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Thursday, May 23, 2024

WWPA Coach of the Year: Daniel Leyson


UC Davis men’s water polo head coach Daniel Leyson receives 2016 WWPA Men’s Coach of the Year award

During winter break, while many UC Davis students were relaxing for the holidays and catching up on their favorite Netflix shows, Daniel Leyson, the UC Davis men’s water polo head coach, was selected as the 2016 Western Water Polo Association [WWPA] Men’s Coach of the Year, decided by his conference peers.

This is the first time that Leyson has received this honor, after leading the men’s water polo team to 23 overall wins last season — a school record — a WWPA championship and receiving the team’s first NCAA postseason selection in 19 years.  

The WWPA Coach of the Year Award has only gone to a UC Davis coach three previous times in the 36 years that the WWPA has been functioning.

It is no secret that the UC Davis men’s water polo team had great success this year under Leyson, having an undefeated 6-0 conference record to earn the first seed in the WWPA Championships. The team later defeated three-time defending champion UC San Diego in the final. However, the Aggies fell in the NCAA play-in game, losing to Harvard 16-15 in overtime.

Nonetheless, the team’s overall winning percentage of .793, 12.6 goals per game average and number 10 final ranking by the NCAA are school benchmarks. Along with Leyson’s award, sophomore attacker Ido Goldschmidt received WWPA Player of the Year honors, and junior goalkeeper Spencer Creed was named the most valuable player of the WWPA Tournament.

The California Aggie had the chance to sit down with Leyson and ask him about his playing days, his transition into coaching and the feeling of receiving this award.


How did you first get into playing water polo? Was it an interest you found on your own or did you decide to try from the advice of someone else?

It’s really serendipitous because I happened to grow up in an area of Orange County that the high school that I was eventually going to go to had a great water polo program with an outstanding coach. It was a stroke of luck, I always loved sports and my mom didn’t want me to play football, and it so happens that I took to [water polo] right away.


What, in your opinion, was the best part about playing the sport in all of your years of experience as a player?

I like the sport a lot. I like everything about it from the physical contact aspect because I am a competitive person. I also liked the grind. I know there were some days where you knew that it was going to be a miserable practice but I liked going to the pool everyday and I think that was important.


When did you first realize that coaching was something you wanted to pursue?

I think inevitably I was going to get into coaching. Coaching is teaching, and both of my parents are teachers so I think that I have that character of wanting to teach. I retired at the age of 28 and lived in Barcelona, came back to the U.S., and was wondering what to do. I was able to be a volunteer assistant at USC and from there I kept going. I was extremely lucky.


Did the way you were coached as a player have any effect on your coaching style? If so, in what way?

One million percent yes. I am a collection of all the different people that have coached me over time in different levels and styles of play. I have taken information from these people and it has had a huge impact on me. My high school coach was an outstanding teacher of the fundamental skills of the game and he dedicated to his life to his players. I needed to find out who I was a little bit because I didn’t want to be someone that I’m not.


Do you try to keep the same coaching style year after year, or try to adjust and change it up based on the team you have?

I think there are certain things that are always constant, but tactically and technically I think that things are going to change based on players and personalities as well. I believe that certain things work no matter who the generation is, so certain things remain constant, but I am aware of trying to stay fresh in my coaching style by being involved.


What was the feeling when you saw that you were awarded the WWPA Coach of the Year Award?

It is a good feeling. I felt like I knew I was going to get the award once we won conference, but it is nice to receive awards of recognition like this from your peers. It is a team thing and what has allowed for the success of the program is the commitment of the players, so, it is a team thing.


Written by: Ryan Bugsch sports@theaggie.org


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