Interview with Erik Farrar Men's & Women's Coach of Harvard University

Trevor Freeman.
Water Polo Planet
04/15/09

Erik FarrarThere are institutions of higher learning and there are elite schools.  And then there is a school whose name resonates worldwide.  Harvard University has a well-deserved reputation for excellence in the classroom and for an alumni base that includes leaders in all industries.  This month, we made their school and coach the focus for our column as they have fielded competitive water polo sides for a number of years.  Their leader is Erik Farrar and he has quietly been doing an outstanding job for the Crimson.

Formerly the head coach at Brown University, Erik Farrar is one of the most notable coaches on the entire East Coast as he has spent more than twenty seasons in the collegiate coaching ranks with the last five coming at Harvard.  His Harvard teams have enjoyed success under his tutelage as the Crimson men finished fourth at the 2007 Eastern Championships.  While at Brown, Farrar led the women's squad to two CWPA Northern Division titles and top-twelve national rankings in 1995 and 1996.  His men's squad finished in the top twenty nationally three times during his tenure and finished third at Easterns in 1994, 1996, and 1997.  I got a chance to speak with him last week and below is our interview.

What do the Harvard women have to do to get to Easterns and make this season a successful one?

We must go top two at Northerns to automatically qualify so that is our intention.   We'll see this coming weekend whether or not we can achieve this goal.  The goal is always to get to Easterns and then win some games.

Can you tell us a little bit about Devon McLaughlin and what makes her the effective player that she is?

She's highly versatile even though she's spent the past three years at center.  In addition to being a very determined and savvy competitor, she's old school tough.

Nicola Perlman is very strong between the pipes.  Can you tell us a little bit about what makes her the strong goalie that she is?

Nicola is extremely competitive, in all aspects of the game.  Combine that with natural athletic ability and a tremendous work ethic and you have an almost ideal blueprint of how a player reaches their potential as a college athlete.

Harvard is clearly one of the most prestigious, if not the most prestigious place of higher learning in our country.  How difficult or easy does that make recruiting?

The university's reputation draws a great deal of interested student-athletes and we have superb facilities.  Admission is of course a challenge but there are many highly qualified student-athletes who are also outstanding polo players. 

Looking ahead to next fall, it feels like Brown, Harvard, Fordham, Iona and MIT could all win the CWPA North with St. Francis being unable to compete?  What are your thoughts on the Northern Division and how wide open it looks to be?

Game on.  It should be a great deal of fun and as you say, there are a number of teams who have a good shot.  We look to be one of them.

Harvard-Brown is one of the most underrated water polo rivalries going in the NCAA game.  You have been on both sides of it.  Can you give our readers some insight into this competition between Ivy League schools and what makes it so good?

It's been one of those incredible rivalries that can bring out the highest level of play in both teams.  Historically, one school has dominated for significant lengths of time, both with the men and women's teams, then the situation reverses.  In the past two years Brown's had the edge but we'll see if we can even the score this weekend at Northerns.  Both schools have always had great crowds.  I do look forward to the reconstruction of the Brown pool as playing an 'away' game against Brown at a neutral site just isn't the same.

With that our interview ended.  One interesting note is that Erik Farrar is the only coach in the Northern Division who was a coach when I played in the North.  Back then, he coached Brown and his squads along with UMass, Queens College and St. Francis dominated the northern half of the CWPA.  The one takeaway I remember from those teams is that they had great execution in all facets of the game and they never beat themselves.  Anytime you can say that about a squad, it is a testament to their coach.  With Farrar at the helm, Harvard should remain one of the strongest teams in the North for years to come.  I look forward to watching how Harvard finishes up this women's season as well as to see how their men perform this fall.