LOS ALAMITOS, Calif. July 17 — USA Water Polo recently announced it has completed its coaching renegotiations for the year by signing men’s skipper Ratko Rudic to another four years this afternoon in Long Beach, Calif. Women’s coach Guy Baker extended his contract earlier this month, meaning that the U.S. will retain the service of both of its coaches through the Beijing Olympics in 2008.
“I’m very excited to be back with this team for another four years,” said Rudic, who coached teams to three consecutive Olympic golds between 1984 and 1992. “We need another four years to finish all the work that we’ve started because all of our programs are going so well.”
Since Rudic’s hire in 2001, he has helped to develop several new programs to foster the growth of water polo in the United States. His revamped Premier League debuted in 2002, giving players more games against top-level competition each year. 2002 also marked the first year of the American Water Polo League (AWPL), another competitive outlet for the country’s top players and the first try at a legitimate professional league in the U.S.
But where Rudic’s reach has been most noticeable is at the lower levels. He has invested most of his energies to the water polo youth, where he says medals are won.
“To be consistently successful, we must focus on the development of the
sport at the lower levels,” he said. “We must ensure that all the players get to play at a very high level from a young age like in Europe. Over there, players get this kind of competition as early as 7 or 8.”
The recent National Age Group Championships, which took place in Long Beach and in Utah, were Rudic’s brainchild. This second-year water polo
extravaganza gives additional championship play to athletes 17-under across the country.
“There is still more to be done,” he said.
Rudic garnered a gold medal as a player for Yugoslavia in 1968, then went on to guide that team to the top of the medal stand in 1984 and 1988, both times ahead of the U.S. In 1992, Rudic coached his way to an unprecedented third straight gold medal, this time with Italy. He helped Italy to bronze in 1996, but his medal streak was snapped with a fifth place finish in
Sydney in 2000.
Rudic was hired by the U.S. in January of 2001 to coach the National Team and to head up the advancement of the sport at all levels. Last summer, Rudic steered the U.S. to a gold medal finish at the Pan American Games in the Dominican Republic and a third place finish at the FINA World League Super Final in New York.
“We figured if you can’t beat him, you hire him,” said USA Water Polo
President Richard Foster, who was instrumental in luring Rudic to U.S.
soil. “We have the two best coaches in the world and we have every
confidence in the world in what they’re doing for our sport, both
domestically and internationally.”
Rudic currently resides in Long Beach.