Dec the 11 Corporate
Coach Profile: Adriana Bento
“The most important thing is that you need to trust in yourself, keep pushing, and not be afraid to speak up.”
From representing Brazil on the world stage to coaching Canadian national teams, it’s safe to say Adriana Bento knows beach volleyball.
Born and raised in Brazil, Bento rose to the top of the world in beach volleyball, compiling 20 top-10 finishes, six top-five finishes, and a gold medal in FIVB tournaments. She was a three-time South American champion, consistently ranked in the top-six players in Brazil. She finished fifth at the 1999 Pan Am Games in Winnipeg.
Moving to Canada in 2010, Bento turned her attention to coaching. Starting as an assistant coach for the University of Toronto, she’s gone on to become an assistant coach with the National Beach Team and the head coach of the NextGen team. She’s also the indoor volleyball head coach at Centennial College. Starting out coaching the women’s team, in 2019 she was also given the reigns of the men’s team.
Volleyball Canada recently had a chance to talk with Bento about her coaching career and some general thoughts on coaching in the sport.
Volleyball Canada: Let’s start with your playing career, you have quite an extensive resume, from 20 top-10 FIVB finishes, six in the top-five, and a gold medal. Looking back, what made you so successful?
Adriana Bento: In Brazil, everyone expects you to get results and the expectation was always high. The level of National Tour in Brazil helped me prepare for international competitions on the FIVB events. We always have another team challenge you to move forward, because if you don’t move forward someone will take your spot.
VC: What are you most proud of from your playing career?
AB: The sport gave me the opportunities in life that I never thought I would be able to achieve. I am proud to take a chance in everything that I decided to do. I left home to play volleyball when I was 16 years old. I never went back to live with my parents because volleyball was my full-time job until I was 36 years old. I am very happy for everything that I achieved in the sport.
VC: How did you transition into coaching? Was it something that you always thought about?
AB: I never thought about being a volleyball coach. After my retirement, my focus changed to be a full-time mom and taking care of my two kids. I moved to Canada in 2010 to follow my husband who was transferred to work in Toronto. My coaching career started in Canada without speaking fluent English and it was extremely hard. Kristine Drakich give me my first job as an assistant coach of University of Toronto. I started coaching beach volleyball with a special player Rebecca Moskowitz that I have a lot of respect for. I enjoyed working with her a lot and now she is an incredible lawyer and mother.
VC: Who supported you in the journey? Do you have any mentors?
AB: Kristine Drakich - she is my friend, my mentor, and the person that I trust. She was with me on good days and bad days. She always knows how to make people feel better. She is my inspiration and a great mentor.
Ish Joseph, my friend coach that inspires younger athletes with his wisdoms of life. He coaches both of my kids and still inspire them since day one. He was a great mentor for me and my family.
VC: How has your playing career impacted your coaching career?
AB: When I started coaching, it was more my playing experience that helped me. But I realized coaching is not just about what you know from your past as a player. When I came to Canada, I discovered that the high performance athletes need to work to play their sport. In Brazil, playing volleyball was my full job. Completely different reality.
VC: What has been the biggest hurdle for you in your coaching career and how did you get through it?
AB: Moving to Canada with my family was a big challenge. You are nobody when you arrive, no matter if you had success in your country as a player. Focusing on my family’s happiness was more important in the process.
VC: Coming to Canada in 2010, you’ve coached indoor and beach, you’re the head coach of the men’s Centennial College, you’ve coached the women’s team at U of T. It’s safe to say you’ve seen a large part of the volleyball community. As a woman and someone who immigrated to Canada, how have you seen the volleyball landscape grow or change over the last decade of your coaching career when it comes to inclusion and diversity? Or has it?
AB: Volleyball in Canada changed a lot in the last 10 years in terms of the level of the athletes and the professionalism of the coaches on indoor club teams.
When you talk about inclusion and diversity, coaching the men’s volleyball team was great for me, but at the same time it was a challenge. In my first game of the season, coaches from another team and referees thought my assistant coach was the head coach just because he was a man. I decided to take the situation in good faith. Personally, it didn’t affect me but I know that it will happen many times again, especially as there are more female coaches entering the scene.
VC: Do you remember how you handled this at the time and would you have any advice for other women in this situation?
AB: I knew that could happen the first time. I didn’t see any women coaching men’s volleyball in Canada, Brazil – everywhere. It doesn’t matter if my name is on the website or I’m standing right there. I look at all the coaches I’m playing against so I know who they are, where they come from, what their story is. But they didn’t care to look who they were playing against or who the coach was. And it’s not just about the coaches. It was the referees too. They go to my assistant coach too, all the time. But then when they do come to me, they’re always like “Oh! You’re coaching men’s?!” It’s always kind of a question, like “how the heck are you doing this?”
The way that I handle it is I ignore it. It’s not the way that I think. To ignore it is to show that you don’t think about it – it’s not you. I like the dynamic of coaching men’s, I like coaching volleyball, and how other people think should never effect the women. It’s more about people questioning if you have a quality to coach or not. If you’re there, it’s because you have that quality. It’s not a question. Nobody is going to hire you if you didn’t have that quality.
VC: What could the volleyball community do better to attract women and new Canadians to coaching at all levels, and specifically at the college/university level?
AB: I am sure many women’s coaches start to focus on their coaching education to find better opportunities. Women should have more opportunity to gain coaching experience in both men’s and women’s sport, and more opportunity to move from an assistant coach to a head coaching position.
VC: I know that both of your kids play volleyball as well, and it looks like your son is a future superstar. What advice do you give them as they follow in your footsteps?
AB: I always told my kids to follow their dreams. We never had any expectations for them to follow my sport or my husband’s sport. My husband was a professional swimmer from Brazil. My daughter played two years of basketball before volleyball and my son played two years of soccer before volleyball.
I always remind them to do their best in everything that they decided to do, with respect and integrity. I did not know if volleyball was their pathway. I asked them from many years if they still want to play, until one day they told me to stop asking. That time I knew they wanted to pursue volleyball long term. No matter how talented you are in your sport, you are still going to have a lot of challenges that are going to test your perseverance and commitment to keep pushing forward in your dreams. Nothing will be easy, and you can’t give up because it is hard.
VC: Do you have any particular interests outside of volleyball and coaching and if so, how do you find the balance between that interest and volleyball?
AB: I like cooking when I have time. I am always striving to understand the flavour of food. I enjoy the time I have with my daughter discovering new recipes.
I also like painting but with my current jobs, it is hard to find time to sit down and pick up a brush. I have been starting to get back into it to relax after a long day or week of coaching.
VC: What are you most proud of in your coaching career?
AB: I am proud that I am passionate and open to learning. I have a positive energy and I always will address anything directly. I have integrity and that is very important to me.
VC: Do you have any advice for new coaches?
AB: If you think you know, you don’t know. If you want to grow in your coaching career, start to learn from different cultures too. Have an open mind, try new things. Have a chance to ask many questions. Find a mentor but make sure to have someone that inspires you and helps you to grow. The most important thing is that you need to trust in yourself, keep pushing, and not be afraid to speak up.
VC: What do you wish you had – advice, support, education, etc. - when you started?
AB: I wish my coaching started in Brazil before I came to Canada. Starting to coach in a new country with different language was a challenge.
Interview by: Josh Bell