Boys Water Polo

Head Coach Feature: With Experience, Coach O’Shea Leads Water Polo to Success

Originally from Melrose, Mass., Head Coach Dan O’Shea began his water polo career as a freshman in high school at St. John’s Prep in Danvers, Mass. Coach O’Shea had experience swimming and needed a fall sport, which encouraged him to try out for water polo. He developed his passion for the sport and played Division-III at Connecticut College. He currently plays on Boston Wet Sox, a masters team based in Newton, Mass. Before coming to Andover, he also coached a club team in his spare time.

Coach O’Shea lives and works in New Hampshire and commutes to Andover every afternoon to coach the team and offer his knowledge to both the boys and girls varsity teams.

He cites his college coach as his greatest influence regarding water polo.

“When I got to college and I met my college coach, he had the same love of the sport that I did and the way[s] that he present[ed] the game to me are ways that I quickly adopted so I have a lot of respect for him as a coach and I am really glad that I got to learn under him. I think he and I had a really close, philosophical view about how the sport should be played and the same love of sport,” said Coach O’Shea.

His teaching method primarily encourages players to develop their own skills. According to Adam Vlasic ’20, he will give the players a drill or play and outline what needs to happen but allows the players to figure it out so the lesson sticks more clearly.

Nate Cruz ’18 said, “His teaching style is hands on. Very hands on. He loves getting in the water with us and even if he is outside on the pool deck, he will have someone get up and he makes the motions. Or he puts on his suit and gets in the water and helps us. It’s really fun.”

Coach O’Shea’s skills and competitive experience allows him to use his deep knowledge of the sport to educate the team, according to Cruz.

Cruz said, “He comes up with all of these amazing plays that he takes from other teams and watches how they play. We got one of our plays from the Italian Women’s National Team and his plays have awesome names too like “Спокойной ночи” (spokoinoi nochi) which is Russian.”

Neil Simpson ’19 added, “Having been a player definitely helps him because it gives him a better understanding of the game, which translates into him teaching us skills, creating strategies, and creating a game plan that is really effective at the level we are playing at.”

Coach O’Shea enjoys water polo because of the variation between games. While there are predictable patterns to the sport, no two games are alike and the sport keeps him and his players engaged and alert. He also values the element of physicality which requires each player to think tactically and evaluate the pool in a different way, according to O’Shea. 

O’Shea said, “[Water polo] is engaging. You have to be thinking on your feet when you are in the water and it is demanding in a way that is different from any other sport I have played and because of that it is more rewarding… Not only have you done a physical exertion in terms of racing back and forth but you’ve physically beaten another person and then you scored a goal on top of that. You’re breaking holds, you are physically moving someone out of your way when you are already exhausted. That sense of accomplishment is amazing. It is really amazing.”

One of the things he loves most about coaching is seeing the love and passion he has for the sport develop in his players. His enthusiasm for the sport manifests itself in his attitude towards his players and his dedication to fostering passion in them.

“He’s so enthusiastic. Everytime we win a game he is so happy and even when we lose games and we’ve played well he is so happy and he is always really proud of us. He is really enthusiastic and really passionate. When he is talking to you, you get how much he cares,” said Cruz.

Simpson added, “His constant positivity and constant enthusiasm really resonates with everyone in practices and games and gets everyone fired up. Everyone loves Coach [O’Shea]. He is constantly being positive, he is always in a good mood, and he just makes it easy to recover from mistakes.”

One of Coach O’Shea’s favorite moments was in 2012 when he joined the coaching staff as the  girls’ head coach and helped the team recover from a 12 year long dry period and go on to win the New England Championships.

He said, “It was mind blowing that it happened. It was like something out of a bad sports movie. I couldn’t believe it. I will never forget that team; I will never forget that moment, just that moment when the final goal went in and we won the game. It was incredible. It is still incredible to look back on. I will never forget when my jaw dropped and then I got shoved into the pool in celebration.”

This year, Coach O’Shea has coached the boys’ team to a nearly perfect record of 11-3. The team is positioned to place top-three at the New England Championships.