Ted Newland – Making Water Polo History


Los Angeles Times Magazine – Robyn Norwood

Steam rises off the pool as dawn breaks across the UC Irvine campus. Ted Newland has been awake for more than two hours, lifting weights while it was still dark as part of a fitness routine that also includes 500 to 800 push-ups a day.

In the pool, young men in Speedos work to refine their passing technique for the water polo team. On the deck, Newland, their 77-year-old coach, cuts a bizarre figure, sitting in a wheel-chair, bundled in a blue jumpsuit and a pair of Ugg boots, the sheepskin clunkers Cameron Diaz helped turn into a fad. The wheelchair is a convenience, meant to save knees worn out by running. The fashion diva boots? “I’ve been wearing these for years,” he says.

Listening to Newland’s raspy voice and slipping a glance at his lean, muscled physique, it is hard to decide exactly what is most extraordinary about the man. There is the record: He has won three national championships and 714 games – more than any coach in collegiate water polo history – and he has trained 11 Olympians. Then there is the body. He’s a fitness freak who says he set his personal record of 5,600 consecutive sit-ups when he was 62.

“A lot of college guys can’t keep up,” says his grandson Ty, a sophomore on the team.

“I try to bury them in calisthenics,” Newland says. “I can say, ‘I’m 77 years old and I’m kicking your . . . .’ “

Finally, there is the brain. “I’m an ISTP. There aren’t many of us,” says Newland, using the nomenclature of the various personality typing systems that group people according to qualities of Extroversion/Introversion, Sensing/Intuitive, Feeling/Thinking and Perceiving/Judging.

Glancing at the pool, he reels off the players’ types – as determined by him and not by any of those multiple-choice personality inventories. “Everybody puts down what they want to be, not what they are,” he says. “You have to understand where people are really coming from – not where they think they are coming from.”

Figuring out where Newland is coming from isn’t easy for others in the water polo community.

“He does a great job with his players, has brought a lot pf personality to the sport of water polo and has a lot of respect – particularly from the guys who played for him,” says Pepperdine Coach Terry Schroeder. But then he adds, “I don’t understand him all the time. . . . Win or lose, you shake hands. He’s someone who doesn’t always like to shake hands – especially if he loses.”

Behind it all is a fierce loyalty to his players. In 1991 Newland gave $20,000 of his own money to the Irvine program and started drawing his retirement pay instead of a salary. Now, with assistant Marc Hunt – a former player – reaching the stage of life when he needs a good income, Newland plans to step down after 39 seasons and become Hunt’s assistant, probably sacrificing wins that would have added to his record.

“I’m not doing this to win things,” Newland says. “I have a love affair with all my players. I tell them they’re worthless and lazy and don’t want to work hard. It’s not that I don’t like them. I want them to be successful.”

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