I want to believe that Bernardo Rezende is just taking a break. He isn’t abandoning volleyball, I mean that would be like giving up on life. The masterful creator of a spirit of determination in his students is bidding farewell to Brazil’s national volleyball team, and a sport that will continue to beat on in his heart.
Bernardinho, perhaps retiring a little early for a 56 year old coach – is happily giving up his position after three indisputable achievements: success with Río de Janeiro, his native city; his son Bruno, Capitan of the national squad, and the gold in the 2016 Olympic Games; which came together last August to fill his heart with joy.
Speaking almost prophetically after his team defeated Italy in the final, Bernardinho noted that “Seeing all the fans celebrating the title, that’s the gold medal, the image that’ll stay with me." This coming from a man who would say that 20 years as a coach is a respectable amount to now dedicate more time to his family.
MOTIVATED & FRIENDLY
I met Bernardinho in the early 1990s during the 1994 Women’s World Volleyball Championships, in Brazil, where the national team won silver in his debut as head trainer in the competition. He has a lively and demanding coaching style on the court, which at times turns into frustration; a man who never kept secrets, conducting open-door training sessions. Restless, strategic, unleashing fury on the court, which would instantly become humility when talking with the press, or some curious fan eager to meet him.
Later I would meet him again in other scenarios where we would talk about volleyball. Always the same, attentive, pointing out any mistake made by his players or rival team. It was during the 2014 World Championships in Poland that I found him in a training session, leaning on a cane which he used to help him walk. Still recovering from an operation on his foot he left no space for pity. "I’m here, to fight," he stated at that time. The stadium, full to the brim, saw him leave with the silver medal, just behind the host team.
20 YEARS, AN OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT
To feel that life is like a gust of wind, that 20 years are nothing. That’s how the song “Volver” by Tango singer Carlos Gardel goes; however, for the man who dedicates countless hours every day to training his players and their education beyond the sport, 20 years includes a lifetime of experience, success and disappointments.
Rezende started out coaching Brazil’s women’s team from 1994 through 2000, with whom he won three Grand Prix championships, bronze in the Atlanta 1996 and Sydney 2000 Olympic Games, as well as the aforementioned silver in the 1994 World Championship.
HIS CROWNING GLORY
Rezende’s move to coaching the men’s team in 2000 saw the start of a new chapter in his career, which he is ending with more than 30 titles in various competitions. However, he was truly established as a volleyball legend after his team won the gold medal in Athens 2004; the silver in Beijing 2008 and London 2012, and finally as champions before his people in Río de Janeiro, last year.
Bernardinho was the reason why Brazil now occupies the number one spot in the volleyball world rankings, an achievement to which must be added the team's successes in the World Championships in Argentina 2002, Japan 2006 and Italy 2010, the latter with an undisputable 3-0 victory over Cuba in the final.
Of the nine titles won by the Brazilian team in the World League (number one followed by Italy with eight), Rezende served as head coach in eight editions between 2001 and 2010; while his squad repeatedly dominated regional championship competitions, and the 2003 and 2007 World Cups, among other achievements.
Fifty-six-year-old Renan Dal Zotto has been chosen to continue the path charted by Rezende, heading Brazil’s national men’s team, however, the mark left by his predecessor will remain for a long time in Brazilian volleyball.
voleibol1: Father and son, Bernardinho and Bruno Rezende, respectively. Photo: FIVB