Volume2: Number 2 Women's Varsity Coaches Apri 15, 2007

Bi-weekly a varsity coach from the west coast and a varsity coach from the east coast is given the same question solicited from a member of the water polo community. The coaches answer the question independent of each other and their answers are posted here together with a photograph and short biography of each coach. We hope to have the men's varsity coaches to answer the questions in the fall and winter and the women's varsity coaches to answer the questions in the winter and spring.

QUESTION: Your team is being beaten by several scores. Your players are in foul trouble and one player has a game exclusion. In short, your players have lost their cool. What do you do to help them focus again. Can you recall a situation or two when you successfully brought your team back from the edge.

Carin Crawford, Coach of San Diego State University

ANSWER: First, we prepare for these situations from our initial meeting as a team months before we ever get into a hotly contested game.  These conversations center around our Aztec Water Polo Code of Conduct and the expectations we have of our student-athletes as representatives of San Diego State University and ambassadors of our sport wherever we go to compete.

We expect our athletes to show respect to all coaches, teammates, officials and opponents.   Athletes must understand that disciplinary measures will be taken if they cannot meet the expectations of our Code of Conduct.

We also talk about what a privilege it is to have the opportunity to compete against the very best water polo players in the nation, and often, the world through NCAA competition.  Not everyone gets the opportunity to play top teams such as Stanford, UCLA or USC on a regular basis.  We treat these games as an opportunity to test ourselves against the very best, as a measure of where we stand and where we want to go.  We commit to play every opponent hard and we never give up, no matter what the score or situation.

Exclusions are an expected element of the water polo, and as long as my players are playing the ball and earnestly trying to prevent their opponent from scoring, foul trouble is part of the game.  However, any athlete who loses their cool and begins to cross the line from hard play, to misconduct, or even brutality, will be pulled immediately and will sit on the bench.  If they regain their focus, they may be permitted to return to the game. 

Because we get to play the top teams week in and week out, we have been in many situations where we are being beaten by several scores.  If we are in this situation and players are losing their cool, I will do the following:

Carin Crawford

Carin Crawford, SDSEntering her ninth season at the helm of San Diego State water polo, Carin Crawford continues on her mission to establish the Aztecs as a top contender in women's collegiate water polo.

In each of her eight years at San Diego State, Crawford has guided the Aztecs to a top-11 national finish. During her tenure, the Aztecs have accumulated 14 All-America awards and all-MPSF honors 18 times. In addition, her players have earned 30 all-MPSF academic selections and 28 AWPCA all-academic awards.

Prior to water polo becoming an NCAA championship sport in 2001, the Aztecs, under Crawford, advanced to the National Collegiate Water Polo Championship in her first two seasons in 1999 and 2000 and finished fifth and sixth, respectively. In 2001, Crawford's Aztec team took second place at the postseason National Collegiate Select Tournament.

Crawford's coaching and playing experience has provided the foundation upon which she has built the Aztec women's water polo program. Prior to her arrival on Montezuma Mesa, Crawford served as head coach of the San Diego Mesa College women's water polo team from 1996-98 and guided the team to a berth in the 1996 SoCal championship while coaching two players to All-America honors during her two seasons there.

As coach of the Sunset San Diego Girls water polo club, Crawford assisted in building one of the premier club programs in the nation. The Sunset Girls were perennial medalists in every age group at the National Junior Olympics Water Polo Tournament from 1996-98. As a player for the Sunset Senior Women's team, Crawford was a four-time All-American, helping her team win nine Senior National Championship titles.

While a member of the United States National Team from 1989 to 1992, Crawford participated in four U.S. Olympic Festivals, earning two gold medals, a silver and a bronze. Through her participation on the national team, she traveled to Hungary, Holland, Australia and New Zealand, accumulating international playing experience and bringing that to San Diego State.

During her collegiate career, Crawford was a co-captain for the UC San Diego Tritons and received All-America honors in 1988 and '89. She graduated cum laude in 1989 and returned to earn her master's degree in U.S. history in 1992 while competing on the U.S. National Team.

As a former athlete representative to USA Water Polo, Crawford has worked at the grassroots level to raise the status of women's water polo to an Olympic and NCAA championship sport. Her contribution to the sport paid off when women's water polo was included in the 2000 Olympics and was recognized as an NCAA championship sport in 2001.

A native of Albuquerque, N.M., Crawford attended Valley High School. She enjoys surfing, gardening and spending time with her husband, Jack, and two sons, Jackson and Shane. The family resides in San Diego.

Alan Huckins, Coach Hartwick College

ANSWER: As a coach you need to evaluate the circumstances that have led your team to be down several scores, and why it is that your team has lost their cool. Payers are usually an extension of their coach, so if you want to refocus your players make sure you refocus yourself as well.  A good way to do this is to remember the”C’s”.  To get your team refocused and back in the game, stay  C alm and show  C onfidence in your team.  The more confidence you show in your team the more they will believe in themselves.

 C hange things up.  Get your team thinking more about water polo then the little battles that have contributed to them losing their cool.  The easiest way to get back into a game is by the counterattack.  So maybe change up the defense and take some chances.  Maybe you need to change your offense up. Use your timeouts to be able to talk with your players and set up some set plays.  A lot of the game of water polo is momentum.  If you can get a couple of good stops and a couple of goals, then you can turn the momentum in your favor. C hallenge your players.  Athletes are competitive by nature, so set some small goals to get them refocused and back into the game.

A couple of years ago we were in a game where we were down 5 goals heading into the 4th quarter and our top 2 players had fouled out.  The team at the break was complaining about the referees, the other team holding too much, that the ball didn’t have enough air, the water was too wet, and whatever they could find to complain about they did.  They needed to be refocused, they definitely were not thinking about water polo.  So we changed up the defense we were running and decided to go into more of a moving offense.  We then talked about all the hard work we had done all season.  I challenged them to only think about what they were suppose to do in the water and not worry about the other players, referees, or the ball and just go out and play hard. 

We had two timeouts left so we broke the 4th quarter down to three periods.  We set up a play for our first possession and changed our defense to give us a better counterattack opportunity (we were taking a chance here, because their set had been killing us and now we were going to go one on one with her) and new they were going to take a shot, but we just challenged our goalie to come up big.  Well we scored on our first possession and our goalie came up with a big save and we were able to convert on a counter and all of a sudden it’s a 3 goal game with 6 minutes still to play.  The momentum was definitely back in our favor.  We eventually tied the game but unfortunately lost in sudden death.  But now we have the confidence to come back no matter what the situation is.

Alan Huckins

Alan Huckins, HartwickHartwick College named Alan Huckins its NCAA Division I women's water polo coach on June 13, 2003.

He led the Hawks to their fifth straight CWPA Northern Championship a year ago and finished the regular season with a perfect 7-0 record in divisional play. Hartwick, which received the top seed in the CWPA Northern Tournament, won all four of its games and outscored its opponents 47-13 en route to the title.

In his first season at the helm, Huckins guided the Hawks to a 33-10 record and an appearance in the 2004 NCAA Women's National Collegiate Water Polo Championships. Hartwick finished in fourth place behind national champion University of Southern California, second-place Loyola Marymount University and third-place Stanford University.

Hartwick won three postseason tournaments en route to its appearance in the national semifinals. The Hawks defeated Brown University, 7-6, in double overtime to win the ECAC Championship. Hartwick took a 16-6 victory over Iona College to win the CWPA Northern Championships, and the Hawks earned a 5-2 victory over University of Michigan to win the CWPA Eastern Championships.

Now in his third season, Huckins has had three players honored as all-americans during his tenure. Sheri Johnson ('04) and Kate Chambers ('05) were two-time AWPCA All-America selections and Bronwen Knox ('08) was an honorable-mention selection last season.

Huckins, the 2004 Coach of the Year at the CWPA Eastern Championships, spent the 2002-03 academic year as head coach of the women's water polo team at Florida Atlantic University. He recruited for what would have been the program's inaugural season in 2003-04, however, Florida Atlantic decided to cut the program, which paved the way for Huckins to take over at Hartwick.

A 1992 graduate of Slippery Rock University, Huckins is an experienced coach on the international, collegiate, high school and club levels.

Huckins was an assistant coach for the United States Women's National Water Polo "A" Team from 1995-98. He helped guide the squad to a sixth-place finish at the 1998 FINA World Championships in Perth, Australia. Huckins also worked as an assistant coach for the U.S. Women's National "B" Team from 1993-1995.

Before his arrival at Florida Atlantic, Huckins spent four years (1998-2002) doubling as the aquatics director and head coach of the men's and women's swimming and diving teams at The College of Saint Rose in Albany, N.Y. In addition, he also served as head coach and president of the Adirondack Water Polo Club while at St. Rose.

Huckins, a native of San Martin, Calif., began coaching collegiate water polo as a graduate assistant at Slippery Rock, where he worked with the men's and women's teams during the 1992-1993 academic year. He left Slippery Rock after 18 months to accept the men's and women's head coaching position at Bucknell University.

While at Bucknell, Huckins led the men's squad to a 20-10 record and was named 1993 CWPA Coach of the Year at the Eastern Championships. In 1994, he guided the women's team to a 20-4 record and was named CWPA Coach of the Year at the Eastern Championships.

After his experiences at Bucknell and with the U.S. National "B" Team, Huckins moved back to California to coach the water polo and swimming and diving teams at Beyer High School from 1995-1997. In addition, he also coached the Modesto/Stanislaus Swimming and Water Polo Club teams.

Huckins returned to the collegiate ranks in January of 1997 and spent 20 months as the co-head coach of the men's and women's water polo teams at Slippery Rock.

A three-time All-American water polo player at Slippery Rock, Huckins has served five years (1993, 1994, 1997, 1998 and 2003) on the NCAA Women's Water Polo Top 20 Committee.