The relationship between player and coach can often be crucial for a team’s success, and IU Coach Ryan Castle has used his first season in Bloomington to get to know his water polo squad.
“He’s a quirky kind of guy,” junior goalkeeper Jessica Gaudreault said. “He says some weird stuff because he’s from South Africa, so we give him a hard time, and he takes it well."
Gaudreault was at IU for her freshman and sophomore seasons, but after 2014 she left for two seasons to train and compete with the Canadian national team and try to qualify for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics. She said Castle has brought structure to the team that wasn’t there before she left.
“We haven’t had assigned team captains before this year, and that was one of the things he’s changed,” Gaudreault said. “We now have designated team captains that players can go to if they ever need anything, and I think it’s great.”
Castle said he has seen them grow as individuals and as a team as the year has progressed. He said he really wanted to know what life is like at IU from a student’s perspective in order to understand his players better.
“It’s been fun,” Castle said. “We have lots of great coaches and staff to work with, and I’ve grown as a coach as well.”
Junior center Jennifer Beadle is one of the leaders on the team, and she said Castle holds them to a higher standard than she’s seen before.
IU had an 11-game win streak, which was one of the longest in program history, earlier this season. Castle’s high standards have been evident in the pool this season, and one of the team’s strengths is its resilience.
Multiple Hoosiers have gone down with injuries this season, which brought different players into situations and positions they weren’t used to. Castle said he loved how his team wasn’t shaken, especially when they played three games without junior attacker Sarah Young when she suffered a concussion earlier this year.
“The culture here is awesome,” Castle said. “We have a tough, never-quit mentality, and these kids have been so resilient especially with the injuries that we’ve had.”
Castle credited much of the team’s success to his assistant Emily Carr. As a former player at Hawaii, Carr sometimes practices in the pool with the team and helps expose its weaknesses so the team can fix its mistakes before it is too late.
“She knows the street smarts of the game, and she really kicks their ass, and it really helps the team compete and learn from their mistakes,” Castle said.
Castle said his favorite part about his experience at IU has been getting to know the players and their personalities better. He has become a coach to the players in and out of the pool, as both Castle and his team said the coach sometimes gives life advice, too.
“He likes to give love advice,” Gaudreault said while laughing. “But the catch is he doesn’t want us to have boyfriends, even though he compares water polo to being in a relationship.”
In the beginning of the season, Castle said players were split into their own groups, with the freshman mainly spending time with each other and upperclassmen sticking mostly to themselves. Castle said the team chemistry was fine, but he wanted different players to spend time with others that they may not have known that well before.
Beadle said the team’s frequent travel, which included a trip to Hawaii for a pair of games, has helped the team grow closer. The team often travels in minivans when they play games on the road, and Castle said he changed up who the traveling groups were and who slept in which rooms in order for the team to bond.
“We had to learn a lot about each other,” Castle said. “I’ve learned about all the kids’ personalities and what they like to do, such as watching Netflix and going out to the movies. I’ve had fun growing with them.”
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