Interview with Goalie Brandon Brooks

Sandy Vessey-Schneider
Water Polo Planet

Brandon BrooksBrandon Brooks is a man of great stature, and as a young man he has done it all. Brandon’s water polo experience is vast, from playing high school ball in the Hawaiian Islands, to the Olympics, to coaching UCLA’s Women’s Team. I found his training techniques to be interesting and progressive as he utilizes dry land activities and core strengthening drills.  My hope is that readers will enjoy and learn from what Brandon has to share

Where did you grow up? I was born outside of Chicago, Illinois…but I grew up in Honolulu, Hawaii from age 7 through high school.  I had the privilege of attending Punahou School for grades 7-12 and playing water polo for Ken Smith.

What clubs did you play for? In high school I played for Hawaiian Islands Water Polo, which is a combination of most of the high schools players in the area.  In college I played for UCLA and Bruin and after college I played for LAWPC during the Premiere League years

What High School and College did you go to and when?
I played for Punahou High School and from there I had the opportunity to play for UCLA.  I was at UCLA from the fall of 1999 and graduated in the Spring of 2005.  My water polo years were ’99-’02.  I began my freshman year redshirting as many young players do in college but due to our senior goalie Parsa Bonderson getting injured I assumed the starting role the rest of that year and for the next 3 years.  We had some fantastic teams while I was there, especially my first two years with other Olympians Sean Kern and Adam Wright leading the way.

What years did you play on the National/ Olympic Teams (if applicable)?
I made my first National team trip in summer of 2000 and my last trip was the 2008 Beijing Olympics.  In between those years I had a bit of a sporadic time on the team.  My national team coaches were Ratko Rudic, Guy Baker for a summer, and Terry Schroeder.

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

    1. I like movements that really strengthen the abductors and adductors on land to help with lateral movement. In the water it’s important that any lateral movement drills are done from a high basic position otherwise it’s not going to be beneficial. 

    2. Leg strength I like most of the standard stuff, using heavy balls and weight belts.

    3. For reaction time I favor dryland stuff like blocking tennis balls or throwing a ball off the wall; in the water I like rapid fire drills, but most importantly just trying to get quality shots from the guys who shoot the ball the hardest.

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

    Wait to choose as long as possible and make the offense take the most difficult shot possible.

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

    I think the coach has to look at what the strengths of his team are e.g. speed/length/blocking and run a defense that is going to play to their strengths.  From there 5 on 6 is about hustle and teamwork so I guess I’m saying that the system not as important to me as is the teamwork.

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

    When I played I felt like I communicated a lot with the 2md, constantly telling him if he was fine or in trouble or if I could help him.  I also took a lot of direction from the defender and communicated for him with the perimeter defense on what we should run.  As the goalie and 2md being the heart of the defense it’s very important they are on the same page.

  5. How do handle “one on goalies”?

    I tried to make it as difficult as possible for the shooter and use my length to close the angles and recover on lobs.

  6. What advise can you give a high school goalie?

    My advice for high school goalies is to try to find as much experience from high level shooters as possible.  It was amazing for me to have older guys always shooting on me and any chance I got to play in bigger games or against better talent I made sure I took it.  Getting scored on a lot by older/better shooters when I was younger helped me grow so much by the time I was older.  The second best advice I could give is to try play other sports that help with hand-eye coordination and balance.

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

    I definitely think long arms, flexible strong eggbeater, and good core strength are very important.  Understanding angles and what a shooter sees I would say is a skill.  To a young goalie I always say that being a goalie became more fun for me the more I played.  Along those lines I think the mentality of a goalie is SO important; a goalie has to love to compete and risk failure because every goal that scores is scored on the goalie and you have to be okay with that pressure.  Being a goalie is not the most physically demanding position in water polo but in my opinion the goalie can have the biggest effect (negative or positive) on the game of any position.

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

    I can’t say I have 1 true favorite…both of our UCLA NCAA Championship victories are definitely up there.  Being a part of the UCLA-USC rivalry is like nothing else.  I used to have so much fun with my LAWPC teammates in our Premiere League games.  On the National Team, the 2003 World Championships were a lot of fun and a great challenge, any time we played in Budapest, Hungary was fantastic.  Playing in the 2004 and 2008 Olympics, the feeling of those tournaments are indescribable.  I would say it’s always about the people you play with and play for, that is what makes them special and I’ve had the good fortune to play alongside some fantastic people who make putting in all the work of water polo worth it. 

This interview provides coaches with a unique array of skills and drills for their goalies to add to their bag of tricks. In addition, his approach to directing his defense is a helpful tool for any team. Brandon’s story is testament to all young boys and girls, that with hard work and dedication, making the Olympic Team is a possibility no matter where you are from.

Brandon Brooks