In early September, Brad Kreutzkamp, then associate head coach of the UC San Diego men's water polo team, was tabbed as the new head coach of the Triton women's water polo squad. The UCSD men were 181-93 during Kreutzkamp's tenure with the program. Prior to arriving in La Jolla, he was head boys' and girls' coach at both Grossmont and Patrick Henry High Schools locally.
Since his appointment, the 39-year-old Kreutzkamp, who has logged more than 10 years at UCSD, has brought in Jenna Murphy as his assistant coach, put his club through its fall practice season, signed his first recruit and currently has the Tritons training for their 2010 opener, Jan. 23, at the Michigan Invitational. With "The Kreutzkamp Era" of UCSD women's water polo set to commence, he spent some time recently talking about his new position, the transition from men's to women's polo and what he envisions for the future.
Q: What went through your mind when you were offered the head coaching position with the UCSD women's water polo team?
KREUTZKAMP: "Wow. What have I done?" Seriously, though, I had such a great relationship with the men's team here and we were certainly successful at a level that I found myself thinking and rethinking my decision during the whole process. However, not many people know that once upon a time I had a lot of success coaching women and it just felt right to take what I had learned on the men's side and get back into to the women's game.
Q: Why did you decide to pursue the women's water polo position and what was the toughest part of that decision-making process?
KREUTZKAMP: I ultimately decided that it was time to take the next step in my career. I had a lot of autonomy with the men's team so it wasn't a control thing. But when you decide that coaching is going to be a career move for you, being a head coach is the pinnacle in this profession. Hands down the hardest part of the decision was the relationships that I will be giving up with the men's team. Being so involved with that program for the past 11 years made it very hard to walk away.
Q: What type of learning curve have you had since officially taking over the reins?
KREUTZKAMP: It actually has gone surprising smooth. I credit that to student athletes that I inherited and the effort of my assistant coach Jenna Murphy. She has a wealth of knowledge and so much enthusiasm that the transition has gone pretty well I think.
Q: What's been the most pleasant surprise so far?
KREUTZKAMP: Without a doubt the talent level of the team. We have some very talented athletes on this squad. You never really know what you're going to get when you step on the deck for the first time. But after practicing with them for the past four months I have total faith in these gals. They know what they're doing.
Q: You've been coaching men pretty much exclusively for the last 10 years. Are there any differences in your approach to coaching collegiate women?
KREUTZKAMP: Not really. It's all in the communication. The skills we practice, game plans, intensity are all the same. They deserve nothing less.
Q: Tell us what we can expect to see out of a Brad Kreutzkamp-coached team in the pool?
KREUTZKAMP: Well, you can count on a team that is disciplined, plays solid defense and understands their individual roles. They'll be prepared for every opponent and hopefully be having some fun along the way.
Q: How heavily will this team rely on its seniors?
KREUTZKAMP: I can tell that I have relied on them a great deal. I needed them to know that this was their team, not mine. They have given so much to UCSD these past three or four years that they have earned that. In the pool, they will be the nucleus we build around. That being said, we have some very talented underclassmen as well.
Q: What were your thoughts when you saw that San Diego State, Michigan, San Jose State and UCLA-top 10 teams all last year-would be your four opponents in the season-opening Michigan Tournament?
KREUTZKAMP: At first I was a little deflated knowing how good those opponents are, but after it settled a bit and I announced it to the team we just went back to work. I mean, the little number next to your team ranking really means nothing once the game starts. This is a UCSD team that will build to playing its best ball once our conference championship gets here, and these opponents will just help us get to that point.
Q: You've been quoted as saying your team could challenge for the WWPA Championship this year. Was that said in the excitement of the moment or do you think it's truly a possibility?
KREUTZKAMP: I hate to lose more than anybody I know. I think there is something defective in my genes or something. So once I got the job I definitely was setting some goals not knowing what our talent level really was. However, after coaching this squad these past few months I now believe it more than ever. We have the talent in the cage, on defense, and some real threats on offense. We just have to believe in ourselves.
Q: You have spent 11 years coaching with Denny Harper. What do you consider the most valuable coaching insights you've learned from him?
KREUTZKAMP: I have learned so much it's tough to narrow it down to the "most valuable". With that being said, Denny's ability to bring a team together and believe in themselves is uncanny. UCSD beats D-I teams every year and to battle the resources and admission standards that they have, you have to get a team to believe in itself. You see it all the time in March Madness. Some team no one ever gave a chance steps up and has a great run because of their attitudes. Denny nurtures that characteristic better than anyone I've ever met.
Q: With his office literally across the pool, will you try to utilize his experience with your program? If so, how?
KREUTZKAMP: I'd be a fool not to. So much so, in fact, that he has assumed an assistant coaching role with us. It's a lot like when we were together these past 11 years. We would sit around for hours bouncing ideas off each other. We don't always see eye-to-eye, but how can you argue with the success that he's had in his nearly three decades of coaching at UCSD?
Q: In an earlier era, the UCSD women's water polo team won five national titles. As a new head coach, is that history intimidating?
KREUTZKAMP: Not intimidating at all. It's motivating. With all the talented players to have passed though here the current team feels a sense of history and hopefully uses that to drive themselves when things get tough.
Q: What are your goals in the recruiting arena?
KREUTZKAMP: We are really focusing on getting student athletes from winning high schools and junior colleges. When you have athletes who know what it takes to win a championship, you have won half the battle. Winning attitudes are everything. Oh yeah...big, fast athletes never hurt either.
Q: What are the three most important qualities your ideal recruit should possess?
KREUTZKAMP: Attitude, strength, and speed.
Q: You've spent a good part of your career at UCSD. What are some tips you've picked up from your non-water polo colleagues?
KREUTZKAMP: My office for the past seven years was up at RIMAC and I worked side-by-side with most of UCSD's coaching staff. I can say unequivocally that this is an amazing staff. I remember sitting down with one of the most successful women's coaches in San Diego history, Brian McManus [women's soccer], and asking him how he would coach his women differently than some his men's club teams. He looked me right in the eye with all seriousness and said that he coaches them no different. "They deserve nothing less." I'm going to keep that with me for a long time.
Q: You're a big sports fan. What sports and what teams do you follow and why?
KREUTZKAMP: I'm all about San Diego. I've lived here for over 20 years now and I'm a huge Charger and Padre fan. Sometimes I have to ask myself why I torture myself so much. But in all seriousness, it's a great release from coaching to just go and watch sports for pleasure as opposed to having a vested interest in your own team.
Q: You and your wife Victoria have two young sons, Jake and Ryan. When you want to get completely away from the coaching world, what do you enjoy doing with your family?
KREUTZKAMP: We go to Big Bear a lot. We are fortunate to have a family cabin up there and I've been going there since I was nine. It's really neat to see my young boys enjoying the mountain as I have for so long.
Q: In five years, where do you see the UCSD women's water polo team? What would you consider success within that time frame?
KREUTZKAMP: Our stated goal is to win our conference every year. If that takes one year, great. If it takes five, we'll do it that way too, but it will happen. It can sometimes come across as a cop out when teams don't win to say that as long as everyone tried their best then we're all winners. But in all the years of coaching the UCSD student-athletes, I have become a huge believer in what this university is all about. The young men and women that go through this athletic department are some of the most well-rounded, successful young people you will ever meet. I'm fortunate to be working with them.
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