Not many Southern California sports fans would recognize this year-old coach or even know his name. Water polo is obscure enough that he remains largely anonymous despite a recent string of championships that has pushed his career record into John Wooden territory. He speaks of teaching American kids the true nature of water polo.
Those words — battle, warrior — make more sense if you go to the town of Herceg Novi in Montenegro, where Vavic grew up. Water polo was as popular there as the NBA is here; boys were drawn to the pool as soon as they could swim. The game loosely resembles basketball as players race back and forth across the water.
The team with the ball passes it around, looking for a chance to hurl it by the opposing goalie, while defenders do everything possible to prevent a score.
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That includes pushing, pulling and kicking beneath the surface, which explains why referees constantly blow their whistles for fouls. Size is a valued commodity in this physical contest; neither large nor naturally gifted, a young Vavic found other ways to succeed. His junior team coach, Baro Dabovic, believed athletes should pay their dues in training sessions that stretched for hours.
If that sounds familiar to the men and women at USC, Vavic — who coaches both teams — acknowledges modeling himself after Dabovic.
After a stint with the junior national team, Vavic played for Jadran, a top professional club in his hometown. It was during the summer of , in the off-season, that he took a break by visiting the United States. I wanted to get back for the start of water polo season.
Los Angeles changed everything. To me, this was paradise. The young man never returned home, extending his visa and starting over in a new country.
That meant waiting tables and working his way up to manager at a series of restaurants. It meant getting married and having four children.
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Palos Verdes High had an opening, which seemed like fate to someone who still acted like a tourist exploring Southern California. Some of the boys on his team had never seen a water polo match, but they were eager to learn, which was all the new coach needed. USC lured him away the following season. USC soon promoted him to co-head coach and then head coach.http://do.patriciorivera.com/the-september-affair.php
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The men had yet to win a championship but were establishing themselves as a national power. The women were another story. We had some skiers. The record book shows eight consecutive defeats to start the inaugural season, including a loss to California.
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The funny thing is, Vavic grins when he talks about that spring. The men captured their first national championship in ; the women followed in But that was two months ago, which seems like light-years to Vavic as he guides the women into a spring season in which they trail Stanford in the national rankings.
With evening shadows stretching across the pool, the powerfully built coach thunders through practice, shaking his head and puffing his cheeks in disgust. All children must be accompanied by an adult in Family Fun. Fitness Class Timetable. Swimming Timetable.
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