Interview with Goalie Dion Gray

Sandy Vessey-Schneider
Water Polo Planet

Dion Gray was not only one of the best female goal keepers representing college water polo and the U.S. National Team, but she was one of the first. A true pioneer, Dion helped to start the women’s program at UCSB and was on the first Women’s National Team that competed in the first International competition for women in Commerce Ca. in 1977.

Dion Gray
Where did you grow up? Irvine, CA.

What clubs did you play for? During and after college only: Merced, Santa Ana, Sierra Madre, (too many to remember)

What High School and College did you go to and when? University HS Irvine, 1970-74 (did not play, scored for the boys team), UCSB-1974-78-started a womens’s club team there!

What years did you play on the National/ Olympic Teams (if applicable)? 1977-1986

  1. What drills do feel are the best for the following: (a). Lateral movement, (b). Leg strength, (c). Reaction time?

    1. “Walking” laterally, progressively raising hand/arm/weight level; semi-circle moving laterally back and forth in front of cage with and without shots;  “walking” laterally and lunging same direction.

    2. Stationary eggbeater with arms up holding weight; eggbeater forward while being held back by giant rubber band; pressure from partner (varying placement)while eggbeatering rapidly.

    3. Shots on a wall coming from behind you- you don’t see it until it comes off the wall. “quickies”- wrist shots from a partner up close (in or out of water), can use two balls.

  2. A two on one counter attack is coming your way, how do you communicate with your defense?

  3. “Take ball” or “I got ball”.

  4. What 6 on 5 defense do you prefer to work with and why?

  5. 3-2 with strong wing defenders so I don’t have to worry about getting all the way to the corners.

  6. How do you communicate with your 2m defense? Give examples of directions you give and why.

  7. “Stay front”-let’s them know they’re in the right position. “Watch my eyes so you know where the ball is”- so they know where the ball is without having to turn their head away from the 2m player.  “I’ve got it”-meaning, don’t foul, I’m coming out to steal the pass.

  8. How do handle “one on goalies”?

  9. Watch the ball and player’s hands closely, so you can better TIME the shot.  Know how close your defender is, so you can better TIME the shot.  Bait slightly so you dictate where they shoot

    Dion Gray

  10. What advice can you give a high school goalie?

  11. Always honor the ball. Understand the shooter’s angle. Dictate where you want the shot to go.

  12. What skills, talent, and physical traits do you think are important to become a top notch goalie?

  13. SIZE (although some defy this trait); quickness; a “nose’ for the ball; leadership; good arm.

  14. What was your favorite game, and what made it so special?

  15. It was coaching my HS girls against a long time rival coach, and beating him by the same score he beat me earlier in the season, only this time it knocked him out of CIF, and me IN. Have only beat him twice! I jumped in to celebrate with my girls! My favorite game playing was in CANADA against CANADA, and beating them with some incredible blocks.  My coach said I was AWESOME!

  16. How has the game changed for goalies since you played?

  17. Goalies are bigger and stronger, not just the player who can’t swim. (not that I couldn’t swim.  I just had long arms and the desire to keep the ball out of the cage, and no one else wanted to do it.) Goalies can score now, which wasn’t always allowed.

As a young goal keeper at the time, I admired Dion’s prestigious position. I remember telling my mom “ I want to play like her”. With that goal in mind, she and I became teammates competing for the same spot, and later good friends. It is my hope that there are many more young goalies today that are inspired by Dion and have the opportunity because of her. Thank you Dion.

Dion Gray