BRIDGEPORT, Pa. — Former University of Pennsylvania club coach and current University of California-Los Angeles women’s water polo assistant coach Chris Lee led the United States women’s beach water polo team to a sweep at the 2019 FINA World Championships in Gwangju, South Korea.
Team USA downed China (27-10 W), Australia (16-6 W) and Spain (13-7 W) leading up to a 14-12 victory over Spain on July 18 for the inaugural title in women’s beach water polo. While no medals were awarded as the competition occurred as an exhibition, athletes received certificates for ther participation in the historic event.
Beach water polo differs from the conventional game as there are seven players per side with three field players and a goalkeeper in the water and three on the bench.
“For us this is a process to something much bigger,” said Lee. “It was important to show up and do a good job. My responsibility to these girls is get success here and go to a higher level like World Championships and Olympic Games. This is the future of our progress. It’s a fun sport and I would like to see what the next iteration is like. I’m excited to see what happens next. It’s a fun-paced game with a lot of movement. It should be opposite to the physical game of seven on seven. It’s gone a little too physical. As they get tired it becomes more physical. I was red-carded for trying to explain to the referee that it was too physical. This is a dynamic game for smaller players.”
No stranger to the collegiate game, Lee served as an assistant coach at the University of California in Berkeley, Calif., prior to joining the UCLA staff in August of 2018.
Over five years and two stints at Cal, Lee helped the Golden Bears to four National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Water Polo Championships semifinal-round appearances. Individually, players from those teams accounted for 43 Association of Collegiate Water Polo Coaches (ACWPC) All-Academic Awards and 31 All-America nods.
A veteran of the Southern California water polo scene, Lee guided the men’s and women’s teams at Occidental College (2015, 2016) between stints with the Golden Bears. He also turned in three seasons each with the Pomona-Pitzer College men’s (2009-2011) and women’s squads (2010-12), helping the Sagehens to Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) championships on both sides.
Lee entered the world of coaching at the University of Pennsylvania in 2000, when he took over the women’s collegiate club water polo team as an undergraduate student. Eight seasons (2000-04, 2005-08) later, the Quakers had claimed four Mid-Atlantic Division championships (including the program’s first in 2004) and made Lee the division’s Coach of the Year four times. For good measure, Lee took over the men’s side in 2006 and did not miss a beat, helping his alma mater to a Mid-Atlantic title in 2007 and earning Coach of the Year honors in 2006 and 2007.
Also a veteran of international competition, Lee has served the United States Women’s Senior National Team since 2011 in various roles. As a video analyst, he operated at head coach Adam Krikorian’s right hand on the way to gold medals at the 2012 London and 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games. He currently continues to serve as an assistant coach to Krikorian for the top-ranked United States Women’s National Team.
Further, Lee has also overseen the growth of up-and-coming youth in the sport with the Olympic Development Program and as an assistant coach for the USA Women’s Cadet National Team (2011-15), which claimed gold at the 2015 Junior Pan American Games in Kingston, Jamaica.