CAO’s Empowering Stories from Behind the Bench article series – November 2023
“One of the most rewarding things in our lives is the opportunity to coach. Positively impacting a child, emphasizing the importance of self-behaviour, encouraging, and emphasizing that hard work does pay off in many ways” – Coach Mona
By David Grossman
There is something to be said about a partnership. Some might call it a relationship between two individuals who work together on so many things.
For Mona Beera and Antonio Rodrigues, their daily lives involve employment at one of the world’s finest hospitals – Toronto’s Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre. Their responsibilities include communicating with people, who in many cases are challenged with a variety of health issues.
There are days when things become exhausting and times are arduous, but they persevere because of a genuine affection that involves helping people.
Beera and Rodrigues are not physicians or nurses, but professionals in data management in the areas of cancer research and clinical trials. It might not sound important, but they meet with patients and are tasked with compiling additional information to share with other members on the medical team.
All of what they do, at the Odette Cancer Centre, leads to an emphasis on treatment and prevention. Beera works in radiation oncology and Rodrigues is in medical oncology. The goal: to improve the standard of care and quality of life for patients.
They are special people.
At the end of an exhausting day, Beera and Rodrigues continue their objective – one of devotion to others. For them, it means switching from a hospital environment to supporting and encouraging in another way. This time, it’s coaching soccer.
Young and driven, gifted with an enthusiastic ambition of being there for others, you will find these two coaching youngsters between the ages of four and 16 at the Cherry Beach Soccer Club.
It’s a 12-month commitment that has them at the Cherry Beach Sports Fields during the warmer weather and switches, off-season, to the dome at Monarch Park Stadium. They’ve been doing it for years.
In almost everything they do and touch, their optimism is relentless. Thinking pessimistically makes it very difficult for the positives to shine. So, Beera and Rodrigues focus on the good things and doing what they can to make them even better.
When visionaries are creating new ways for young people to experience tomorrow, what becomes evident many times, is that something tends to be lacking. That’s usually people who know how to deliver. Not the case with Beera and Rodrigues. They excel and do what they can to avoid the limelight.
“We want to highlight kids and give them meaningful opportunities,” said Rodrigues. “It’s also about helping a soccer club that has made a massive impression on our lives. Coaching is an important way of giving back.”
As youngsters, Beera had hopes of a career in medicine as a doctor. Rodrigues was focussed on teaching. Beera studied Kinesiology at York University and Rodrigues was educated at George Brown College and Seneca College at York University in liberal arts and sciences.
The two have something else in common other than making eye contact a fair bit while they attended R.H. King Academy in Toronto, then working at the same hospital, and coaching soccer. They are husband and wife – and married in 2022.
Beera was born in India and came to Canada, with her family, at age 12. Rodrigues is a native of Toronto. Those high school days were important, they both claim, for providing not only a sound education, but the opportunity to grow their life skills and participate in a variety of sports. For the record, Beera was a two-time school Athlete of the Year while Rodrigues only became serious about sports in his graduating year.
Learning to be happy, healthy, and kind are words Rodrigues holds dearly – and that goes for coaching, too.
“Giving children confidence is critical in their development as young people,” said Rodrigues, who continues to play competitive soccer when it doesn’t interfere with his time coaching. “Our responsibility, as coaches, is to show, teach and provide a positive mindset. We’re helping youngsters find a love for the sport, adapt it to their lives, meet new people, and take what they can and get better.”
Beera started working at Sunnybrook at the age of 19 while Rodrigues started at age 21 – and never left.
“I was the kind of individual who needed to be occupied, kept busy and working at Sunnybrook was a great start,” said Beera, who was at Sunnybrook while attending university classes. “I was a porter moving patients from appointments throughout the hospital or from the operating room and emergency. What I was doing, I found to be very rewarding – helping others.
“I enjoyed the interaction with patients – who may have been going through a lot. I wanted to lend an ear, even if it was just for a few moments. If I could make their day just a little better, make them smile, that meant the world to me. That’s what I loved about it and why I wanted to find a way to come back to Sunnybrook.”
In 2018, Beera returned to Sunnybrook, accepting a position as an administrative clerk that involved also helping people who required cancer treatment or a variety of medical tests and examinations. Prior to that, she had worked for a marketing company that was involved with World Vision, the March of Dimes, and the Hospital for Sick Children.
As for coaching soccer, Beera and Rodrigues have been at it for 13 years. Their inauguration came with an all-girls club at Scarborough United. Then, the North York Cosmos, FC Barcelona Academy and now Cherry Beach.
“One of the most rewarding things in our lives is the opportunity to coach,” said Beera. “Positively impacting a child, emphasizing the importance of self-behaviour, encouraging, and emphasizing that hard work does pay off in many ways.”
Youngsters always need an extra push to know how to work through adversity and failure – and how to overcome it.
Beera and Rodrigues have benefitted from the Canada Soccer C andNational Coaching Certification Program (NCCP) training, also know a fair bit when it relates to dealing with stress and anxiety.
“It’s in our everyday lives, but coaching has helped,” said Rodrigues. “There was a time when I didn’t think that I had the capability to coach. Now, I am a better person. We learn from each other, but (Beera) is much better coaching and has so much more confidence.”
“My first exposure to soccer was at elementary school and I had no clue about the rules,” said Rodrigues. “There was, and still is, lots to learn. My first time as a coach – it was (Beera) who had motivated me to step forward and I got hooked. I saw that I could make a positive difference.”
While there are some who will debate that awards, trophies, recognition, and financial gain are important at the amateur sports level, others see success as simple as being available, helpful, and useful to others.
For Beera and Rodrigues, it has never been about winning or losing.
For them, priorities have always been about instructing kids to use what they learn in a soccer environment, as a reference to everyday life. It’s about working to achieve a common goal of respect, even when a score may not be flattering.
There are times when failure is the greatest opportunity to improve. Earning something through hard work will come with its own rewards.
David Grossman is a veteran multi award-winning Journalist and Broadcaster with some of Canada’s major media, including the Toronto Star and SPORTSNET 590 THE FAN, and a Public Relations professional for 45+ years in Canadian sports and Government relations.
“We learn from each other, but (Beera) is much better coaching and has so much more confidence.”
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