Gavin Arroyo is no newcomer to international play turning into success at the collegiate level. Arroyo is a three-time NCAA National Champion winner from Cal and has a wealth of international coaching experience. He also coaches the men’s and women’s water polo teams for Long Beach State. In his 11th coaching season (with the men), Arroyo has posted a 132-119 record during his time at LBSU. The Daily 49er sat down to talk about his experiences and this year’s men’s water polo team.
What has it been like coming off a summer coaching the USA men’s Junior National team?
GA: It was great, it was a great honor to have that position. Anytime you can get a different perspective and see what some of the best teams are doing, even at the 20 and under level, it’s a good thing. Some of those teams would be good enough to win our championship. It was definitely high level water polo.
What advice do you give to your own players as they play on their home countries respective national team?
GA: Well, if they get the opportunity [letting them compete is] a no-brainer for us. You only play once in your career and to have an opportunity to do that is going to supersede anything. The teams are not mutually exclusive, some of the guys are a little behind from the World University games in terms of what we’re trying to do for Long Beach.
How do you think it helps players when they come back from playing on a national team?
GA: They’re all much more confident, they get better and I know that’s gonna help us — and more importantly them. It’s all part of a process that we encourage and support.
From the summer to now, how much do you think your team has grown and where have they improved?
GA: Probably culture, not that our culture was bad last year, but I think our culture for the most part is pretty solid with having so many upperclassmen, knowing the ropes, knowing what’s expected and knowing how to pass that level of expectation down to the underclassmen is big.
What are your expectations heading into conference play this year?
GA: Our conference is really tight, there is a lot of parity. Everybody knows what’s at stake (an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament), so it’s going to be a challenge. Right now I think Pacific looks to be the favorite, but I think anybody can do it.
What will your tough non-conference schedule do for you guys going into conference play?
GA: We just wanted to put ourselves in a position to be challenged as much as we could. Definitely did not make an easy schedule this year and we’re not playing at home very much but those things were designed to put us in the best situation for the conference tournament. We can schedule a lot of teams to beat up on, just to feel good about ourselves but we can’t recreate the stress level of a pressure game. We gotta live in that zone as much as we can, that’s where we’re weak and where we have to get better.
Where does this team rank on the list of your best teams in your 11 years coaching here?
GA: I don’t really have a ranking per se, but what I can say about this group is that they are very hard-working and very coachable. They’re fun to coach and I think we’re a little deeper than we normally have been because of the amount of seniors and juniors that we have. For them, it’s about getting over that psychological hump with those one goal losses that we suffered last year at critical moments.