Renata Carneiro came into office as Managing Director of the Pan American Hockey Federation in January 2018. She brings with her a wealth of knowledge gained after 13 years with Olympic Solidarity for Brazil.
Simultaneously leading the project that took off six years later to become Secretary of the Women in Sport Commission for Brazil and her work on the organising committee of the 2007 Rio Pan American Games – and you just know this is a woman who is capable of wearing many hats and, importantly, working very hard to make things happen.
Renata’s love of sport goes back to when she started swimming at 4 years old, practicing synchronized swimming during her development years to reaching high performance in 1991 when she competed in swimming for Brazil at the Pan American Games. She never had the chance to go to the World Cup or Olympics, but there is a real note of pride in her voice as she says, “I can call myself a Pan American athlete”.
“My whole life has been driven by sport,” she says, explaining that she won a scholarship to graduate in the USA on the back of her swimming career and a Master Executive in the Sports Management degree beckoned following her involvement with the Brazil Olympic Committee.
To date, although she has a lot of career highs, there is a sense that getting the Women in Sport Commission from being a paper exercise to becoming a tangible reality is among her most favoured achievements. “Six years of a project on paper, and then we were finally able to launch it - after gathering the right crew,” she says.
You just know it was a tough ask as she says with a hint of ruefulness: “Brazil is a male dominated sporting society with many male leading the sports organizations, so I was pleased we were able to get some negotiations going and get the project off the ground. Before it became a Commission it was just a working group but once we were acknowledged by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) we got a lot more credibility and support.
“It was a long time on the paper, so it was a big deal for us to get things going. It was very embryonic but we had a very clear understanding of what we wanted and we worked incredibly hard to make it happen.”
So what can hockey expect of its new Managing Director?
Renata has spent the past three months getting to know the sport, the organisation and the wider hockey world. Her time has been spent meeting people, dealing with heaps of emails, sorting problems into priorities for getting dealt with, and planning – this is a woman who believes in planning very carefully to ensure a smooth journey in order to focus on what is really important and priority.
“This year we [PAHF] had one competition from our portfolio, so the next few months are all about planning. We will focus this year on our strategy and produce something to execute in the next years. I will spend a lot of time planning for a good execution to attain the main goals.”
The new Managing Director has so far been excited and pleased by what she has seen of the PAHF and the wider hockey family. “I have worked in other situations where everything is restrained and it is all obstacles but that is definitely not the case with hockey. It is a very positive environment, not just at PAHF level but with the International Hockey Federation and the other Continental Federations as well.”
Renata is particularly delighted at hockey’s willingness to innovate. Not just with initiative such as Hockey5s, which is proving such a hit in developing countries, but at all levels of the game. She attributes this in part to the skilfulness and agility needed on the pitch. “Hockey is a very skilful sport and you have to be creative to succeed. That follows through at all levels, from the hockey field to the boardroom.”
There will be constant strive to constructive improvements under the new Managing Director. She is determined that the PAHF organisation itself will get stronger and this is her first mission. To be able to help and support others, the PAHF needs to be working from a strong base and Renata is keen to get every one of the PAHF nations buying into this ethos. She says the first steps have already been taken with key leaders and partners proving themselves to be open to ideas and willing to discuss things rationally to enhance the strategic, the marketing and commercial aspects of the management.
“We are coming getting together as leaders. We know there does not need to always be consensus, in fact we need healthy debate to get things moving and to make changes. But we need to hear and listen to each other’s viewpoints and allow each other to speak. So far, this has been a very positive experience.”
Renata brings a remarkable curriculum vitae to the role but it is her unquantifiable skills that will help her succeed in what is a tricky role.
“I am fast-thinking and agile when it comes to collecting and processing information. That will be very important because I have to be able to stay on top of all information and be able to present concisely to the PAHF Executive Board. It is not for me to necessarily make decisions but I need to be able to take proposals for solutions and alternatives, disseminate it quickly and feed it to the board with clarity.
“In line with that, I will be digging deeply on my ability to multitask: good thing I am a woman,” she laughs.
The third quality that Renata has, and will need, is the ability to stay calm and rational in the face of pressure. “I might be churning up inside but I need to calm myself to a point where I can process things in a rational and fair way,” she says. “You have to be able to remove the emotion and separate out the political and the strategic and be able to communicate the situation with clarity.”
While sport has been the driving force behind Renata’s working life, she is also aware of an innate desire to help out and it is this quality that persuaded her to apply for the position at PAHF. “I was looking for a new and challenging project with potential,” she says.
“I felt, with my experiences, I could definitely collaborate and help out. Seriously, I have always liked to help people achieve their potential - be all they can be. The Olympic Solidarity was all about helping others and all of my life I wanted to return what sport has given me - all youngsters should have this opportunity. In Brazil, Olympic Solidarity was used to develop sport, so hockey was already on my radar as it has been attempting to grow sport in Brazil for a number of years.”
The question of Brazil’s hockey legacy causes a momentary vexation for the Managing Director. “The Brazil sport legacy project as a whole should have started much earlier,” she says. “There were recent changes at the top, but they have always been open to promoting hockey. It is a classic case of not getting the strategy quite in place. Sometimes it is not a matter of resource or finance but instead a matter of strategy and will.”
All of which brings us neatly back to Renata’s starting point about needing to plan for success. With people on board and willing to implement ideas, the new Managing Director looks well placed to move PAHF to a new level of innovation and development.