UC-Davis has a long tradition of churning out top twenty teams on a regular basis and an outstanding history when it comes to the sport of water polo. It was a history that saved this program a couple years ago and makes it a desirable stopping post for any Head Coach. As good as the Aggies have been, they have fallen short of making NCAAs over the past decade and have brought in a new coach who is hoping to reverse that.
Daniel Leyson arrives at Davis with over twenty-five years of coaching and playing experience at the NCAA and international levels. He served as an Assistant Coach at UCLA and USC, as well as serving in that capacity with the U.S. Men’s National team at the 2004 Olympic Games. Since 2005, he’s been the Head Coach of the Rose Bowl Water Polo Club where he was named winner of the Bill Barnett Distinguished Men’s Coach Award. We sat down to discuss his newest challenge at Davis and below was our interview.
UC Davis has a long tradition of sporting a strong water polo squad. However, they have not made NCAAs in some time. Can you tell us your plan for elevating the team back to that point?
Our conference has some excellent teams and coaches who have been at it a lot longer than I have. It's going to take a lot of work to beat these well-established programs. In our program, everything begins with new expectations for the amount of work, dedication, sacrifice, and teamwork required of the people involved in the program, and that begins with me. It is my goal to create a new paradigm for the water polo program at Davis. Together, the players, coaching staff and I can do it. I believe that if we are able to change the culture of the program, the results will come. And more people will be attracted to our program. And so on and so on.
What has been your greatest challenge since assuming the role of Head Coach?
My honest answer is this: The biggest challenge I have faced so far has nothing to do with water polo. It is that my father recently passed away and I have moved my family away from my mother, who now has to deal with our absence as well. Making the decision to move was not an easy thing to do.
You have a wide range of coaching experience as you have been a Head or Assistant Coach at the NCAA, National and age group levels. What kind of coaching philosophy from an offensive and defensive perspective will you be bringing to Davis?
Without giving too much away, I will say this: Our system of play at Davis will be a combination of tactics that I have "borrowed" from all of the coaches I have coached with, played with, for, or against, or worked for or against. That includes just about every top American coach and several top international coaches. Piece that together and you should be able to predict our every move!
I saw UC Davis announced a thirteen player recruiting class. Can you tell us a little about the group and what you are expecting from them this fall?
All of the recruiting for the 2013 year was completed before I was given the job. To be honest, I know very little about our class of incoming players. But I have looked over the list and I think there are some genuine prospects there at multiple positions. And I have been pleasantly surprised by players who live within the 50 mile radius of Davis and have been attending our training.
UC Davis is returning some key contributors from last season's squad and should be in the WWPA mix. Can you tell us about some of your key returners and what you expect from them this fall?
I prefer not to name any individual players at this time. But I will say that we have the highest expectations for our team and for the behavior of its members. We have many talented and hard-working players in our group right now, younger and older. It is my belief that the only way that Davis is going to have success next year and in the coming years is if we are a strong team in which no one is looking for individual accolades and all players are committed to giving everything they have toward the success of the group. If we do well, the rewards and individual attention will come.
With that our interview ended. I look forward to watching the Aggies compete this year in a WWPA that is wide open. In last month’s article, I tipped Loyola Marymount as the favorite however it is slight. I do not think there is a lot of difference between the top four teams in that conference which should make for a fun race. Keep an eye on the Aggies. I liked what Coach Leyson had to say above and I would not be stunned to see Davis make an immediate impact.