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: You are both the Men's and Women's Coach at your school. How do you use the resources at your disposal to keep both programs operating at a high level year round?
ANSWER: Here’s how we use the Resources that Make USC Successful!
You have to LOVE WHAT YOU DO!
Competent, Knowledgeable, and Trustworthy Assistants.
Support from Athletic Department:
Assistant Athletic Director
Director Of Academic Services
As well as all of the miscellaneous Support for things such as:
Learning Disability Specialist
Supportive Parents and Alumni which brings Financial Support and Fund Raising
You have to be very organized! You must pre plan everything:
Meetings with Players
Supportive Family at Home- The less stress you have at home with the Wife and Children the better. The spouse has to be understanding of what a coaches’ life is like.
Delegate – You can not do it alone take time off – Use vacations to relax and forget about Water Polo. Re-energize.
Head coach Jovan Vavic, one of the top water polo coaches in the country, serves a dual role as the head coach of both the USC men's and women's teams. He has been with the USC women's program since its inception in 1995, and has led his men's and women's teams to national championships twice in the same school year (the men in 1998 and 2003 and the women in 1999 and 2004). In his 11th season at the helm of the men's program, Vavic led the Trojans to the 2005 NCAA Men's Water Polo Championship and was named 2005 National Coach of the Year.
His 2006 Women of Troy raced undefeated through the regular season and finished second in the NCAA Tournament, falling in the last second to UCLA in a 9-8 decision that left the Trojans with a 27-3 overall record. For the first time in school history, Vavic saw two of his players earn collegiate water polo's highest honor, as Juraj Zatovic and Lauren Wenger made it a Trojan sweep of the Peter J. Cutino Award for the 2005 men's and 2006 women's seasons.
Vavic brings a 277-98 (.739) all-time record on the women's side into the 2007 season -- his 13th as the women's head coach. Since 1999 when the program was fully funded, Vavic's record is 207-31 (.870) with an even more impressive 159-20 (.888) record in his last six seasons.
Vavic pulled a coaching double sweep when he was named 2003 National Coach of the Year and MPSF Coach of the Year for the men and 2004 National Coach of the Year and MPSF Coach of the Year for the women, and he was named 2005 MPSF and National Coach of the Year once again on the men's side following the Trojans' most recent NCAA title. His 2004 women's team became the first team in NCAA Championship history to go undefeated (29-0) during the regular season.
Vavic oversaw the team's move from Division II in 1995 to Division I in 1996. He guided USC to its first-ever Division I National Collegiate Championships appearance in 1997 and a seventh-place national finish while the 1998 team took fifth nationally. The 2000 squad added another strong showing as the Trojans finished second nationally.
In 1999, Vavic was named the National Coach of the Year and the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Coach of the Year.
The 2004 squad won the national championship, becoming the first team in the brief five-year history of the NCAA-sponsored championship to go undefeated with a 29-0 record. Vavic earned MPSF Coach of the Year honors.
Vavic came to USC in 1992 as an assistant men's water polo coach, joined John Williams as Troy's co-head coach in 1995 and took over the men's head coaching reins in 1999 after Williams retired. He and Williams were named National Coaches of the Year in 1998 after leading USC to its first-ever national championship. They were also named MPSF Co-Coaches of the Year in 1996 after leading USC to the conference title. In fact, in the 1998-99 season, Vavic did something no other coach has accomplished as his teams won three national championships: besides capturing the 1998 men's and 1999 women's titles, his 1999 men's club team won the Men's Senior National Club Championship. In his 12 seasons with the men's program, Vavic has improved his career coaching record on the men's side to 265-54 (.831). In his tenure as men's head coach, Vavic boasts a winning record against all opponents on the men's side of the game, recording only two losses in 12 seasons against teams outside the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation. He is 192-52 against MPSF teams since 1995.
Vavic brought home the school's second men's national championship in the 2003 season as the Trojans went 24-3 and defeated host Stanford, 9-7, in overtime in the title match. He also earned National Coach of the Year and MPSF Coach of the Year honors. In January of 2005, Vavic was named Men's Elite Zone Coach of the Year by U.S. Water Polo for the coastal California region.
Since Vavic took over a head coaching role in 1995, the USC men's team has registered a winning series record against every opponent it has faced.
The 45-year-old Vavic, a native of Yugoslavia, spent the 1991 season as an assistant men's coach at UCLA. Previously, he coached three seasons (1987-1990) at Palos Verdes (Calif.) High, where he led Palos Verdes to two undefeated Pioneer League seasons (1988-89). In the summer of 1995, Vavic served as an assistant water polo coach at the World University Games. Last summer, Vavic was the head coach for the U.S. team that finished eighth at the WUG and narrowily missed a chance to play in the medal round after losing to Serbia Montenegro, 12-10, in a shootout.
Vavic graduated from UCLA in 1992 with a bachelor's degree in history. He and his wife, Lisa, have four children: Nikola (15), Monica (13), Marko (7) and Stefan (6).
ANSWER: I have coached at Bucknell for over seven years and I struggle with the
answer to this question on a daily basis. I believe the key is knowing how to balance the different needs of each program at different times of the year but that always results in sacrifices having to be made to one or both programs. While I enjoy the challenge of coaching two teams and different genders, I envy "one-team" coaches who can use a non-traditional season to the fullest extent possible. That time of year is where championship teams are developed physically and mentally and where recruiting is critical. That being said, there are ways to try to maximize our resources to achieve the high goals we place on our student / athletes for year round development and ourselves for recruiting.
a. Saving playing dates for the non-traditional portion of the season. I try to save 2-4 playing dates each year for this purpose. It is difficult to just train and train without the carrot of competition being dangled before student/athletes. Knowing there is something immediate to work for helps push athletes on a daily basis and gives them short term goals.
b. Maximizing Zone / Premier / National opportunities. The burden of this falls largely on the shoulders of the student/athletes, however there are tremendous opportunities for male athletes to participate in various activities when they otherwise would not be allowed to play. Since the coaching staff will be coaching another team during that time organization by teammates to carpool and plan is essential. Women's opportunities with this concept have not yet developed as fully but hopefully that will change in the near future.
c. Creating a plan for the student / athletes for the times they are not at
school. At Bucknell we cannot realistically run a summer program and
there is a long break in between semesters. I always sit down with
student/athletes and map our what their plan is for these times. Often, if
they are struggling to find the right opportunity I can assist finding a
place to train or compete. We prepare pool, weight room and cardio
programs for these time frames.
d. Recruiting "self-starter" athletes. If you cannot spend the time that
your competitors spend developing and training your student/athletes
because you coach more than one program than you need the right kind of
student/athletes on your team to make it work. I look for those who will
initiate workouts and cross-training instead of those who I have to lean on
to show up at the pool, gym or weight room. We recruit student/athletes
who understand they MUST train 12 months a year and some of that will be up
to them with our guidance but without our presence.
e. Maximizing your coaching staff. Delegating coaches to different roles
at different times of the year seems to help keep people on the right path
and vary practices. At times where both teams are training full-time we
also try to switch days so that a coach has certain practices off and
others where he/she is running the show. This also helps develop younger
coaches by pushing them into leadership roles.
f. Although a hot issue with the NCAA, using men's/women's programs
together at times for training has strong benefits. Particularly on the
women's side, practicing against men seems to help prepare for the
physicality we see at high level competition. This also promotes both
teams supporting each other and creating a water polo community here at the
g. Special Opportunities for development and recruiting. With planning
and fundraising we can do things to maximize the time we spend together as
a team as well as on recruiting. For the first time we are taking an NCAA
1-in-4 year foreign tour to Hungary this summer with our men's team. That
allows us 10 playing dates we otherwise would not be able to use. It also
provides us international exposure. We will do the same two years from
now with our women's team. Knowing when to send staff for recruiting
opportunities is also critical. The good thing about water polo being a small niche sport, is that there are easily identifiable recruiting events
that must be attended.
John Zeigler, a 1991 Bucknell graduate, had guided both the men and women's
water programs at Bucknell University since 2000. Zeigler coached the
Bison women's water polo program to program-record 23-11 mark in 2005 and
23-9 mark in 2006, breaking the old record for wins, which was 18 in 2001.
In those two years the Bison have placed second in Southern and ECAC
Championships and as high as fourth in the Eastern Championship in
2006. Under Zeigler's tutelage, the Bison have gone to the Eastern
Championship in each of the last five years, and six of the last
seven. During his six years as the mentor of the women's team, which
completed its eighth year of existence last spring, Zeigler has compiled a
In his career, Zeigler has put together a 114-135 men's water polo overall
record, while taking his teams to the Eastern Championship each season. In
2004, the Bison posted a 17-14 overall record with a challenging schedule
that featured 16 nationally ranked opponents, including the defending national champion USC. Also in 2004, Bucknell climbed into the national
rankings for the first time since 2001. The Bison remained in the top-20
for six weeks and climbed as high as 17th in the country. Zeigler
continued to challenge his team in 2005 as the Bison faced 17 nationally
ranked foes. Their 14 wins equaled the third-most in Zeigler's career.
Additionally, Bucknell placed fourth at the Eastern Championship. The
2006 season featured a 15-13 record, a fourth-place finish at the Eastern
Championship and a ranking of 18 in the final nation poll.
As a member of the Bison water polo team from 1987-1991 Zeigler won the
1990 Scott Schulte Award, which is presented annually to "the individual
who contributes the most to Bucknell water polo." As a swimmer, Zeigler
placed in the top 10 in four events at the inaugural Patriot League
Swimming Championships in 1991, helping Bucknell to a third-place finish.
He became the first Bison to captain both the swimming and water polo teams
since 1985 and one of the few multi-year captains for the water polo
program, serving as captain in both his junior and senior year. During his
senior season, Zeigler was the recipient of the Ronald J. "Pete" Pedrick
Award which is presented in recognition of demonstrated improvement and
special contributions to Bucknell athletics over a four-year period.
In 2004, Zeigler began serving on three of prestigious committees. Zeigler
serves on the NCAA Division I Men's Championship Committee, the NCAA Men
and Women's Rules Committees and the Collegiate Water Polo Association
Board of Directors. The CWPA Board of Directors serves as the governing
body for the conference, making all decisions in accordance to the by-laws
already established. For 2007, Zeigler has been named chair of both the
Men's Championship and Rule Committees.
Zeigler and his wife, Lisa, have two daughters, Laura (4) and Larissa
(1). The family resides in Lewisburg.