Bruce Watson was a member of the 1972 and 1973 men's water polo teams at San Jose State. After his collegiate days, Watson was a member of the U.S. National team from 1976-79. He then moved into the head coaching position at West Valley from 1979-84 and returned in 1990 for good. Watson was four times named the California State Coach of the Year and has coached six state championships at West Valley. Approximately 78 of his student-athletes have gone on to play at Division I schools.
Coach Watson was selected 2004 California State Coach of the Year after directing the Vikings to a 25-3 season and successfully defending their 2003 State Title. The Santa Cruz native has successfully coached both the men’s and women’s water polo and swim teams to numerous individual and team titles. An impressive overall coaching record of 648-134 proves why Coach Watson continues to produce one of the top water polo teams in the state on a yearly basis.
K7: Where do you currently reside and why?
BW: I live in Santa Cruz, about a block from my favorite surf spot, which I won’t name.
K7: Do you feel like you have driven across HWY 17 more than anyone you know?
BW: I don’t know if it’s a good or bad thing, but I can probably drive it in my sleep, and most likely have in the past.
K7: You are a legend of the game, you have recently been in the spotlight because of the announcement of SJ State adding Men’s Water polo and your role in that. How did this all come about?
BW: I don’t know about that, but we are really excited about the San Jose State Men’s program coming back next Fall. It will be the first division I program added in over thirty years, and it will not only be good for the area and Northern California, but it will be great for all of water polo. San Jose State had an excellent tradition and produced a tremendous number of coaches and officials when it had a program, and hopefully this will happen again. We had been approaching the administration for a long time and the gender equity issue was always a problem, just like across the country, but this time our timing was right, since the Athletic Department was adding a new Women’s sport, Beach Volleyball. We were also fortunate that the new Athletic Director, Gene Bleymaier, is forward thinking and wants to energize and enhance the whole Athletic Department and sports programs, developing a positive and successful mindset for all of their sports, men and women. Getting the program reinstated has been tremendous and was a huge hurdle, but our next big hurdle will be to fund the program, we will not get funding from the university for several years, if at all, we have to fully fund it with outside donors. We have put together a fund raising committee and we are currently about half way to our goal. Our main source of donors are people who really care about the sport of water polo and those who understand the importance of the program being successful and coming back. Part of that is the fact that San Jose State has not had a Men’s program since 1981, so we don’t have a lot of alumni to hit up, at least ones not on a fixed income. We have a tab for the team on the San Jose State Athletics web site, which has a tab for donations and a copy of our Pledge Form. The web site also has the list of committee members who people can contact with questions as well. We think it is a very special cause and we are hoping that it leads to some other schools developing program envy and adding Men’s water polo as well, but in reality, this could be the last in a long time, so if you need a tax deduction, get on board.
K7: There are rumors that you will be a candidate to be the head coach for the 2015 season. Does more fundraising need to occur, and if so how can people help?
BW: They will have a coaching search and I may throw my hat in for the position. As I said above, and whether or not I am eventually the head coach, we need help either way to get it going, so yes, contact me and donate please!
K7: Would it be hard to leave West Valley after so many years?
BW: If and when I do leave West Valley, it will be like my ex-wife, I will try to remember the good times.
K7: Who were some of the most influential people in your water polo career?
BW: Probably the most influential coach on my playing and coaching has been Art Lambert, he was the 1968 and 1972 Olympic coach. He won bronze in ’72 and was a San Jose State graduate. I also really admired Pete Cutino, I didn’t play for him, but learned a lot playing against his teams and coaching with and against him later. He did admit he made a mistake when his teams played against me, he always told them to swim me since I was so slow, but he joked later that it just got me in shape.
K7: You are an avid surfer. It is a very different sport from water polo, do you feel there are any parallels?
BW: The two sports go together really well, energy and stamina are really important, as well as competitiveness, playing a game or fighting for waves. Reputation and street cred help with both too.
K7: What will the first Alumni game in many years at SJ State look like?
BW: Two ambulances and several paramedics nearby.
K7: Who used to be the biggest rival for SJ State?
BW: During the later years, UCLA, there were also some other State schools they battled with, like Fresno State, LA State, Hayward State and Long Beach State.
K7: Do you see SJ State being ranked in the top 20 in it’s first year?
BW: That is very possible, especially given the low cost of tuition, only $23k for everything. University for the 99%.
K7:Can you walk us through one of your favorite drills? Please elaborate on why you like the drill and what you feel it accomplishes.
BW: I really like what I call the Diamond Drill. Four players of each color, one player at the point or 3, one each at 2 and 4, and one at two meters. Each has a defender and when the whistle is blown take off on the counter. The two meter man gets a one or two body length lead. Offensive players release, get the ball up the pool, stay ahead of the two meter defender and learn when to pass down the line, weak, to the free man or go with it. You can also focus on the defenders regarding when to fall back, when to foul and drop and who to cover and when during the counter.
K7: Thank you for your time and we wish you the best of luck in the 2014 season!