Boys Water Polo Coach Feature Fall Sports Sports

Boys Water Polo Head Coach Dale Hurley Emphasises Continuously Building off of Weaknesses to Improve as a Team

COURTESY OF PHILLIPS ACADEMY

In addition to coaching Boys Water Polo, Head Coach Dale Hurley leads Girls and Boys Crew during the Spring Term.

In his third year leading Boys Water Polo, Head Coach Dale Hurley looks to continue to learn and improve in the team’s final six games and three tournaments.

 

According to Hurley, he focuses on paying attention to both teams during competitions and tries to take away effective strategies. He noted that the team has gradually improved over the past few seasons after learning from losses.

 

“The losses are where you learn. So when you lose a game, I always tell the guys that they need to walk away from it and know what the other team did really well so that we can incorporate it in our game. Because they are in the water… They need to know what the other guys are doing, and we’ve incorporated that into every one of our games throughout the season. That’s why our Varsity has gotten better and better through the years, because every team we play and we lose against, we get better. So it feels like the team is riding high right now, but really, they’re waiting for the next opponent to beat them so they can learn a little bit more,” said Hurley.

 

Hurley also emphasizes toughness which forces other teams to have to be scrappy to have a chance at beating Andover.

 

“Water polo, in general, is a sport where people play dirty and get away with it fairly easily, and I think the main thing that I want the guys to do on our team is [to] have a different perspective when that happens. If they’re playing dirty against us, that means that they really have to play dirty to beat us,” said Hurley.

 

While other teams may stoop to a lower level of play and sportsmanship, Hurley maintains a set of standards for the Andover team. 

 

Hurley said, “But we don’t want to return the favor. We want to play our game, we want to play a clean game, and we want to beat them and be the better team. Sometimes, being the better team doesn’t necessarily mean winning, being the better team just means doing it the right way and then learning from what they’re doing, and we’ll take advantage of it… There are times when there’s a lot of physical fighting going on in the water, and the thing is, I tell the guys, don’t get tied up in that mess.”

 

According to Co-Captain Sean Meng ’22, Hurley has the eye to identify the team’s strengths and weaknesses.

 

[Hurley] has also identified our strengths and weaknesses very, very well, so we target practices to train those. What we’ve realized throughout the season is that our defense is really good—I would say top three in the league —and so defense is something we pretty much have figured out. At this point we are focusing on fast breaks, we are focusing on counterattack offense because we have that defensive advantage, and I think that has been really helpful in games so far,” said Meng.

 

Co-Captain James Isenhower ’22 describes the team as ‘adaptive’ and attributes that to Hurley’s ability to quickly analyze the opposition’s strengths and weaknesses.

 

Isenhower said, “He’s very good at assessing the other team like during warmups and during the game. He’s really good at adapting to the other team’s weaknesses and sort of telling us what we need to do to fix that. I think he does an awesome job of figuring out the other team’s strategy and sort of adapting ours to that. We’re a very adaptive team and I think we sort of owe that to him.”

 

According to Hurley, he encourages his team to try and take out opponents’ strengths to force them to use their weaknesses.

 

There are strengths and weaknesses from each team, and we try to find… a method to take out their strongest thing, and then see if they can rely on everything else. If we can do that, if we can take out their strongest weapon that they have, then we have a better chance of doing well,” said Hurley.

 

According to Hurley, this adaptive approach has had a positive impact on the team, as it has forced every player to be well-rounded.

 

“[Being adaptive] has proved to be helpful. I think the guys on our team, across the board, everybody’s a threat to score and everybody’s a threat to play good defense and they all seem pretty good. Even the guys in the second string have really stepped it up, and they’re starting to play remarkably well. As well as the first string was playing [at] the beginning of the year, the second string is playing now, so it’s been good. And bringing everybody in the water and playing in every game, it’ll continue to get better like that,” said Hurley.