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Alumni Spotlight: Olympic Water Polo Coach Dan Klatt M.S. ’10

by Rachel White

When the USA women’s water polo team took to the podium at the London 2012 Olympic games to receive their medals, Dan Klatt M.S. ’10, beamed with pride. As their assistant coach, he shared in it all—the grueling practices, the personal sacrifices, and the challenges of building a unified team. At that moment, all the hard work paid off as they made Olympic history. His was the first U.S. water polo team to bring home the gold, and when the national anthem began to play, he joined the American fans watching from the stands in singing along.

“The sound reverberated off the walls,” recalled Klatt. “It was such a powerful moment that I only sang a few lines before I was over come with emotions.”

It was the culmination of a four-year commitment to a common goal.

“It is rare for people to stay focused on a purpose as long as these women had,” he said. “That is what made me so proud of them, and so proud to have been a small part of it.”

Klatt knows firsthand what it takes to succeed at the highest level of competition. In 2004, he was a member of the U.S. Olympic water polo team in Athens. His Olympic experience coupled with his time as a college water polo player at UC Irvine prepared him for a position as the head UC Irvine women’s water polo coach at the young age of 25.

Faced with the enormous responsibility of coaching a top–10 NCAA team, Klatt decided to head back to school to get a master’s degree.

“I knew water polo, but I needed to be well rounded academically to carry out my duties as coach,” he said.

A colleague at UC Irvine, as well as several of his former teammates, suggested Azusa Pacific University. Klatt took their advice and enrolled at APU’s Orange County Regional Center to pursue his Master of Science degree in Physical Education.

“I immediately loved the classroom environment,”Klatt said. “There was open dialogue and engaged faculty. The program focused on important aspects of coaching including legality issues, developing coaching plans, and conducting research.”

Klatt said he also was impressed by the faith component of the program.

“Faith was integrated into the classes in a way that opened people’s minds and gave them the opportunity to explore their own beliefs,” he said. “The university stresses the importance of becoming difference makers, and that is what coaches do. We mold our players to, hopefully, be more than just good athletes but good people as well.”

While working toward his degree at APU, Klatt’s coaching schedule grew increasingly demanding. In 2009, former UCLA water polo coach Adam Krikorian hired him as assistant coach for the U.S. women’s team. While Klatt saw the new position as a dream come true, he now struggled to balance practice schedules for both his UC Irvine team and the U.S. team while trying to keep on top of his studies.

“If it hadn’t been for the supportive faculty in APU’s PE program, I wouldn’t have made it through,” he said. “Program director Cindy Tanis and professors Sue Hebel and Suzanne Kirkland pushed me to finish my degree and helped me find ways to manage my time.”

He graduated from the program in 2010, just prior to two intense years of Olympic training when he coached six-hour practices with the U.S. team and then led evening practices with the UC Irvine team.

“I remind my players of something I have learned from all my experiences, ‘You are always capable of doing more than you think you are,’” he said.

As a former Olympic athlete, Olympic coach of a gold medal-winning team, and a NCAA coach of a nationally ranked team, Klatt is proof that hard work and perseverance are the keys to success.