When did you start playing Volleyball?
I started playing in middle school in gym classes. My family lived near the beach, and one day while I was playing on the sand, a coach at a private boarding school saw me. He offered me a scholarship to play at his high school, which was a couple of hours away from my town. I was 13, a bit young to leave my family. But I loved volleyball. It was a great high school with a great volleyball program, and my parents never hesitated to let me go.
Volleyball is a fascinating strategy sport. It demands great conditioning, lots of practice, team work, discipline, speed, and most importantly, intelligence.
What was it like growing up in Brazil? What was your family life like?
I come from a working class family, and my brother and I always had to work and help out around the house. Therefore, I learned how to work hard and fight for everything that I ever accomplished in life. My mother worked, but we didn’t have enough money to hire help. So we did the beds, cooked, cleaned, etc. My dad worked as a bank teller. My mother taught grammar school, and in the second grade she was my teacher. She was very particular about my grades and manners. Later, in high school, I liked chemistry, biology, math, and I also read a lot of history books.
I was raised by the beach, and contrary to the popular conception of Brazilian beaches as dangerous, I had a healthy and free childhood. My parents instilled in us the values of honesty, respect, hard work and faith in God. They gave us the freedom to make our own decisions, but they held us responsible for consequences of our decisions. Perhaps I didn’t have everything I wanted in terms of material things, but I was blessed with great parents and I thank God every night for the values they instilled in us.
How did you wind up coming to NJIT?
We do not have college sports in Brazil, so after you graduate from high school you either become professional or go to college to study. I finished high school and had to work as a waiter for two years to save money for college. During this time I missed volleyball with a passion. I heard about some Brazilian student-athletes who came to the U.S. to play and study and I decided to do the same. Coming to the US would be a perfect way to combine playing volleyball with studying. I did research on the web, got some addresses and e-mails and sent out some videotapes of me playing to a few top colleges, including NJIT. The coach offered me a scholarship to come here. I was the first of the three Brazilians to play for NJIT, and I later encouraged my friend, Leonardo Paludo, to come to NJIT. The school had a great plan to rebuild and upgrade its sport’s program to Division I, and hired a great volleyball coach who is a former national champion. My decision to study here was also influenced by NJIT’s strong academic background.
Was it difficult coming to live and study in a new country?
At first, the cold weather and the language barrier were the biggest challenge for me. I really missed the beach, my hometown and family, the warm weather. But I lived on campus since my first day, so I made a lot of friends here. I now live in Oak Hall and we often get together and hang out and watch films, or go out to eat in the Ironbound section, where I work as a waiter in a great Brazilian restaurant. Also, my teammates received me with open arms, and I adopted them as my “American family.” My English was bad at first, and people teased me -- they still do. I’m much more fluent in Portuguese, so it takes me much longer to read and study in English, especially technical material. That’s okay. I just have to work harder and study longer.
Three of the four players who made the All-Academic team are from Brazil? How do you account for that?
Perhaps the Brazilian waters helped our brains? No, seriously, I think it has to do with us trying to make the best of our situations. After all, we left our homes, our families, our friends – everything we had – to come to American to study and play. So I feel -- and I think my Brazilian teammates would agree, that not to make the best of our time here would be a waste. There’s no point in coming here -- sacrificing everything -- and not doing well.
What made your team so successful this season? The team won the Eastern Conference, and you and some of your fellow players are ranked nationally?
Ever since my freshman year -- I’m a junior now -- our main goal was to move up to the top division in the East Coast, and we finally accomplished it. However, we wanted to go further: We dream of playing in the NCAA Final-Four tournament, and next year we will make any sacrifice to reach the final-four.
I don’t know that we have a recipe for success, but a combination of factors helped us succeed. You can’t have a great team without great coaches, and we have two great coaches who live volleyball. Sacrifices are important, too, and we have student-athletes who sacrifice lots of things to benefit the team. Our team is also disciplined, determined and hard-working. Next year we’ll have five seniors on the team.
The elevation of the sports program to Division I has demanded more time and more sacrifices from us. But it also means we’ve improved and grown as a team. We had a good season this year, but next year we expect to have a season that the NJIT community will never forget.
You’re a great athlete but also a terrific student. Talk about your studies at NJIT?
I’m a business management student, with a double concentration in Management Information Systems and Finance. I’m in the accelerated BS/MBA program, which means I can take four graduate-level classes as an undergraduate. That will help me get my MBA in just a year. I’m also a student in the Albert Dorman Honors College, which offers its students honors classes and special lectures as well as generous scholarships The Honors College also helps us network with professionals and get summer internships. This summer, for instance, I’ll travel to Germany do an internship at Siemens, one of the world’s largest multinational conglomerates in the electronics and electrical fields. It will give me chance to learn another language and culture and see how an international company operates – invaluable experience that will help me later establish my own career.
Is it hard for you to balance your studies and volleyball?
It demands good time management and stern discipline to keep up with volleyball and classes. Now that the team plays in a top division, we travel a lot. So to save time I study on the bus. We practice an average of 20 hours a week: once at 5:30 a.m. and again at 4 p.m. The early morning practices are grueling and you have to have a lot of drive and a competitive spirit to push yourself. And certainly we carry that competitive spirit from sports to the classroom. There is no point in expending all that time and effort and settling for mediocrity.
What are your plans after you graduate next year from NJIT?
After I graduate I plan to return to Brazil and work for a multinational company for some years, perhaps for a financial consulting form. But after that, I want to start my own business. I think NJIT has given me the background to succeed at that.
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