LOS ALAMITOS, CA, February 11. USA Water Polo took another step toward streamlining its competitive structure Thursday by naming newly selected Men’s National Team Head Coach Guy Baker as its first Director of High Performance.
The reorganization is patterned after several other National Governing Bodies (NGBs) that have adopted the same structure with much success.
“This is the first step in the process of centralizing our National Team program to become more efficient and productive in developing our athlete pipeline, and to accommodate the growth and educational needs of our sport,” said Tom Seitz, USA Water Polo Executive Director.
As High Performance Director (HPD), Baker’s job will be to keep the National Teams competitive at all levels and to coordinate the development of both programs. Baker will conduct his duties as HPD and Men’s Head Coach simultaneously. The Women’s Head Coaching position vacated by Baker this winter, remains open. However, Baker will hold this position on an interim basis through January 2009, when USA Water Polo is expected to name an HPD without any coaching responsibilities.
“This streamlining will yield tremendous benefits,” Baker said. “There will be a clear USA system of play and athlete development pipeline.”
Baker’s appointment to the position only scrapes the surface with the National Team restructure. Michelle Pickering-Baker will become the National Team Director of Operations, handling a gamut of duties ranging from program budget and administration to host tournament and training preparation and program fundraising. Pickering-Baker will also be responsible for handling all of the compliance issues between USWP and the United States Olympic Committee.
Pickering-Baker has served as the Team Manager since 1998 and has been instrumental in the development and expansion of P.A.C.E. (Programs for Athletes and Coaches Education), the country’s most popular series of water polo clinics and camps.
“By combining the administrative staffs and enhancing the opportunities to share and network the team staffs, USA Water Polo can cut costs, enhance and add to team programs and more fully benefit from fundraising events,” said Pickering-Baker.
Under the new plan, all assistant coaches for both teams will be full-time, also a first for USA Water Polo. Existing Program Manager Jennifer Ross, will be one joined by one other Program Manager to tackle the bulk of the administrative load for the National Teams as well as the planning of P.A.C.E.
USA Water Polo took a step in this direction in 2001 by hiring Baker and the recently departed Ratko Rudic as its first full-time Head Coaches and National Team Directors.
“We’re just continuing to evolve and grow as an organization,” said Baker. “This is a natural progression that needed to happen and I’m excited about what this means for USA Water Polo.”
The new plan has been approved by USA Water Polo and the United States Olympic Committee and goes into effect immediately.
“This is a great move for us,” said Rich Foster, USA Water Polo President. “This kind of solidarity will help to unify our men’s and women’s programs and, ultimately, make us more competitive internationally at each level. We have a great team in place for this and it’ll be exciting to see the progress.”