The water polo team at San Dieguito Academy is nimble, young and strong; full of energy and tenacity.
“They are not squeamish. They don’t shy from contact,” said their new coach, Ryan Upper who came on board in July.
He said it is the team’s second year in existence and first year of varsity.
It is playing against teams that have played together for several years.
“They are doing pretty well. It’s tough because we don’t have a measuring stick because they were playing JV last year and did well in the JV season. Coming into this season to see how they stack up against varsity, they won their first game and lost their second,” he said.
He said the team has improved with every game it has played.
“I think the key is we have 12 sophomores. That will be the group moving ahead in the next couple of years. They are going to get a bunch of experience playing with a group of their peers for the next couple of years. That group is going to be really strong,” he said.
Upper said the two seniors on the team provide strong leadership, helping with warm-ups and practices.
“We have a fairly disciplined team. They are learning new skills and doing a really good job,” Upper said. “I give them as much information as possible and hope most of it sticks.”
Upper, 31, is single and lives in Mission Valley. A native Californian, he played water polo in high school at Riverside Poly. The team was CIF.
He is working towards his master’s degree in business at San Diego State University during the week and coaches five or six days a week.
As part of the master’s program he has done some internships with San Diego Gas and Electric and when he graduates in May, he hopes to start his own small business or help other small businesses stay competitive in the marketplace, he said.
Upper served four years active duty in the Navy and is currently a First Lieutenant in the Army National Guard.
“I graduated from high school and did four years of active duty in the Navy,” he said. “I went into the Navy and didn’t know where I was going.”
He said he has used the G.I. Bill to help pay for his education.
Upper first went to Riverside Community College where he played water polo and swam.
“I was a junior college All American for 2005 and 2004 in swimming,” he said.
He then transferred to the University of Redlands and swam competitively for the university before he started coaching for Riverside Water Polo, a nonprofit club for competitors between the ages of 10 and 18.
He said he had to take time off for his National Guard military training and was then deployed to Kosovo with the National Guard in 2009.
While training in Arizona he helped coach the woman’s water polo club at the University of Arizona at Tucson.
At the end of June at 2010, he started coaching again and started looking for jobs at area high schools.
He was hired by San Dieguito in Encinitas.
He said the water polo season is over about the first week of November, but will start practicing in January a couple of times a week, working around the other sports schedules in which his players are involved.
The water polo season will resume in mid-August.
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