Volume2: Number 10 Women's Varsity Coaches August 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: Most all swimmers taper for championships but what about water polo players? Some coaches never give their players a taper for Championships and others give minor tapers for critical games and league tournaments. What method of tapering if any do you use and why?

Todd Clapper, Coach of Arizona State Universty

ANSWER: There is a fine balance between tapering and over-resting.  I know that when I played that is was important to feel fresh, but also feeling strong and still holding onto that “edge” that training would give.  At ASU, we will taper off weight training about 2 weeks before the championship.  We will continue to do some physical training, but it is less time and less intense, as the goal is not to break down, but to build up.  Around the same time, we will continue to train hard in the pool, but with more breaks in between.  The goal for us is to “sharpen” our game by training at an explosive game pace for short periods of time and take more breaks.  I find that this prevents the team from becoming sluggish due to the rest period.   For example, we will scrimmage for 4-7 minutes running time at game intensity with a 2-3 minute break before doing it again, so the team is still working, but not breaking their bodies down.  Also, I have found that the legs (particularly in the weight room) take a bit more time to recover, so we are careful to taper off the leg workouts in the gym earlier.

Before tapering at the end of the season, it is important to look over the few weeks prior to the taper and see if there were any “mini rests” prior to any big games.  In the MPSF, the last few games (and sometimes the last game) can really swing your seeding for championships.  Because of this, it is important for us to rest a bit more than usual for those bigger games.  If this is the case and if there is no time to increase the conditioning level prior to the championship taper, then it is important to give less rest going into the championships because the body is already rested.  In this case, you are trying to hold onto the taper for longer rather than a full taper for championships.

As important as the physical taper, is the mental taper.  I give myself a cut-off date of when I can be overly critical with the team.  After this date, I am very aware of the positive to negative feedback ratio and force myself to limit the negative as much as possible.  I believe that about 1 week out is the best time to start building the team up mentally.  I look at this time period much like I approach a game, which is, management.  I manage the team during that week to make sure that they stay focused and that they are going to be fresh and ready for the championships, but I do not over coach.  It is hard to pull back at times, but I feel that “if they don’t have it by now, they aren’t going to have it” and that it is time to back off.  If they have put the time in earlier in the season, they will be ready.  

Todd Clapper

Todd Clapper, ASUEntering his second year in Tempe, Head Coach Todd Clapper has the Arizona State University water polo program on the rise following a 2006 campaign in which his squad finished ranked sixth in the nation. No stranger to the side lines of the collegiate coaching ranks, Clapper will begin his eighth season as a women's head coach and the 13th season of collegiate coaching after leading the Brown University women's and men's teams in six and five seasons, respectively, and ASU in 2006.

Clapper has been a successful coach on many levels, most recently being named as the head coach of the USA Women's Youth National Team. Along with his collegiate coaching stints which include assistant positions with Villanova and Slippery Rock, Clapper also has served as the head coach of high school, age group and masters level teams.

The first year under Clapper's tutelage provided many high notes for the Sun Devil program, including several wins over Top 10 foes and a sixth-place finish in both the MPSF Championships and the final AWPCA National Top 20 rankings. With a 15-13 record and a 5-7 mark in the MPSF, the Sun Devils finished seventh in the league's regular season standings.

Individually, Clapper helped two freshman to success, including Rowie Webster, who scored a program-record 63 goals en route to earning Third Team All-America accolades as well a place on the All-MPSF Second Team and MPSF All-Tournament teams. His other rookie sensation was Addison Doud, who was second on the team with 39 goals. Both played internationally with their respective junior squads (Australia and USA, respectively) while Doud also played for the US Senior `B' Team at the FINA World League Preliminaries.

Clapper also had a successful summer internationally as his USA Women's Youth National Team won the gold medal at the 2006 Pan-Am Games in Montreal. By winning the tournament against teams one age group older, Clapper's team was selected as the 2006 U.S. Olympic Committee's Team of the Year.

In his first season on the pool deck with the Sun Devils, Clapper worked with the goalies and helped Caylinn Wallace become one of the top young players in the nation as the rookie earned a spot on the MPSF All-Freshman team. Wallace also set a school record for saves in a single game as she stopped 22 in an 8-7 upset of No. 8 UC Santa Barbara. Wallace also led the MPSF with an average of 9.35 saves per game.

Clapper came to Tempe with a wealth of coaching experience. Following his graduation from Slippery Rock University in 1997, he stayed on with his alma mater and served as an assistant coach for the women's team for one season. From there, he took on assistant coaching duties at Villanova for one year.

His first head coaching position came one year later when he took over the reigns of the Wissahickon High School boys and girl's programs in Ambler, Pa. In his one season with the girl's team, he helped them attain their highest state finish as the team placed third in the Pennsylvania meet.

Following the girl's season at WHS, Clapper took over at Brown University were he also mentored a pair of teams as the head coach for both the men's and women's water polo squads from 1998-2004. Under Clapper, the women earned a berth into the inaugural NCAA Championship event in 2001 while also climbing as high as No. 12 in the nation.

For his efforts at Brown, he earned several coach of the year awards, including New England (2000), Eastern Championship (2001 and 2003), Northern Division (2002) and Northeastern (2004). He closed out his tenure with the Bears' women's program with a record of 105-73 while seeing his team post 18 or more wins in each of his last four season, including 22 victories in 2001 and 20 in 2002.

His teams also fared well in the championship seasons as his team won the Eastern title in 2001 and the Northeastern division in 2004. The Bears also took runner-up honors at the ECAC Championships three times, the Northern Championships twice and the Eastern Championships once.
Most recently, he served as the head coach for a pair of teams in Las Vegas, including the City of Las Vegas Masters team and the Southern Nevada United (age group) team. He was instrumental in building the two programs as the masters team saw an increase from 10 to 25 members while the age group team was built from the ground up, now totaling nearly 30 members.

Clapper was a four-year letter winner for The Rock, helping the team attain a Top 15 national ranking. As the starting goalie, he captained the team as a senior in 1996, the same year he also was selected second-team all-conference. A walk-on that became the starter in goal by the end of his sophomore season, he graduated Cum Laude with a BS in Exercise Science (aquatic emphasis) and also attained a minor in Adapted Physical Activity and Rehabilitation

(The coach given this question failed to send in his answer. Todd graciously consented to answer this question so this article could be posted with answers from both a west coast coach and an east coast coach. Thus WPP wishes to give a special thanks to Todd for helping us out of our predicament - THANKS TODD!)

Joe Tristan, Coach of Penn State Behrend College

ANSWER: We rest for the end of the year championships. It is no secret that our bodies perform better when rested. So Championships are the primary focus for our rest cycle.

Our rest is primarily based off our work cycle. We will cut back mornings, and afternoons during our rest cycle to get all of our athletes ready for the big game.

Athletes build confidence in their abilities when they shoot well, pass well, defend well, drive well, make creative moves and other aspects to the game in practice. When they are tired, they are less focused on perfection and more focused on when they can get a day off, or when the move or plays are not going to plan they get discouraged.

In turn, if the rest allows them to be creative and perfect the little moves they have worked on all season, the more likely they can perform these moves and be creative in the big game, especially under special circumstances.

Don’t be fooled, everything is based on your season work cycle. To much rest can have a negative feedback on you championships and athletes will actually be more tired with the rest than without.

Joe Tristan

Joe Tristan, PSBJoe Tristan enters his fourth season as the head men's and women's water polo coach at Behrend, and is committed to athletic and academic success for the program and his expectations will continue to climb.

This past fall, coach Tristan brought the Division III Eastern Championships to the Junker Center Pool for the first time in school history.  The Behrend men excelled in their home pool, grabbing third place, the highest finish at the championships to date.

Over the past four seasons, coach Tristan has landed eight players on the Division III Eastern Championship All-Tournament Team.  He has also guided two players to the Division III All-America Team, Anthony Spoto in 2004 and Leandro Azevedo in 2006.  Tristan was also able to take Spoto to the USA Senior Men’s National ‘A’ Team Tryouts in Southern California.  Under Tristan’s direction, Cara Ludwig was named to the 2005 CWPA Western Division All-Conference Team, as she became Behrend's first water polo player to be named to receive the honor. Also in 2005, the men finished fourteenth in the academic national poll, the highest the team has reached since the program began.

Coach Tristan is a member of USA Water Polo where he is currently a Level 3 coach.  He is also a member of the American Water Polo Coaches Association.  He was a coach at the 2004 USA National Goalie Training Camp and was a candidate for the 2005 World University Games Team as an assistant coach for Team USA.

Tristan joined the Behrend Lions after leading the women’s club water polo program at Eastern Michigan University. He also was an assistant coach for the Great Lakes Water Polo Club in Ann Arbor, MI. At EMU he coached a pair of all-conference players and directed the team to earn all-academic honors. From 1997-2002, Tristan was the head boy’s junior varsity coach for Huron High School.

A native of Southern California, Tristan played water polo and swam for Earl Warren High School. He also played water polo for Tulare Water Polo Club and for Eastern Michigan in 1995-96. In 2000, Tristan competed and finished twenty-second in the United States Olympic swimming trials in the 200 meter freestyle.  From 1998-2000 Tristan was ranked in the FINA Top 20 and the top 100 in the World in the 200 meter and 100 meter freestyle events. He currently is EMU’s record holder in the 800 freestyle relay. Tristan was a vital part of a pair of EMU Mid-American Conference Swimming and Diving Championship teams. 

Tristan also serves as the assistant men's and women's swimming coach and as an instructor in the health and physical education department.