Water polo coach teaches the tools for success
Lessons go beyond the pool
At one time, Brett Ormsby’s only concern was his own career. The four-time All-American water polo attacker from UCLA and 2004 National Player of the Year competed in the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece, before his swimming career ended due to injuries.
After three shoulder surgeries and three abdominal surgeries he was never able to fully recover. Although he didn’t know it at the time, his loss was a big gain for a group of budding athletes.
“As an athlete, not being able to play at the same level was really difficult to deal with,” Ormsby said.
After graduating, the El Cajon native spent several years with the Bruins coaching staff and trained several water polo clubs before a friend brought a job opening to his attention.
Soon enough, he was headed back to San Diego to take the position as head coach of the Cathedral Catholic water polo team.
In his first season coaching the Dons, spring 2008, the varsity team made it as far as the CIF semi-finals.
“Playing is always more fun than coaching,” Ormsby said. “But coaching is probably the next best thing.”
In June 2008 he decided to take more students under his wing, creating the Del Mar Water Polo Club for high school students to work on their skills year-round and soon hopes to open the club to younger players as well.
Ormsby started playing when he was 10 years old, his father was a high school coach and was “very influential.” He thinks starting at an even younger age gives players a definite advantage.
On March 22, the 26-year-old coach sat on the pool deck during a clinic he’d organized at CCHS. About 120 students bobbed in the water, waiting for the next command or bit of advice from UCLA’s head water polo coach, one of Ormsby’s mentors, Adam Krikorian.
Among the swimmers and instructors was Bruins assistant coach Brandon Brooks, who was also part of the 2004 Olympic team, Krsto Sbutega, a UCLA player who Ormsby called the best in the U.S., UCLA player Marco Santos, former-UCLA player Thalia Munro and Brett’s father Greg Ormsby.
The four-hour clinic was an opportunity for his students to learn from some of the best water polo athletes and coaches in the nation.
In June of this year, he will also bring 18 members of the club to Europe to play water polo in Croatia for one week and then to Rome, where they will watch world champions compete for one week.
Ormsby also arranged for the head coach of the USA Water Polo team and Olympic Hall of Fame member Terry Schroeder to visit Cathedral Catholic to speak to the team in May.
Catherine Bilz, whose sophomore son Stephen is on the CCHS team, said Ormsby brings “worldliness” to the team.
The mothers all agreed that Ormsby had inspired a passion in their sons they hadn’t seen before.
“I have seen such wonderful changes in my own son Christopher since he has been coached by Brett in the last year,” Deb Hilinsky wrote via e-mail. “He is more focused, truly driven and just happy in both his school work and water polo.
“He seems to have found peace,” she said later.
Ormsby’s teaching method is to lead by example and go beyond the pool by teaching the students about leading a healthy lifestyle, the mothers said.
“It’s just comforting and thrilling to have a man like Brett coaching my son,” Hilinsky said. “It’s incredible to have such a good, decent, respectful guy teaching him things that go way beyond the pool.”
Sophomore player Bryan Cook’s mother Carol Cook said Ormsby sometimes inspects their lunches to be sure their taking care of their bodies.
“I think if someone wants to become an excellent water polo player then they are going to have to eat, drink, and sleep water polo,” Ormsby wrote on the club’s Web site under the header: Primary goals for the spring.
Kim Hightower, mother of sophomore Chase, said Ormsby is strict and motivational. “He always tells them, ‘This isn’t supposed to be fun. Winning is fun.’”
Ormsby lives in Del Mar but doesn’t have much time for the beach. “Being a goal-oriented person, I pour a lot of my time and energy into water polo,” he said. Between his trip to Europe, hopes to expand the club and wedding plans for this summer, Ormsby has a full plate. “But, I love it,” he said.
“The ability to think yourself through a game of water polo is both innate and learned. The part of it that we can control (the learned part) is determined by how much you invest mentally in your sport,” Ormsby wrote.
A Poker Night fundraiser for the nonprofit Del Mar Water Polo Club is scheduled for April 18. For more information, visit www.delmarwaterpoloclub.org.
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