Interview with Leticia Pessoa

Leticia is among the most successful coaches in the sport of beachvolleyball. She worked among others with such accomplished players as Emanuel, Alison, Ricardo, Carol, Agatha and Duda. Read here how she became a coach, what advice she gives female coaches and what pieca of advice was important for her own developoment.

You are the most successful coach in our sport to-date winning with your teams an impressive 3 Olympic medals and 3 World Championship titles, as well as many other World Tour, Pan-American, and Goodwill Games Championships. You have an impressive track record. Can you take us back to your beginning? What got you interested in the sport and in coaching? Can you share with us your volleyball/beach volleyball history? Was there a specific moment that inspired you to make a career out of coaching?

I started to play indoor volleyball when I was eight years old. When I was fourteen, my coach, Mr. Inaldo Manta (not alive anymore), was Brazil’s  national indoor volleyball coach for a while. At that time, he asked me what I wanted out of volleyball and I replied to him that I wanted to be an Olympic champion. Then he said: “I got both good and bad news for you. The bad news is that you won’t be an Olympic champion as a player because you are too short. However, the good news is that you have good leadership skills. You will make a very good coach.”

After that conversation, I started to help him with the younger categories of players and when I turned eighteen, I stopped playing, got into college and started to work with younger indoor volleyball players at a sports club in Rio called Fluminense (https://www.fluminense.com.br/site/) . Back then, my colleagues Rose and Roseli invited me to coach them for amateurish beach volleyball tournaments and they did so well that they became the first Brazilian beach volleyball duo to climb a podium in an international tournament (Almeria, Spain, 1992). After that, I quit coaching indoor volleyball and started coaching beach volleyball only.

If you weren’t coaching, what would you be doing? Did you ever consider something else as a profession?

When I was young, I dreamed of studying oceanography; I wanted to teach dolphins to perform tricks. However, once I started beach volleyball, I never thought of anything else.

You have been around our sport for a long time and have seen a lot. In your opinion, what has been the most impactful change that has taken place?  What changes would you like to see happen now that you feel would make it even better?

The most impactful change has been the fact that it became an Olympic sport so quickly, with record attendance. I would like beach volleyball to become professionalized like indoor volleyball, with coaches sitting on the bench.

You’ve coached both men and women.  Do you approach the genders differently? Can you explain the similarities and the differences between how you approach coaching them?

With men, communication is more straightforward and I am more demanding. With women, the approach is different, in that I tend to explain more, always focusing on motivation.

There are very few women coaching on the tour today. Why do you think this is the case? Do you think it’s important to encourage more women to become coaches? If so, how?

I think it will happen naturally eventually. In Tokyo’s Olympic Games there will be more female athletes. Prejudice and sexism are both out of fashion and this shift will take place in a natural way.

What advice would you give to women wanting to get into coaching?

I have never paid attention to jokes in bad taste or prejudice. My piece of advice would be for them to pretend these negative things do not exist  and that  they should be who they are. They should always focus on their goals and not on other people.

What keeps you motivated today?

Seeing young athletes improving, being up-to-date and having this indescribable feeling of wanting to win all keep me motivated.

Part II – Now it’s time for some quick-fire questions. What is your coaching style? Can you describe it in 3 sentences?

I teach athletes to think and always remind them why they are there. I also tell them to place “happiness” on the choices that they make.

If your athletes from 20 years ago were to describe you in 1 word, what would it be?

Tenacious

What book has influenced you the most in the last 5 years?

Muitas Vidas, Muitos Mestres (Many Lives, Many Masters by Brian Weiss); O Poder do Agora (The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle)

Who has been the biggest influencer in your life?

My mother, Rosane Pessoa

When you aren’t coaching, what is your favorite thing to do?

Being with my family and my friends

What is the best piece of advice you have heard lately?

Persevere and never lose your focus!

What is one thing you have learned recently that has disproved a previous belief?

I have learned that everything is cyclical and that working hard pays off

That’s it! Thank you!