Author: Donovan Dennis
Aquatics fans will see a new face poolside as head coach Christopher Lee takes charge of the Tigers’ men’s and women’s water polo teams. Lee replaces former head coach Larry Zubrin, who departed after nearly 12 years with the Occidental programs.
Lee brings with him considerable experience both at the collegiate and national club level, with stints coaching the University of Pennsylvania’s women’s club teams from 2000–08 and Pomona-Pitzer for three years. Most recently, he served as assistant coach of the Division I women’s varsity team at the University of California-Berkeley.Lee has also coached the CADET national team, the Coastal California Zone team and, as of this fall, will begin working with the USA Women’s Development National Team.
Lee plans to implement his skills from a lengthy and varied coaching career at Occidental, noting that many of the fundamental principles of effective athletics programs transcend skill level and apply to every team.
“Being part of the women’s national team was a great opportunity to see how successful programs work and how successful programs run,” Lee said. “We coach a sport that I believe you don’t have to be an elite athlete to be successful in — you just have to play a lot. For me, what we are doing here at Oxy with these kids, I don’t see it as any different compared to how I would approach a [Division] I program.”
Hank Franscioni (senior) noted the positive energy and group mentality Lee has brought to Taylor Pool, including a new-found accountability policy which encourages subtleties like walking on deck at the same time and entering the pool at the same time to create to a cohesive team.
Other teammates agree, citing an improved group dynamic and work ethic.
“He’s good at creating unity within such a small team,” Matt Munet (junior) said. “He’s really good at developing players and letting us know that we can rely on each other and work together as a team. Camaraderie is really important.”
Building on the foundation of a positive team dynamic, Lee brought notable changes to the offensive and defensive strategy. Rather than adapting varying defensive tactics before every game, they play aggressive defense and adapt throughout the contest, Franscioni said.
Still, Lee said his goals for the Tiger teams extend beyond the pool deck — and fostering an environment for successful students is central to his coaching philosophy.
Le said he wants his athletes not only to believe in themselves and set high-reaching goals in the pool, but to work in the classroom as well.
“The ability for them to do multiple things and do them well is all within their capabilities,” he said.
In the end, Lee hopes his athletes are able to relate the values learned as NCAA athletes to their lives beyond Occidental and their athletic careers.
“He relates water polo to life,” Franscioni said. “I really like that. I think we see it more in the sense of responsibility, time management, and the group dynamics. We will notice these things later in life. We see it happening, but I think it will really hit us later, maybe in the next couple months.”
The Tigers next suit up against Penn State-Berhend on Oct. 2 at the Gary Troyer Memorial Tournament in Claremont, Calif.
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