WeissCrax: The Chris Parrish Interview

Chris Parrish, center, along with Conner Levoff, left, and Paul Wilson, right, made up the coaching staff of this year's CIF champion Chargers. (Lance Schroeder Photos)

Location: Plaza Deli, La Cumbre Plaza, Santa Barbara, March 5, 2010 2:30PM

CIF–SS Division 1 Girls’ Water Polo Championship Coach Chris Parrish — first-year Dos Pueblos High School girls and long-time boys coach — agreed to a ‘no-holds barred’, in-depth, 60 Minutes-like exclusive interview to get all the facts (or, at least, some of them, anyway) on the girls’ recent championship journey.

The Chargers’ girls’ team continues an amazing 67 game win streak over two-plus seasons — capped last week with their unprecedented fourth consecutive CIF title.

Parrish’s DP boys’ teams were also repeat CIF Champs in 2004 and 2005 – both times beating cross-town rivals, the Santa Barbara ‘Dons.’

So, do that stop-watch-ticking-noise-thing-in-your-head-thing here like on that real 60 Minutes television show and let’s get started …

Dos Pueblos players enjoy one of the perks of winning a CIF title: throwing the coach in the pool.

WC: Thanks, Coach Chris. Is that loud-clock-tick-ticking-noise bothering you?

CP: I don’t hear it …

THE EARLY YEARS

WC: Well, then, congrats on your most recent championship! More on that later. Let’s get some background 4-1-1 first, if that’s OK. You’re a local dude, right?

CP: Yes – lived my first seven years on the Mesa, then grew up in the Hope Ranch Annex area.

WC: Back then – what did you want to be when ‘you grew up’?

CP: Seriously? Well, I wanted to be an astronaut.

WC: How about sports?

CP: My dad played water polo so he’d always toss the ball around with us in our pool. Mom was a swim instructor so it seems like I was always in the water. I enjoyed team sports but was super-competitive and hated losing. I swam, played soccer and some baseball for short while. I was a lefty and my first time pitching, I hit a kid. Heard his parents yell stuff at me. So, that was it for baseball.

WC: How were your Royals (San Marcos HS) water polo teams?

CP: A little rough, at first, as a sophomore playing ahead of three seniors – I didn’t catch any breaks there. But in my senior year, we made it to the CIF quarter-finals and lost to the eventual champs, Costa Mesa.

WC: Were you a defensive specialist or a scoring machine?

CP: I scored something like 136 goals my senior year – averaged over five goals a game.

WC: College scholarship?

CP: No. I wasn’t a serious student back then. I needed help getting into the University of the Pacific and, once there, was asked to ‘redshirt’ for a year. Instead of understanding that it meant five years to flourish — I thought that meant was they didn’t want me to play right then so I left school and came home. Worked at a local restaurant and, um, started a family.

WC: So you are like 19 at the time?

CP: I was 20.

WC: What happens next?

CP: Well, I really missed water polo and wanted to play. I found a way but it wasn’t easy – I had to first take 18 units over a six-week summer session to become eligible. Plus, I had a family. My dad agreed to help financially. I got a 3.85 GPA and it helped get me back on track.

WC: Keep going …

CP: So, I played a year @ Ventura JC. Got my Associates degree, then landed at the University of Portland.

WC: What did you study?

CP: History. After getting my Bachelors degree, I started grad school right away – same place. I took this one class, ‘The Exceptional Child’ that fascinated me and it led me towards teaching ‘special needs’ students.

The recent CIF title with the girls is Parrish's third as coach. He won back-to-back titles with the boys in 2004 and 2005.

THE DP CONNECTION

WC: OK – so you are married. With kids. Up in Portland. How did you ever end up at Dos Pueblos?

CP: Just as I was finishing grad school in 2002, Gregg Wilson (legendary UCSB Swim Coach) called and said that DP had an opening for a boys’ water polo coach and that I should consider it.

WC: Well?

CP: It sounded good so I interviewed with Dave Cash (then DPHS Principal). He called me the next day to offer the job.

THE DOS PUEBLOS EXPERIENCE

WC: How were your first boys’ teams?

CP: In 2002, we had an amazing freshman class. It was Division 4 back then. By the time they were juniors – we were CIF Champs. Then, repeated in 2005.

WC: Were you involved with the DP girls’ program?

CP: Danelle Little (former DP girls coach) and I were both assistants for each other back then. We were pretty tight. Then, with both programs getting very serious … and a community drive for new facility … over time we lost that connection.

WC: How did it work that you would ultimately become the girl’s team coach this past season?

CP: I knew in May that Danelle wasn’t returning. I had an opportunity to coach the girls over the summer and I advised Dan Feldhaus (DP Athletic Director) afterwards that I would love to coach them during the season. I already knew these athletes and their families. Dan told me I had the job right before school started.

ABOUT COACHING TODAY’S ATHLETES

WC: What is the biggest difference you’ve learned in coaching girls vs. boys?

CP: Girls, in my opinion, play a lot more ‘cerebral.’ They don’t get as frustrated. And are certainly more sensitive, so I needed to change my usual style.

WC: Like…?

CP: I’ve been coaching the boys for so long, well, it was a nice change to be coaching the girls, too. I tend to ride the boys really hard but I couldn’t do that with the girls.

WC: So what did the girls teach you?

CP: They taught me to be more positive in my approach.

WC: OK, you take over as coach of the girls team … they are undefeated and three-time repeating CIF Champs PLUS already riding an incredible win streak – are you feeling any pressure here, Bro? Seems like a near-impossible situation – a la winning another CIF title is expected and if you lose – it’s the coach’s fault …

CP: Exactly! But I told the girls when the season started, ‘let’s have fun’ and just try to be our best and not worry about anything else. John Wooden’s coaching philosophy. Practice on skills and focus on being your best. We just took it one game at a time…

WC: But how could these girls get any better when they’re already playing at such a high caliber game?

CP: So rather than change anything, we worked on conditioning and things like shot-blocking. Yes, shot-blocking. It’s easier preventing goals when you have seven shot blockers vs. just one. It all worked.

WC: And how ’bout that Kiley Neushul (4-time CIF Champ and USA National Team player) – were you surprised by her nine goals in the Finals?

CP: No. She has the ability to do that every game. She makes the team better with everything that she does. Rather than score, Kiley would rather distribute the ball to her teammates as it proves she has faith in their abilities. Quite honestly, she sees things better than coaches do.

WC: How did you celebrate the championship?

CP: Well, it really hasn’t sunk in yet. After the game and dinner with the team, when I got home – I sat in my chair and said, “WOW! Did this really happen!?!”

WC: OK, so stars Kiley, Tiera Schroeder and five others graduate, how’s next season looking – rebuilding year?

CP: No – we should still be one of the Top 5 teams. Kiley’s sister, Jamie will only be a junior – she has never lost a high school game. She has a ‘refuse to lose’ mentality and will do whatever it takes to win – especially in tight games. Kodi Hill also returns as the best defender in water polo.

WC: Who else you got?

CP: And don’t forget we have reserves who many people have not really seen yet –but they’ve been practicing every day with the best kids the country. They will now have their opportunities.

THE FINAL LAP

WC: OK, Coach – we gotta wrap it up here. A few last questions …

WC: Any advice for younger water polo players?

CP: Yes – have fun with the sport and keep your eyes open. It’s only fun if you work hard – good life lessons, as well. And it’s no surprise that water polo players are better at later transferring success to other aspects of life.

WC: It seems, Coach, like you’ve come a long way personally and professionally – are you loving life right now?

CP: Well, the ‘monkey is off my back.’ But it’s been non-stop now. I’m still coaching club and, fortunately, there has not been any weekend tourneys.

WC: Any last reflections?

CP: This past season will always be special and be the ‘yardstick’ to which all my future coaching seasons will be measured.

WC: Hey – did President Obama call and did you guys get invited to the White House?

CP: No, but the team is going to the next Santa Barbara Athletic Roundtable Luncheon.

WC: Lastly, don’t you think your dad looks like Harrison Ford?

CP: Absolutely! We tell him that all the time!

WC: Oh – and one more, Coach — any chance you can please autograph my CIF Finals Program?

CP: Sure, Dude ….

Tick-tick-tick-tick….

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