Interview with Reis Castro

Reis Castro qualified 4 times in a row with Brazilian women teams for the Olympics (Juliana/Larissa twice, Larissa/Talita and now Ana Patricia/Rebecca). That is a very difficult and quite amazing achievement. In this interview he talks about his coaching style and his development as a coach.

Let’s talk about your coaching style and philosophy first: What are the similarities and differences in leading Larissa/Juliana and now Ana Patricia/Rebecca to World Class top level?

I’m a big believer in respect. Respect is the foundation I build on.  Larissa/Juliana both have strong personalities, they learned quickly to make decisions both on and off the court making my work easier. My leadership role was focused on planning training sessions and strategy.
With Rebecca/Ana Patricia I keep in mind that they are young athletes and that they have a long career ahead.
Despite their differences, my philosophy and strategy for both teams is the same, always teaching them to have the mindset of a champion.

With these teams, did you follow a detailed plan from the very beginning or did a lot of things develop along the way?

Yes, I follow a plan from the very beginning.  I have developed a detailed curriculum that I follow at my training center.

What is changing in your coaching style during the start of the work with a team to the point when they have reached top top level?

As I have matured over the years I have become more light with my athletes. I need clarity and intuition to understand what young players need.

What is the most important for you? Improvement of technique? Tactic/decision making? Synchronization and rhythm of the team? Athletic development? Mental strength?

Players with their mind set on the Olympics need to have all of these skills. To be a champion and complete player they need a full toolbox of skills, including technique, tactics, rhythm, and mental toughness. Each skill supports and strengthens the other.

Is there – in your opinion – a certain period to focus on each of these during the career of the athletes? Or do they all need constant improvement and developmental work, in every year of their career?

Every athlete needs to continuously improve every year of their career. Evolution and growth has to be constant even if the pace slows over the years.

Allow us to ask some questions about your players: Ana Patricia and Rebecca both hit the ball very hard, is this something that came naturally? How do you work on this?

Beach volleyball at the highest level demands of its athletes a genetic component as well as trained fundamental skills that become automatic. Excellence in this sport requires very hard work and dedication, both in physical training as well as technical and mental training so that the athlete has control during a rally.

They are also both players with a very high “playing intelligence”, they find very good solutions. What do you do in practice (or outside of the court) to get players to that level?

I require a lot of my athletes. We never go onto the court without a plan, without knowing what we need to do. During our daily training sessions I create situations that require quick and assertive decisions from my players. Training this way builds confidence and prepares them for the high pressure competitions.

Let’s have a look at some more general aspects of our sport: How do you see the development of women’s Beach volleyball in the last 10-15 years? What changed? Where do you see the “rest of the world” now compared to Brazilian teams?

I see the sport of beach volleyball as a child that has developed and grown and now is independent. In the early days of beach volleyball the US dominated the sport at the international level. Brazil and Germany broke into the top levels and became powerhouses in their own right. As other countries saw the possibilities of Olympic medals the game spread across the world and new players came onto the scene, taller, stronger, more athletic and with court vision and developed technique. The addition of these athletes from other countries raised the level of the game and required more focus, more particular physical training, more detailed planning for each event.  It’s natural that as many countries develop their beach volleyball teams the dominance of the early favourites fades as the years go by.

What will women’s Beach volleyball look like in 5-10 years? Which skills will a Top 3 team (World Ranking) need by then – compared to now?

As I see athletes who are taller, stronger, have excellent technique, who have grit and a will to win, it becomes more and more anyone’s game. The dominance of certain countries will fade. In five to ten years there will be Olympic Games where fifteen teams have the odds to win gold. As I said before, as women’s beach volleyball gains height and strength in the next ten years we will see matches decided by ever stronger serves and attacks. I emphasize that height and strength alone are not enough if players don’t have excellent technique.

We would like to ask a few questions about Beach volleyball and Coaching in Brazil: Is there a typical Brazilian way of training, playing and coaching? On the court? In the athletic/physical training?

I’m sorry, but I don’t really see the difference. I see many pairs here in Brazil play different styles. What I do see is that the level of competition of our national tour is high and coaches are always working hard to beat the offensive systems and defenses of their opponents.

When talented kids and juniors play in Brazil, is there are a separation between Indoor and Beach? Or do they do both? At what age? What is your personal opinion: do you believe young athletes should do both to develop or focus early on one sport only?

Here in Brazil in cities along the coast many families take their young children to the beach in the evenings as the sun is setting. These activities don’t center round beach volleyball, but children as young as 3 are playing in the sand and developing motor skills and socializing. They become comfortable moving in the sand. When children are between 10-12 years old and show interest, parents enroll them in beach volleyball clubs and these clubs carry them through the different age groups. Here in Brazil most athletes begin as indoor players and then transition over to beach. Because the sun is so intense in Brazil, I think developing technique and coordination indoors is a good idea. Players can transition to playing outdoors once they have developed motor skills.

You have the experience of coaching on the court during the game on the Brazilian Tour, while on the FIVB World Tour, this is not possible: Is this a big change for you personally as a coach?

Yes, because when we have the opportunity to coach during the game we can make corrections and adjustments.

What does it mean for your team?

It leaves us at a disadvantage.

Would coaching on the FIVB World Tour change the game?

Yes, no doubt.

Would the quality and/or the character of the game change?

The quality of the game would change, because coaching gives the athlete confidence.

Would certain teams or players profit more than others?

I’m not sure how to measure the benefit, but what I can say is that it would elevate the level of play.