From 0 to 7 years

My first memories are at the beach. Sport is the link that unites our family. Where there is a ball, there is a game, which means, at that age, joy, friends, and family. When my parents traveled to my father's international water polo competitions, my grandmother, Wally, took care of me. From her, I learned to listen to music with my eyes closed, play with dolls, and meditate holding her hands.

From 7 to 14 years

When I was 7 years old my parents enrolled me in the swim team at a sports club in Sao Paulo. At that time, water polo was a men's sport, so were boxing and ice hockey. Swimming allowed me to be in the water, my favorite element, but It did not come naturally to me. I worked hard and really enjoyed being part of a team. During this time, I competed in many different regions throughout Brazil and was always hosted by athletes, families, as was customary back then. This was key to learning about diversity, since we were exposed to different values and cultures (Brazil is a very diverse country and home to immigrants from Italy, Germany, Japan, Lebanon and Spain). An important part of my journey has been openness toward other cultures, embracing diversity, and having the courage to experiment. I became a good swimmer by practicing hard and being persistent, and this was key to my subsequent success in water polo.

At the age of 12, my grandparents took me to Europe. I visited my distant cousins in Italy and rediscovered my family in "the old continent". It was my first contact with a country that would welcome me with open arms in the not too distant future.

From 14 to 21 years

I was 15 years old when, finally, women's water polo was launched in Brazil!

I became one of the sport's pioneers. I have vivid memories of my first day, walking to the pool and looking forward to playing the sport my father and brothers had been playing all these years. When I caught the water polo ball for the first time, I felt like my hand and the ball were fused, and that the ball was part of my body. I was fully present in the moment and enjoyed every bit of it. My experience with water polo went beyond family tradition: I had discovered my very own passion.

When studying at Dante Alighieri, an Italian school in San Paulo, a desire to live abroad emerged. I pictured myself playing water polo in California, but my parents chose differently - a girls-only boarding school in Maryland with high academic standards. The most frustrating thing was that the school didn't have a swimming pool where I could practice. I had second thoughts, but my father told me: "You always learn something from other sports that you can apply to what you love the most". I learned horseback riding, basketball, and lacrosse. I fully embraced the experience of living in a new country, got to know a new culture, and met people who became friends for life. With much effort and dedication, I finished the year as one of the school's top honor roll students.

At 16, feeling like I had accomplished a mission, I returned to Brazil and became a member of Brazil's first water polo team. One of our first international tournaments was in Alhambra, California, and we had to raise money to participate. We suffered a resounding defeat, however, we learned more and more with every game. It became clear to us that we had a long way to go before we'd be able to face world class teams, and yet we were optimistic. With that goal in mind, our training sessions became harder as we went deep on technique, tactics, and overall game knowledge.

At the age of 17 I enrolled at the University of Economics in Sao Paulo, attending class in the morning, writing papers in the afternoon and training at night. Juggling these different demands and environments was not easy, but I somehow managed.

At 18, in 1990, I participated in my first Swimming World Championship in Perth, Australia - eight days of intense competition against the world's best teams. I remember feeling exhausted, losing a lot of weight, and discovering how important nutrition and fitness are for sustaining a competitive body. I also learned the value of teamwork and emotional intelligence. Any high performance environment demands a high (or even higher) level of physical and tactical preparation.

I continued my career as a water polo player and advanced to the position of captain of the Brazilian team. I learned to embrace obstacles and stress, which taught me to challenge my limits. I will never forget the way I felt at the finals of an important championship game, where I missed a penalty shot that caused us to lose the gold medal. I barely slept that night, replaying the shot over and over again in my mind. It taught me something very important: how to learn from failure, which is necessary to achieve success.

Every day after that fateful game I stayed late after practice, practicing penalty shots. Moments like this make you better, they are an essential part of life. I discovered that the courage to make mistakes is fundamental for success and growth.

At 20 years old, we attended the Fina Cup in Los Angeles. My team and I had a remarkable experience there amidst an earthquake, which connected us even more. We were grateful to be alive and developed a new perspective on life. When I scored four goals against the Italian goalkeeper, who was considered the best in the world at the time and who became a dear friend years later, the water polo world began to notice me. I received an invitation to play professionally in Italy, one of the water polo greats. I was the first player from the American continent to be invited to play in the Italian championships.

From 22 to 28 years old

At 21 years old, I packed my bags and left for a new adventure! I was going to live in Rome, away from my family, as a professional athlete for the VisNova team. I loved Italian culture, food, wine, and sports, so I was ready! The team parents, mainly "le mamme" (the wonderful Italian moms), welcomed me and quickly became my new family. I formed a new emotional support network, which was key to my performance. I focused on learning a new style of playing, predominantly the details of a good defense. While I had the mindset of a professional player, I still had to adapt, and consistency was key. Every Sunday, we played the top Italian clubs in the A Series.

At the same time, the Brazilian national team continued playing tournaments. I discovered something new: my passion for human development and the formation of a truly connected team. How does a team integrate players' strengths to produce an optimal result? The first step was creating a common goal. Our team represented the same flag, and yet there were enormous differences between us in terms of background, education, training style, and values. Our minds worked differently, and we reacted in different ways to new challenges. We needed to create more empathy and trust amongst ourselves. I collaborated with coaches and other teammates in developing strategies aimed at creating more interdependency and unity among players and enhancing our communication and teamwork. My club swim coach, who was also a psychologist and a friend, suggested setting up a team meeting every night; the hour- long meetings created safe space for players to speak up about fears, frustrations, and dreams. We learned to recognize our potential and vulnerabilities, both as individuals and as a team. We kept this routine for many years.

When I returned to Brazil (during the break between the Italian water polo seasons), I focused on my studies in Economics and started working at a commercial print shop that belonged to the family.

At 23, two years after living in Rome, a dream came true: I received an offer to play for Orizzonte Catania, Italy's strongest water polo team. During my first year in Sicily, I lived with members of the Italian, Dutch, and Australian national teams. We all played for the same team, lived in the same house, cooked, and dined together. This process facilitated our communication and integration in the water as we learned to respect each other and contribute our strengths to the team. Sicily had a magic spell! I trained an average of six hours per day and enrolled in graduate school to complete my studies in Economics in the center of Catania. Once again, intense is the perfect adjective to describe these days of training, travel in and outside of Italy, and championships: they were filled with learning opportunities and achievements.

By winning the Italian championships, my team qualified for the European Champions Cup, in which only the top club teams from each European country participated. After winning the first round in Nancy, we advanced to the final round in Palermo and defeated our rivals from the Netherlands in a close match. For the first time in Italian club history, we had raised the cup of the Champion's Cup. We were the best team in Europe!

During that year, I participated in my second Swimming World Championships in Rome. It was beautifully organized in this breathtaking city that lives and breathes history and art. After the competition, I was invited to join the Italian national team as I had Italian citizenship.

At 24 years old, I experienced a great loss in my family: my grandma Wally, who taught me to love music and listen to it with my eyes closed, and to play with dolls, passed away. I suddenly felt the burden of living away from home like never before.

Months later I met my husband, Luis Carlos, during a holiday in Brazil. He was a windsurfer, spear fisherman, and a lawyer who was passionate about the ocean and life. I was in my last year in Italy, representing the Italian national team and playing intensely. My Italian adventure was coming to an end: it was time to go back to Brazil, be with Luis, and take on new challenges in the corporate world.

I returned to Brazil and began a trainee program at the bank Unibanco, one of Brazil's largest financial institutions. I had great mentors, who encouraged me to keep up with my athletic competitions while acclimating to a new environment. My daily routine of work and sports required focus, energy, and productivity. There were difficult times and I made personal sacrifices, but it was worth the effort because I could practice two things I loved: sports and, now, a budding corporate career.

In 1998, I participated in my third Swimming World Championships in Perth, Australia. I was the league's second highest scorer and received one of my most important recognitions to this day: I was the only player from the American continent to be selected for the World Star Team. I was at my physical peak, had a decade of playing experience and invaluable mental maturity.

A few months after the championships, a new dream came true: with the help of other prominent members of the international water polo community, my mother Olga Pinciroli, who was the director of the Brazilian women water polo team at the time, successfully campaigned to make women's water polo an Olympic sport, and the Sydney Games were just two years away! This news represented an important achievement for gender equality in sports: women's water polo joined soccer and men's water polo as the Olympics' third team sport. Almost one century after its inception, women's water polo had finally reached its ultimate goal! My mother Olga was recognized for her contributions to the development of the sport with the Paragon Award and also inducted into the American Swimming Hall of Fame.

At 27 years old, I was getting ready to compete in the Pan American Games in Winnipeg -- the city where my father's team had won the silver medal for Brazil 32 years earlier, in 1967. Thanks to intense physical and mental efforts and great coaches - Sandy Nitta (a former US national team coach), Rodney Bell (a Brazilian coach and national team alumnus), and director Olga Pinciroli -- we had the Brazilian water polo "dream team" - an utterly capable team whose members were completely in sync with each other, and which was ready to face the best teams in the Americas. We won the preliminaries against the US team and played hard against Canada, losing by a small margin. In the semifinals, we lost to the US in overtime (Golden Gol), which was bitter- sweet because we had come so close to reaching the finals. The defeat tested our resilience, stamina, and focus because the next day we had to face our rival for the bronze medal, Cuba. On our way to the game, our bus suddenly stopped and we were joined by the Cuban team, because their bus had broken down! That bus ride, which was accompanied by enthusiastic pre-game singing and chanting on the part of the Cubans, was one of the longest 30 minutes I've experienced in my life. But we kept our focus! After a heated game, we won the Bronze medal. We happily celebrated singing

and dancing to Brazilian songs and samba. This was the final stage of my international sports career.

On September 9th,1999, I married Luis Carlos, which marked the beginning of a new stage.

From 28 to 35 years

At the bank, I worked in the area of finance implementing a new strategic management system (the Balanced Scorecard) and aligning different areas of the business with the new strategic vision.

In 2001, my husband and I became students again. I received my MBA from FGV in Sao Paulo and an associate degree from the University of North Carolina's Kenan- Flagler School of Business.

At 30 years old, I became a mother! The birth of my first daughter, Alissa - whose name means noble and true - introduced me to a new dimension of relational wellbeing as I fulfilled my potential in motherhood. I began to understand the strength of unconditional love, the love my grandmother Wally had always told me about.

The following year, the bank invited me to join the Human Resources department and to manage the human and organizational development team. We created tools and processes to support the leadership team based on the company's meritocracy and specific corporate values. We were a great team and some of my former colleagues have remained my friends to this day.

In 2005 my second daughter, Giorgia, was born. I learned how love could be expanded, and yet I felt overwhelmed. However, my time management skills made it easier to adapt to the new situation. My family's support was a game changer, especially my mother's and my mother-in-law's! I also set up weekly lunches for my daughters with their great grandmother and was thrilled to see how much they learned from her. Grandma Nena amazed everyone with her knowledge of our family's history during dinner conversations and when she played the piano.

I now understood the saying "It takes a village to raise a child."

From 35 to 42 years

This was a time when I rethought my priorities. I really valued living around family members, especially my mother, mother-in-law, aunts, and my grandmother Nena, who was a great example of a woman and matriarch. We are a typical Latin American family -- very close and, back then, living in the same city, which is a true blessing!

In my professional life, I became the Ombudsman, or client representative, responsible for the Excellence and Quality team of Itaú Unibanco (in 2008, Itau and Unibanco merged). I worked intensively on targeting customer needs and understanding their relationship with the bank and established initiatives to enhance communication, product value, and overall customer service. Once again, my team and I felt an enormous pride in our mission. We identified solutions to customer complaints and, simultaneously, opportunities for internal improvements.

At this time, I also discovered anthroposophy studies: I took a course in the city of Florianópolis in the Southeast of Brazil. I discovered new ideas pertaining to spirituality, human development, and new perspectives on developing an individual's potential in life.

In 2012, we were blessed again: our third daughter, Olivia was born. I enjoyed this phase with unprecedented maturity. My motherhood was different now; Alissa and Giorgia helped me with chores and came to appreciate the routine of having a newborn at home.

In my corporate life, I became an advocate for women in leadership positions and promoted equal rights and opportunities within the company. After my parental leave, I was put in charge of a sales team, which was a completely new experience for me. In this new challenge, I was able to apply my people management and team building skills with great success and helped team members work towards a common goal.

The following year, Luis and I revisited an old dream: to live abroad with our three girls.

From 42 to now

By moving to Miami, we realized our dream. I started working at the Private Banking Division at Itaú Miami. Just after we moved, my grandmother Nena got sick and once again I felt the pain of living abroad, away from my family. Overcoming the pain of her death, we continued living in Miami.

In 2007, I became the Chief Executive of Human Resources for Itau's Private Banking Division in Miami, New York, the Bahamas, and Chile.

I tried juggling family and work as before in Brazil, however, this time without support. On top of that, Luis and I were often traveling for work. Luckily, we joined a very special, welcoming community at our daughters' new school which supported us and them both academically and in sports.

Life showed me that it was time for change and to begin a new phase in life. At 48 years old, my career at Itaú Unibanco came to an end.

I slowed down, paused, and embraced the peace.

From my essence, two new projects were born: writing a book about sports as Life's stage in partnership with my father Pedro and creating my own mentoring and training company "WeTeam - Chasing Excellence and Happiness". I also embarked upon a year-long certification at the Happiness Science Academy with an inspiring teacher, Dr. Tal Ben-Shahar.

In this new phase, I identified my new purpose: unlocking human potential to achieve a balanced, fulfilled, successful and happy life.


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