On The Record with Doug Peabody of Shores Water Polo Club and The Bishop’s School

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Doug Peabody of The Bishop's School and Shores Water Polo Club has a healthy perspective on the current heath crisis. Photo Courtesy: Dave Siccardi

Doug Peabody, a San Diego native, has been at the helm of the San Diego Shores Water Polo Club since he founded the club in 1992. In that time, the Shores Club has enjoyed phenomenal success, winning 35 national championships and developing more than 350 players who have gone on to play in college.  Peabody also coaches the boys and girls teams at The Bishop’s School, one of the premier academic institutions in San Diego.

bishops-san-diegoDuring his 24-year tenure the Knights have captured over 25 CIF titles combined, including a CIF record seven-straight girls championships (2011-2017) as well as the 2019 boys title. Peabody’s girls team recently captured the 2020 Girl’s San Diego Section Championship and were favored to again go deep in the CIF postseason.

Now coping with California’s current shelter in place order, Swimming World had a chance to speak with Peabody, recognized in 2018 as USA Water Polo’s Legacy Award winner, and find out how he is coping during these unprecedented times.

– When was the last time in March you can remember not being involved in water polo?

I was probably 11 years old—literally 45 years ago.

– Between the Shores Club and The Bishop’s School you work with a lot of athletes. When were you notified that you couldn’t train or compete?

It was around March 12th that we started to shut down. We were getting notices from different school districts that they were going to shut down. At that point, the Jewish Community Center was still open to us, so we were able to go and finish off that week. I’m not sure of the exact date but we did go Monday through Thursday that week at the community center. We were able to get the Thursday practice in at the YMCA. I believe we were also able to get it in at Bishops for all of our 10U, 12U and 14U girls. But the city pools closed down that week of the 12th, and then subsequently everybody else closed down the next week and that was it.

So many teams across San Diego and up and down Orange County, LA, had already paid for tournaments and leagues to play in. That all got shut down as well.

– And the Cal Cup was supposed to be this weekend…

We had Cal Cup for different age groups… Cal Cup state finals were supposed to be this weekend and next weekend.

– You run everything from 10U coed to 18 and under. You’ve got a lot of different groups; how many athletes are members of your club?

Somewhere from 220 – 240, and that goes all the way down to splashball, because we had two different splashball [groups] working. We had kids five and six years old getting in the water and throwing the ball around, bouncing off the bottom and throwing into some inflatable goals.

You quickly realize how you’re affecting so many lives, when there’s 220 kids who now can’t play or train for the sport they love.

– What activities are you involved with your team and what things are you doing with other coaches to supplement the fact that you can’t train in person?

We emailed everyone in the club immediately and let them know that we were going to continue to send out emails, which turned into dry-land trainings—whether it’s doing pyramid work on your sit-ups or push-ups, Doing different things like bear crawls and crab walks and different yoga [exercises] for different workouts for different age groups.

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Photo Courtesy: San Diego Shores

Each day there’s a check-in with coaches who are still employed. We had to lay off a bunch of employees—hourly employees and people who aren’t directors. We’re just not able to pay them through this time.

Most coaches who are helping are either doing it voluntarily or are the directors of the club—Dan Way, Tim Reed or Ian Davidson are spending a lot of their time during the day preparing stuff for nightly Zoom or WebEx conferencing.

– You mentioned that you’re networking with other coaches throughout North America. How does that apply to your groups?

They’re talking about different things their teams are doing—coaches from Northern California to Southern California, as far as setting up journals and logs for each athlete. And then responding to different questions, doing the mental sport part of the game; what are you doing to put yourself in the best frame of mind to actually play the sport of water polo? How do you prepare mentally and emotionally for each game competition? How do you attack each practice? What should you be thinking about during those times?

James Lathrop [Lamorinda Water Polo Club] and Ross Sinclair [Newport Beach Water Polo] have some really good stuff going with their clubs. Hopefully I’ll be catching on with our club. But I think with the information that Ian, Dan and Tim have been able to get out to Shores athletes has been good and really engaging. There just doing some more where they’re documenting it and have the athletes journal it to look back on.

– You also run a combine for prospective college athletes that usually takes place at the end of June. To your knowledge, are you going to be able to operate that this year?

Our plan is, if we have a pool that will host us, we will run the event. We’re thinking—or hoping—that this event will be something that parents will look forward to in the summer because they won’t be able to look forward to the Junior Olympics or U.S. Club Championships or other primary events.

[National Showcases Connect High School Athletes to Collegiate Water Polo Programs]

We’re more flexible than the July 1st date we have now. I think families are going to make sure they are going to get recruited. I haven’t heard from that many college coaches who said they would not come. If we had to change the date, they’re hurting too as far as not being able to recruit or have their junior days. I know that Harvard is doing a virtual junior day on Saturday because one of our Shores and Bishops athletes is going to be on that call.

We’re hoping that skills and drills moves forward. We’re hoping that one of the school districts or private pools opens so that we can use it.

– This raises the question: how will athletes get ready for such a combine if they don’t have access to water or aren’t as well conditioned as they could be?

The meet and greet—as far as putting a face to a name from an email or a web conference—the chance to see someone in person. Coaches will be able to see through that. You’ve coached for a long time; you would be able to evaluate their body balance or the structure of their passing and shooting. Or their ability to listen and discern information quickly. That’s given during skills and drills.

I think college coaches will be able to find in the athletes, even if they’re not in peak condition to show their strengths.

– Going back to your comment about the virtual junior day, it’s creative—and we’re likely to see more of this. Both in terms of how the recruiting process happens for college hopefuls and the way that club coaches interact with their teams.

Especially for San Diegans. As a former lifeguard; just because they close the beaches [people] used to get in ocean. Now they’ve also closed the beaches. I’m sure some kids will find their way to the ocean, but as far as preparing for your next year of high school or college, these kids are going to be behind the eight ball.

The great thing about this—which is nothing great to be looking at—is everyone is going to be an even playing field. Nobody will have been training. The occasional person with a pool in their backyard will get some work done, but it will be tough for everybody else.

I’m staying in contact with Gabby Stone, who’s an Olympic hopeful. Right now is a tough time for those Olympians—being told they won’t be able to compete until 2021.

– Shores has been around since 1992, you’ve been around water polo for almost 50 years. We’ve never seen anything like this. What silver lining can you take from this experience?

Perspective is the biggest thing. I’ve asked my wife umpteen million times, when am I going to get a break or slow down. Hopefully this doesn’t last very long and people can stave off the virus, stay healthy and that the numbers keep dropping. And that we’ll look back on this time and [say]: Wow I had a reset in life I never thought I’d have.

[Adam Krikorian, USA Women’s Water Polo Coach, On Tokyo Olympics Postponement]

I think [that] for all coaches, as frustrated as they are, their lives are going to calm down for a second—and stop looking at the next championship, or the next premiere athlete or next premiere team that they’re coaching, and they’ll get to reset who they are as a person. And come back better and stronger.

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Photo Courtesy: San Diego Shores

That would be the biggest thing; slowing down and evaluating what we’re doing as coaches instead of running from one tournament to the next, one practice to the next.

– Is there anything else you might share about how to make the best of this situation?

Find a place to escape, to get something done in a day. I don’t mean the mundane of cleaning out your closet or being with your family or playing Scrabble with your kid. We’re blessed—we live in North Park in San Diego—yesterday I literally walked down to Bud Kearns Pool and down Upas Street, down Florida Canyon and up to the zoo and through Balboa Park.

It’s spring break time, and everything I just mentioned should have been packed—from Morley Field to the zoo to the Museum of Man. There was no one.

So, get out! I know in some places there are restrictions, like Madrid and Italy. But, not at the moment in San Diego, thankfully. There’s not a lot of people out. So if you have a chance to go out in your city or community, walk somewhere you wouldn’t normally get to.

Keep a fresh mind; get back in nature if you can because that’s great. Find something that’s in your community that you cherish—stop and smell the roses as people say!

If you’re an athlete, keep in the mind set of: What am I doing each and every day to make myself a better water polo player—mentally, physically and emotionally. Even if I don’t have water to work with at the moment.

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