This past weekend I was up in NorCal to watch the mens NCAA final 4 water polo champs and then I spent a few days visiting my buddy Mark. This short time up in NorCal reemphasized the value of small gestures to me.

Little boast…At NCAAs I had kids on 3 of the 4 teams. On St Francis there was Zoltan Danko (Hungary) and Drew Reed from our Sun Devil WPC. LMU had Tibor Forai (Serbia) and Edgarus Asajavicious (Lithuania). And on the Cal team was Brian Dudley (South Africa). Unfortunately neither of my teams won. Nonetheless the tournament was exciting, and both semifinals were great. The championship game was prob the best mens NCAA championship game I’ve seen. Although USC won 12-10 in OT, Brian did score 2 crucial goals but still found himself on the losing side. I’ve followed Brian’s career through out his time at Cal (which includes winning the 2007 NCAA championship) and I’ve always regarded as him being a true gentleman. Nothing exemplifies this more than watching Brian wait until the end of USC’s celebrations (probably freezing his ass off in just his suit and the awful weather) to personally thank & congratulate the USC coach with a simple hand shake.

Most people would not have taken notice, but to me it was a a classy moment. Brian was obviously bitterly disappointed, but he had the class and poise to wait out the limelight while the USC team and staff celebrated and then personally shook Vavic’s hand. In America we have this rather mundane way of shaking hands and cheering for the other team at the end of the game. Generally it’s just an obligatory thank you and good luck which nobody cares about. But to Brian and people like me these little things really matter and define a man of class. He will always be in my books an amazing leader who I want my Players to emulate. This is what a true South African is, even if he comes from St Johns.

After that I spent acouple days with Mark Lawrence who worked with me at Arizona St in 2008/09. Mark moved back home to Freemont, CA to attend to family matters. He also has taken over running the only water polo club in his city. What totally blew me away from spending time with Mark is how incredibly passionate he is about growing water polo in his area.

The lengths he goes to coach and encourage his kids is remarkable! Success is totally dependent on passion, and Mark is abundant with passion. The same can be said of all the coaches who work with Mark, and all the kids who play for the club. Seeing 60 kids cram into a pool to play polo is one of the most awe inspiring moments a coach can ever have. Particularly when a year earlier finding club polo in the area was impossible.

Maybe it’s just my own values, but I believe real coaches, the ones who change the world are the ones who inspire their kids and make a difference in the community. Mark & his colleagues are those types of coaches. The small moment that was monumental in my opinion was at the end of practice, every single kid came to shake their coaches hands and thank them for practice. It is so rare to see that in sport nowadays. It is such a small inconceivable gesture, but it shows that these coaches are doing a great job of using water polo to teach real values.

For me small gestures like shaking hands, saying please and thank you are the most important things coaches can teach. Brian Dudleys small gesture was imparted to him through years and years of high school sport. It’s a credit to his coaches, and coaches like Mark that turn boys into men.

weird but true