Editor's note: Chris Fetterman is the boys' water polo
coach at Hoffman Estates High School and a journalism major at Roosevelt
University. He will be contributing articles and assisting in the running
of Illpolo.com for the 2009 season.
ENTRY #2 - "Tradition Is Everything"
An Interview With Dave Perry
by Chris Fetterman
If you have ever wondered what it
might be like to be a coach, let me fill you in. Most nights I wake up in
a cold sweat, often from the same re-occurring nightmare. I am coaching
my team in the state championship game against a team that I can’t seem to
make out-the harder I stare across the pool deck, the more blurred my
vision gets. This mysterious team is draped in black robes and there
seems to be hundreds of them.
At this point, I can only imagine
you asking yourself, why
on earth would coaching in a state championship game be a nightmare?
...and you would be accurate in
your thought process, but let me go on…
I start walking over toward the opposing teams' bench, because curiosity
has overpowered me, and each and every player starts to come into vision,
one-by-one, each of them looking more familiar than the next. I notice a
man standing on in the middle of the pool. (Yes, on the water)
begins to glide toward me. His white hair and beard are glowing, and
I see he is wearing a necklace; this wasn’t like any necklace I had ever
seen. It was an Illinois State Water Polo trophy dangling from a chain
(much like Flava Flav’s infamous clock) around his neck. As I get
closer I notice it is Dave Perry, the head coach at Fenwick High School, and
coincidentally owner of the last five boys' state trophies, and as he shakes
my hand I begin to mutter off question after question…
“What’s with the secret blurry guys Dave?”
“Well I have decided to do things a little different this time”
voice gets louder with anticipation. The music from “Friday the 13th”
starts to play in the background)
“What’s that Dave?”
“I am going to use every player I have ever coached against you!!! A
hahah hahahha hahahhahahah hahahah (I could go on)
begin to shriek like a 12-year-old girl after watching The Exorcist.)
now, if you have been alive for the last 30 years and have been involved in
Illinois Water Polo, than you know how scary that nightmare actually is…
rather, should be. Don’t judge me!
recently had a chance to sit down and talk with Dave and ask him a few
pressing questions about his career, his life after water polo and the
most important question: Why does everyone hate Fenwick?
*So, Dave, I am relatively new
to this sport, (comparatively) how many years have you been involved in
Illinois Water Polo?
started coaching water polo in 1979 when I accepted a teaching and swim
coach position at Mt. Carmel HS. Soon after accepting the job I found out
I would also be coaching water polo!
Did you know what
when you first started?
did, but I spent the summer of ’79 with Dave Madej to learn about the
game. By the first day of school 1979, I became a water polo coach
forever! I remember, in 77 or 78, one of the few games I had ever seen, I
was watching my nephew playing for Br. Rice in the State Tourney at UIC.
What do you remember most
about the first few years?
that game, some coach was heckling the Rice team for some reason and as
soon as the game ended, the Rice players were climbing the wall to try and
get to that coach. Fortunately, the coach left and things settled down
and I was thinking, "Wow," this is interesting!
To say the least… that sounds
like it could have ended badly. Who stands out the most in your 30 years?
Who was the best player you have ever coached?
think Brian Pendergast back in the early 90's was a tremendous talent. He
was player of the year 3 straight years I think, and went on to play at
Air Force and was on the National team; though he never made the Olympic
Wendt, a senior on our team now is very similar to Brian. He will play in
college and is on the National Junior team right now. Both players are
crafty on offense and can score in many different ways. They also can
find their team mate when opponents would double or triple team them. And
both are very unselfish - TEAM players who make the players around them
(I know Brian was one of the
blurry guys from my nightmare!! I still have the shivers)
That’s incredible that you
have had such success in your career. What makes Fenwick stand out from the rest of the state?
Fenwick, the players take the sport very seriously. They want to keep up
the tradition that we have had. They don't want to be the team that wasn't
successful. Thus they work hard and they play every game like it’s a
championship game. I remember Moose Mulcrone telling me back in the 80's
the same thing. Tradition is enough motivation.
You’ve certainly had a great
tradition; where does Fenwick Boy’s Water Polo rank among the other state
sports (in history)?
think Fenwick Water Polo is one of the state's most dominant programs of
any sport. Br. Rice in the 80's would certainly rank up there as well.
Fenwick has always been in the thick of things on the boys' side, and when
girls started at Fenwick, we have been very competitive too. I think
that combination is second to none. We also have tremendous support from
our Administration, which is very helpful in building a successful
Absolutely, everyone being on
the same page certainly helps things, having said that…
Why does everyone hate
it is not easy being the most hated team in water polo. I remember how
much I hated Brother Rice when I was at Mt. Carmel in the 80's. But the one
thing to remember is that we have worked very hard to get to where we
are. We start by taking the swim season very seriously. That gets us in
shape and faster for the water polo season. We also realize how important
it is to play in the summer. We will take advantage of all of
the opportunities that will make us better players.
Then there is the 'tradition' aspect. Every Fenwick team wants to be
known for winning a championship and continuing the winning
tradition. Though we will not win every championship, it won't be because
we haven't given it our all. It will be because a team played better
That is a great attitude to
have as a coach, I can only hope to have a quarter of that by the time I am
done. That kind of attitude definitely trickles down to the parents and
the kids… speaking of ‘by the time I am done’. When do you think you
hang the whistle up and what will life after water polo be for you?
not sure when life after water polo will be -- but it will include travel
around the US, golf, biking and then anything else I would like to
do! Hopefully that would include watching my son Kyle coach, and maybe
even my daughter, Elizabeth, coach by then.
Well, I just have one more
question, and forgive me if I am wrong, but why do we still not get the
credit we deserve from media and other sports?
a couple of reasons. Not many
people really know about water polo. It is not an American sport to speak
of. There are professional leagues and more in European countries, and we
can't get colleges to sponsor teams in the US. It gets seen during the
Olympics and that is about it. And it is not a revenue sport. Thus,
schools are not so likely to spend time and money on it. Kids can
pick-up a football, a baseball, or a basketball and play around almost
anywhere, but you can't do that with a water polo ball. So kids are not
as familiar with the game.
Well said. Thank you for
sitting down with me… Good luck to you and your team this season, and
especially in your future endeavors.*
are plenty of "good guys" in this sport, and at the top of that list you
will definitely find Fenwick head coach Dave Perry.
By the way,
Fenwick’s quest for a sixth
straight state title begins at home against Loyola Academy on Monday, March
Thanks for reading and I’ll see you 'Poolside' soon!