need to observe someone very closely. Pay attention to what the player needs, understand them. Recognize the words or phrases that support, that motivate them most, or, for example, those that could tell them - in the easiest way - what they need to improve technically. What challenges they have set for themselves, what challenges you can put in front of them? For some athletes this is the best method - to continually challenge them, to raise their objectives, to provoke them to some degree. You have to know them, you have to know how they feel. You can be a hard coach or one that supports or whatever, but the most important thing is that they have to trust you. Sometimes we make mistakes, and it happens, because we are not infallible, but if we do it unintentionally, and they know that, then they are aware of the fact that we always want what is the best for them. They want to be the best they can and our mission is to help them.



Would you keep in the team someone who is very talented, but at the same time lazy?


First of all I would try to make them work hard or put a pressure on them. If a player is simply lazy, then most of the time I am able to deal with them one way or another, but worse thing is when they will not work for the team. When they're not helping their teammates, support them or when they even hurt them - in this case this person will not stay too long in my team. Returning to our idler. As I mentioned - we will try to make them work as much as possible, we will prepare additional exercises for them, we will try push them from different angles, give specific tasks to complete, try different things. It can make a difference. You have to give someone the most diverse drills to somehow stimulate them. Do not give them the same set exercises over and over again, and so on. But if all of this does not help, then, unfortunately, will have to say goodbye to them. I always want to create a team composed with the best players, we want to work hard and be among the best teams, so my players have to meet certain requirements.



You often say that the most difficult thing is not to win, but to keep winning and that is what are you trying to teach your players - to train hard like they're on the second place. To not stop working despite just winning the medal. Is it difficult to teach that someone who had just won the first medal in their life?


Every victory, every success is addictive. And usually people want more, they want to continue the good run, because it's a great feeling. In addition, you've made it with the people that are mostly close to you. And if you want to repeat it, you should get back to work the next day. If the players see that you as a coach are not standing still, that you just went back to working hard, to studying opponents, analyzing matches, when they see your commitment and dedication, they will imitate you. They may feel ashamed that they're not doing the same thing you do. You just have to give them an example, I think it is the best method.


In volleyball we always talk about skills and technique, but what kind of inluence can volleyball have on the players and their characters?


I think that it can improve the character. Volleyball allows you to test yourself and to check your capabilities. I truly believe that, thanks to the fact that each sport has its own rules and regulations, we can test ourselves in a lot of different ways. By practicing various sports you can test yourself in various stressful situations and deal with the whole group of rivals. This is a good base to start working on yourselves or your character. Is this sport helps you develop what you want, or maybe just the opposite? Sometimes it is hard to change something in yourself, but it happens and these changes are necessary if you want to move forward. To make the next step. How do you deal with the pressure? What do you do when all depends on how you perform the next play? How do you react? These are, among others, tasks you have to face that are all leading to the "exam" - for example next fight or an important game. And depending on how you perform, you will know if you are still a boy or a man. I think in this kind of situations, we can test ourselves and build our character.


You seem to be much calmer when leading a female team. Why is that?


Ah ... (laughs)


It's just an observation from an outsider.


Well, yeah, there may be some truth in this. But a lot depends on who I am working with - I would never want my behaviour to stress players more than they need to, so when I have athletes who are already familiar with me, I can afford more. With the new ones I have to be a little more tamed, to not let them think that they have to deal with a crazy person (laughs). Secondly, at the beginning, after a week of training, we cannot pretend that we are the best team in the world, we have to work on it. That is why during the training I'm always trying to create the greatest pressure, to put the players in the most difficult conditions, to create them "hell", so they can understand how it would look in the game and be prepared for what might happen.



I would like to briefly return to the previous season and ask you about Logan Tom. When she has signed the contract with Unilever, you spoke very highly of her. Do you think that, despite the injury, she fulfilled her role in the team?


No, not really. Sometimes you have something to do, a certain task, you try your best to do everything well and sometimes it's just not working. This things happen. There is a lack of "something", maybe "chemistry", maybe something else. And that was the case here. Logan has tried everything, we also have, but for some reason we could not make her play we know she can. We were not able to exploit her full potential. And for me personally, having this great athlete and not being able to get her play the best she can, to be the leader we wanted her to be, is very sad. Later she got injured and that excluded her from playing for two months, which was actually till the end of the season. We really had a good relationship, I think she is a wonderful person and a professional athlete who likes and knows what it means to work hard. And she has achieved a lot. She can lead a team, she knows how to direct a team on the court and she has a positive attitude towards everything. But this time something just didn't work. I've known Logan since she was 17, from the time I lead the national team, and I truly regret that, in spite of all, we could not find a way to show her best game. In a sense, she is a specific person - a lone wolf who wanders her own paths. And we have to respect that. The media in Brazil, for example, didn't. They spread some rumors, bothered her. It's s a pity that it did not work out the way we wanted to.



Sometimes these things happen and there's nothing you can do about it.


Exactly. I always wanted the best for her. I wanted her to be happy, because it is also partly the result of how we play - when we're doing well, we're happy. I think we all know how Logan can play, how consistent she can be throughout the season. That's what was lacking. We never had any...


... personal problems?


No, no, no, absolutely! I wish her all the best, I hope that in a new team she'll be able to do everything she couldn't do here. She is an amazing volleyball player, she can still help any club and her national team. It just did not work out with us. I am far, far from putting any blame on her, or for that matter on any athlete - it's just wrong and not fair. You can never do that. I take full responsibility for the mistakes. I am the coach and it is my duty to make the athlete play their best.




Photo 2. Bernardinho talks with Logan Tom during the time-out (source:




Your federation has decided to make some changes in the league this season...


21 points rule?


Yes, that too. But first I'd like to ask you about the schedule, which was extremely chaotic, and some teams had to simultaneously play the league and state championships.


It's just... someone made too many bad choices. First of all the league is too long. In addition, some teams took part in the state championships, and some didn't, so there was no balance. It was a total mess, someone who has tried to follow the games was not able to catch up - are we playing Superleague, Paulista, Carioca or what? Even we had problems with that! For example last week we've played a match against Campinas and you couldn't tell whether that was São Paulo championships or Superleague. This is the worst thing that can happen to the league. We want to create a strong league, a league that not only stands out in Brazil, but also in the world. And in theory we do have the strongest league in the world. But we also have chaos. We need someone from the outside who will come and for 24 hours a day will be thinking only about how to professionally manage the league, which is a very important part of our volleyball. Troubles in the league will be seen in the national team. This year we've finished the league season and almost immediately had to play South American Club Championship, so for example RJX's players like Bruno, Thiago, Lucão or Lucarelli from Vivo/Minas arrived at training camp straight out of the tournament, and then immediately we had to go to the first World League matches against Poland, completely without any preparations. Players were tired, they had injuries and had to play for the next two months. We have finished WL really exhausted, because we did not have time to train. We couldn't build a "base" to play the tournament. We've won the second place, which was relatively ok, and a week later we have played World Championships qualification tournament and only then we went home. In the meantime players had about 10 days off. Other teams from NORCECA zone, from Europe, they all had time to prepare, to relax, to have some friendly games, like Wagner Memorial and others. In Europe there's time to play and there's time for training.

We have started a new quadrennial and we never got a chance to make some normal preparations, because our federation has created just terrible schedule. I have fought with CBV about our national team training schedule for the last 6 years. Last year I had to choose - World League or Olympic Games. We've played one final, then another, and there were barely two months between them. Give us a chance! We are not the best. We have won a lot and people think that this is how it always will be. We are a good team, we always give our best and we do everything to win. We are among the best teams in the world. When you look at the men's volleyball at the international level there's a lot of great teams. For 12 or 13 years we have played the finals of most tournaments we participated in, but always against different teams. When we've played our first World Championship final in 2002 we had Russia, then Poland in 2006 and in 2010 we've faced Cuba. In our first Olympic final we've played against Italy, in 2008 - USA and in London - Russia. We won the World League won a total of 8 times and we have played finals against Serbia, France, Russia and so on. We were winning, we were keeping our high level, we were consistent. I try all the time to keep us among this strong group. I know it's hard. It's hard to keep that level. And in our federation people think that everything is easy for us and you don't have to do anything.

One thing that always comes to my mind is that people like to point fingers at other people and try to find scapegoats. I follow what is happening in the Polish national team. In 2002 you had a very good coach, matches between our teams were fierce, full of fight. I remember Murek, Gruszka, this generation of players. As an outside hitter played... played...


... Świderski.

Yes, Świderski. It was a good team. Then in 2004, there was... Raul Lozano? No, Gościniak. Great setter, a good coach and a wonderful person. Lozano came in 2005 and you've played in the World Champioships final. The next season was not as successful as the previous one, so you've changed the coach again. Then Castellani came. You have won the European Championship with him, but the world championships weren't so good. Everything was decided in 2 matches - against us and Bulgaria, anyone could win, anyone could loose, because we had three equal teams in one group. So, once again you've made the change, and this time it was Anastasi. 2011 was a great season for you, a year later you've won the World League, but the Olympics did not work out that well. And now I hear that you are changing the coach again. It seems that you do that every two years!


You could say the same about women's national team! We have a new coach every year and a half-two years. There's always someone new!


Well, I think that your national teams have enormous potential that can be worked with. I think it's a shame that this kind of situations are happening, especially when it comes to the female team. I think there's a lot of good "material" from which you can create a great team. Good athletes, willing to work, you can do almost everything you want. Create a system. I used this example because I love Poland, I love the way people are engaged in volleyball. I like your country. For all these years, when I had the opportunity to play in Poland, I have learned to love this place, respect the people who live here, to like them. Therefore, I feel that I can say about them a little more than about other teams. I guess I got to to know them a bit better. I often go back to the meetings we've played in the halls full of fans, to these fierce encounters. I think that when you change something so frequently, you may spoil the whole thing. This is not the way. Consitency is very important. I am thinking about a large group of coaches. I do not want to say that this coach is better and this one is worse - each one of them was good in its own way.


Let us return to the subject of Superleague and 21-point rule...


It's a total mess. This is the idea of our former president, who is now in charge of the FIVB. He has forced it on and I'm sorry that the clubs accepted it. Directors should have said: "No way! You can't do that!" It was tested at the World Championships U23, which I think was a good idea, but that was still just a test, right? And I guess it was the only tournament?


European League also had this rule.


Oh, ok. I think that these kind of tests can be made, but not in the most important competitions! You cannot change the rules according to one's whim. This decision was taken by one person. But before you start thinking about reducing the number of points in the set, you should measure the so called "dead time" that is between the rallies. Maybe reduce the number of time outs - we have six right now - two for each coach plus two technical time outs. You should start here. Graça wants volleyball to be attractive for television, but to me it seems that changing the score system isn't the best idea. He thought that this is an ideal option, but in order to fully develop this you need to take several tests and not in our or in the Polish league. But in smaller, less significant tournaments? Why not.


I've read that the efforts to reduce the duration of the matches have been taken in tennis. They wanted to reduce the time between the rallies.


Yes, I've heard about that. Now they have about 15 seconds to start the service. Last year I had the opportunity to read an interesting statement about the playing time in volleyball. And between one action and the next on we have: players celebrating, quarrels with the judges and so on. And it all this takes like 25 seconds. Let's change it to 15 or 10. This is could really shorten the time of the matches. We need to get rid of the "dead time", when nothing happens on the court and there's no volleyball to watch. Let's look at this: 21 points in the set, one-sided game and what?


And it ends in less than an hour.


That's right. And with all these intervals you have like 40 minutes of pure volleyball.


Not to mention the fact that it could take you for example 2 hours to get to the gym.




Will this new system change anything in the training?


To me it's seems that, first of all, there will be more pressure on the players during the games, because there will be less time to turn things around. These decisive moments will come faster - there won't be many chances to build up the score and then comfortably keep it till the end. It will be a hard fought battle all the time. The game will become more aggressive, because everything will happen faster.


What do you think about increasing the number of teams in the league? There has been a lot of talk about the financial problems of some of the clubs.


(sighs) Many of these decisions are just political. They are taken by people who are closely associated with the former president of Brazil, from the north-eastern region. There is no one leadership, decisions are taken out of political convinience. And this is very bad for sport. We haven't established any rules, we have not created any system. Our league should consist of 12 teams, and that's it! Then we can have a first or second league, or whatever. There are many clubs in the Superleague with financial problems - such as Volta Redonda, who had struggled last season. And they're playing again this season, although they shouldn't. There are other teams and we know about them, so why allow them to play? Why don't we create certain conditions that the clubs have to fullfill? It's just ... no leadership.


Is it one of the reasons you've decided to join a party, PSDB? Would you like to to make a difference this way?


I just want show my support someone who has different ideas for our country. In my opinion the party that has been leading in Brazil for the last 12 years, when it comes to economic issues, makes only bad decisions. They have no plan for how to manage and lead the country. They have power and are at the top, but otherwise do not do anything to conduct the country. It has been argued that I'm going to run for governor, or something like that, but it's their wish, not mine. I would like to support someone who can do a better job of helping the country, because it's about time. The current government is thinking only about the next election and how to make large amounts of money - it shouldn't be this way at all. I think that as a country we have a great potential that we use very, very poorly at the moment.



So politics is not something you might want to do in the future?


Oh, no, no. I don't like how politics works and I don't think I would be good at this.




Photo 3. Rezende talks with his players (source:




I would like to ask you about your new hobby...


Cycling? (laughs)


Yes! How are you doing right now?


You know I would love to take a ride in the mountains tomorrow morning, but unfortunately I do not have a bike here (laughs). Cycling is great for your body, helps you to maintain good health, improves your shape. It also helps me to relax and gives me a little break from all pressure during the games and from volleyball in general. It's really amazing. In addition, thanks to cycling, I was able to meet new people, get some new friends. For example, I was with my family in France last year and for a week I had the opportunity to ride around Provence - it was an incredible experience. This year, as always, I've had like a week of holidays, so we went to Tuscany, where I took part in the race for the first time. My wife is also cycling, so we can spend more time with each other and with our friends. I want to be active. I did not choose for example golf, which of course is a nice sport, but not very energetic, so it's not for me. And I want to be active all the time, breathe the air, just ride. It's started about two years ago when I bought a few shirts. Then I've bought the bike and then I systematically began to buy more and more equipment. Shoping and searching for something new for my bike is always a great pleasure. So for me cycling is a very good and a very healthy experience.


I remember that you mentioned once that you would like to take part in the amateur Tour de France. Is there any chance for that?


Yes, that's right. The problem is that the World League is played at the same time, so the calendar works against me. I would love to be a part of it, to taste the atmosphere of this cycling feast. But I just want to emphasize that I'm very, very amateurish and my level is very, very weak, so I'd do it just for fun and maybe to confirm that I was doing a good job, not to achieve a certain result. I'm not so young anymore. (laughs).


Does cycling help you in volleyball in any way?


Definitely. I keep busy, but at the same time I relax. I can focus on one thing. Cycling is a very humble experience - it's just you and the mountain you have to climb on. And compared to her you are nothing. Looking up at the mountain I'm not Bernardinho, I'm just an ordinary, average man. I think it's important, because you can look at yourself in a different, maybe a little spiritual way.


And the last question - three things that make volleyball better than the other sports?


I would not say "better", but simply different, unique in its kind. First of all - for me it is the most team sport of all that I know. Of course, there are other remarkable sports that I also love, admire and respect, but in volleyball a lot depends on the work of others and I think that being part of the team, something bigger than just your own desires, is a wonderful feeling. Second, you cannot "hide" in volleyball - you need to be ready all the time, the ball can fly in your direction at any time, you have to be ready to pass, or do something else. As a result, you learn that discipline is important and your preparations and trainings to be able to do certain things and to help the team are crucial. In short - it's a team work. And for the third thing ... hmm. We've talked a lot about the situation of the individual in the team. Volleyball is not a contact sport, so in order to defeat your opponent you need to be strong here (points to his head). You think about your anxieties or good sides or whatever and on the other side of the net is your rival. You're preparing to serve and you know that you have to play well. You're wondering what will happen if you put the ball out, what kind of play your opponent will make... and during all that time it's just you and the ball. Alone. You are tense, anxious, and yet you have to do well. That's why this mental strength is so necessary and you need to work on this all the time. On how to deal with pressure. This virtual pressure, that is always present. You know, for me, each of the sports has something that makes it beautiful. I love them all and I try to watch them as often as possible.

From Zürich - Laura Kusztelak.

In cooperation with - Zuzanna Dulnik.

photo source:

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