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by Daisy Costello Lake

BRIDGEPORT, Pa –  The ranks of women’s Division III collegiate water polo teams will grow by one this Spring as Wittenberg University, located in Springfield, Ohio, will field a team in 2018.

The fourth women’s team in the Midwest joining Macalester College (Saint Paul, Minn.), Carthage College (Kenosha, Wisc.) and Monmouth College (Monmouth, Ill.), the Tigers will be led by Sivan Pardon in her first season as a collegiate head coach.

A 2013 graduate of the University of Hawaii, where she led the Rainbow Wahine to a top four finish at the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Championship in her senior season, Pardon’s arrival in the “Buckeye State” could be viewed as a culture shock considering her background. 

Accustomed to the Pacific Coast having been born in California and playing in Hawaii, Pardon is used to a certain lifestyle (and climate) that seems quite different from what Ohio provides.

“To most, it seems like a pretty odd sequence of places to call home. When I announced the move there, there was a lot of ‘you know there isn’t a beach there, right?’ Although that may be true, I quickly found that Ohio has a lot to offer.”

Prior to moving to Ohio, which Pardon notes has beautiful countryside, lakes and a new experience with all four seasons, the first-year coach was building her high school and club resume at Mira Costa High School in Manhattan Beach, Calif., where she led the boys’ and girls’ teams to first and second place finishes in the Bay League, respectively.

As she transitions to the collegiate coaching world, Pardon is honored to be given the opportunity to coach a brand-new team and is excited to share her passion with her athletes and staff.

“To be the first head coach of a new program is an incredible honor. Water polo has played an integral role throughout my life and I truly hope that I can share that with others.”

Of course, this opportunity will not come without its share of challenges, and Pardon feels prepared to face those based on her water polo pedigree as well as previous coaches she has served with.

Following her playing career at Hawaii, she returned for a fifth year in Honolulu where she served as a graduate assistant for the team. This experience was valuable to her as she contemplated pursuing a career in coaching once she left college.

“When I started coaching at a young age, I enjoyed passing along my experience to others and being creative with teaching, but I don’t think it was until after college that the experience with coaching is something that I might do as a career.”

This will be the first season for water polo at Wittenberg, and Pardon fully accepts and embraces the challenges she will face in her new role. In particular, Pardon feels that an integral part of her role will be raising awareness of water polo in the Midwest.

“I anticipate a number of challenges with our addition as most new programs do. One being, continuing to build on the efforts of the water polo community in this region that have been initiated to continue to grow the sport in this part of the country. A part of that will be continuing to generate awareness of the opportunities that exist in our aquatics community to engage in athletics at the varsity level.”

However, the challenge of recruiting goes beyond performance in the pool. Successful coaches know that it is also crucial to recruit athletes who will thrive academically at the university. Pardon, even in her first college job, recognizes the importance of deliberate recruiting.

“We want to connect with student-athletes that will have the potential to succeed at Wittenberg athletically and academically. We hope to build on this alongside the impressive youth clubs, high schools, and other organizations to inspire student-athletes that are motivated, positive, prepared, and competitive to help us find success in the water and in the classroom.”

Pardon believes strongly that operating a successful program requires collaboration between the coaches and the university, and this is especially true for a new Tigers program.

“I believe having this diverse experience will really allow Wittenberg to meet the needs of our program and the variety of levels that a new program will invite. The support network generated from the university as well as community will be a key component to our success in water polo and increase our profile of our aquatics community as a whole as well.”

For a first-year coach, developing a relationship with the administration is key to establishing a successful program, and Pardon is fully aware of this fact.

“Being present, positive, and showing my appreciation I believe have and will be an important part of this process. We will not see the success that we hope for without the support of others.”

While Pardon is gearing up to lead her team to success in the pool, she understands that a coach in her position has an opportunity that goes well beyond just coaching – but to also help grow the sport in the Midwest.

“We continue to try and build connections and collaborate with others to enhance the exposure of water polo in the region.”

Collegiate Water Polo Association