USWP INTERVIEW WITH RANDALL BURGESS
Randall Burgess of Coronado Peninsula Water Polo Club took the time to answer questions for USA Water Polo. Coronado Peninsula Water Polo Club was established in the summer of 1982 (Coronado Islander Polo) as an immediate response to the need to work with interested high school-aged player in from Coronado and a few other schools in the San Diego County. Within a few years, players from throughout San Diego were heavily involved with the program, and CPWPC was a strong catalyst for the great number of present clubs in the Pacific Southwest Zone (Zone 9). Today, the club is predominantly Coronado residents, but the team is available to any player wishing to make the summertime commitment.
USA WATER POLO: Is Coronado’s club program made up exclusively of Coronado players?
Randall Burgess: We play as a local team in the USWP season, as opposed to the many “All-Star” groups competing in the larger tournaments, and although it is somewhat tough at times to compete with those great programs, we take pride in training together as a community, and hope to see some of the payoff during the upcoming CIF season. Our best finish in JOs has been a silver medal in 14-Under Boys two years ago in So Cal, but have had several advancements to the Final Four in our history. We have also enjoyed the Hawaiian Invitational (in both setting and in success) with many Final Four and gold medal games in an assortment of boys and girls teams.
USA WATER POLO: With that in mind, what is the most effective means to get players developed during the summer – the conglomerate “all-star” team: or a club made primarily of your individual high school players?
Randall Burgess: As mentioned earlier, we encourage players from anywhere in the county to train with us, but our club is about 95 percent Coronado residents. Summer training at 4:45 a.m. is probably not the most attractive item on the agenda during a teenager’s summer holiday. I have to say that keeping the future high schoolers together training with teammates is positive, but I personally enjoy coaching other teams’ players as I find it both refreshing and interesting to see and hear what they think about our training compared to what they might be doing with their school team. We enjoy winning any time we can, but the priority is playing against strong (well-coached) opponents. Anytime you play against a quality program such as a Newport, El Toro or Foothill, you are going to learn a tremendous amount about yourself.
USA WATER POLO: What role has summer water polo played in your incredible success at Coronado during the high school seasons?
Randall Burgess: Ultimately, summer water has become a necessity for the boys programs throughout the state. By September, you are already in the heart of a fairly short CIF season. The girls will continue to train as a club program, but the intensity drops down quite a bit due to the fact the school has kicked back in and a lot of the female athletes are involved in other activities.
USA WATER POLO: For those others who play girls water polo in the fall, tell us what the girls do for training during the fall boys water polo season? When does the girls season run – has moving girls to winter been beneficial?
Randall Burgess: Our girls season, starting in mid-November and continuing up to the start of swimming in March, has been a major success. In San Diego, for example, girls water polo will probably have larger numbers than their male counterparts by the 2001 season. Having a separate season not only gives the females equal opportunity for quality, experienced coaching, but it avoids the problems dealing with facilities and transportation. Referees can also work two consecutive seasons and avoid doubling up in the fall. Ultimately, the girls do not have to compete in the recognition that they can receive that might be lost or diluted if seasons had overlapped. It also seems to help out if the boys and girls can participate at the same time collegiate men and women play.
USA WATER POLO: Overall, how do you structure the development process based on the year? (e.g. summer=fundamentals, shooting, passing; etc./fall=strategy; etc.)
Randall Burgess: We stress fundamentals through the year, and depending on the specific group of athletes (and their experience), CPWPC coaches will adjust to the athletes in the water. We spend very little time with swimming as a chief conditioner during the water polo season out of necessity due to the overall lack of available pool time. During the spring, we stress training and competing on the high school swimming team because valuable technique work is always reinforced. Athletes that do not swim really hurt their opportunity for making advancements in the sport of water polo. I also like the fact that swimming is an individual sport, one in which the athlete is solely accountable for his or her own successes or setbacks. Young people today seem to shy away from the individual sports and that accountability that will show up again and again throughout one’s life.
USA WATER POLO: How early do kids start playing in your program?
Randall Burgess: I recommend that players start to enjoy any form of water polo (Wetball) as soon as they are strong and comfortable in the water, maybe around 7-9 years of age. I also recommend that you keep the Little League parents off the pool deck for a few more years so their kids can have some fun. The priorities at the initial level are sculling, breaststroke legs, and general body position. Using the Junior (small) balls are important, but key are the concepts such as passing and advancing the ball down the court. Smaller courses (width of pool) and small numbers (4 x 4) make the overall picture easier to start with.
USA WATER POLO: Are workouts different for the boys and girls?
Randall Burgess: The boys and girls receive the same type of training, be it skill development, cardiovascular or strategy. It will be even easier in the next few years when girls come into the programs with a background of playing organized sport at a young age such as soccer, volleyball, softball, or even baseball – all with great carryover into the sport of water polo.
USA WATER POLO: What about weightlifting?
Randall Burgess: The key point to weight training is that the focus is on injury prevention rather than strength development. I would bet there are more injuries due to unbalanced strength programs than to anything else in regards to musculoskeletal setbacks. For example, we spend way too much time and effort focusing on the pecs, forgetting to spend equal time on the major back structure. Any shoulder injuries out there? Training specificity is also a crucial focus in terms of how young players address a weight training program.
USA WATER POLO: Comment on the tremendous growth of Junior Olympics. What do you think we need to do better with regards to this tournament?
Randall Burgess: In terms of the Junior Olympics, I am concerned that the focus may be diluted with the incredible growth of the sport unless we look at the possibilities of regionalizing this event. It is becoming too big to manage and too expensive to travel and to lodge the players and families necessary for the event, not to mention the costs of competing in the tournament if you are entering a few teams from your club.
USA WATER POLO: How important has the Speedo Cup been for Junior Development?
Randall Burgess: The Speedo Cup has been a brilliant addition to USWP. In San Diego alone, the Shore club has really been instrumental in initiating the pre-high school player development, and everyone is benefiting from the development. We will of course need to handle this event as it continues to expand, and begin to find solutions that can encourage the continued growth and enthusiasm that is presently in place.
USA WATER POLO: Are we as a whole developing water polo effectively in this country? From your overseas travels what have you seen done better?
Randall Burgess: As Bruce Wigo has continually addressed, we need to keep marketing our sport to the general public. Media such as television and cable networks are vital to the success of water polo in the United States. I personally would like to see our overall sport develop and maintain a positive, wholesome image for all people in our society. We need to take the lead from what women’s soccer has recently done with an incredible image that we can all look at and admire. I believe that our product is as every bit as high quality as their’s is. On the other hand, issues in other sports have not been real positive (drugs, sex, arrests and other scandals), and I don’t’ think that athletes such as Ryan Leaf are particularly the type of role model youth needs to see on the front page of the sports section (more Lance Armstrong’s).
USA WATER POLO: What about the rules – I have tried to ask every coach this – is the game watchable to the uninformed but interested fan? Is there anything we can do to “tweak” the rules to make the game better?
Randall Burgess: The rule variations are receiving good looks by the international community, and I know that the likes of Bret Bernard are working hard to make changes that might just excite fans. As I look at the nature of the sport and the great athletes involved, I feel strongly that we have a top-notch product to sell. In-house cleaning is really going to be a priority before we venture too far out into corporate America.