Back On Deck!
by Leslie Foster
Born December 6,, 1951 in Hamilton, Ontario, David Hart has been involved in water polo for 50 years. He started as an athlete and never let up, working as a coach, administrator, mentor, innovator, official, instructor, author, talent identification scout, and volunteer. He has the most extensive career of any Canadian water polo personality in the history of the sport. And he’s back on deck in Ottawa coaching young athletes with Capital Wave Water Polo Club.
A brief biography
In 1960 David attended a “learn to swim” class given by 1928 Olympic swimmer Jimmy Thompson, and he was invited to join the Hamilton Aquatic Club. A year later, he began shattering Canadian swimming records.
By 1965 David became interested in another aquatic sport and he joined the Delta high school water polo team. This stroke in another direction eventually led him to an eight-year career with the Canadian Men’s National Team, from 1969-1976. David retired after the Montreal Olympic Games, having played 160 international matches for Canada.
At age 24, David accepted a professional coaching position with the Ontario Water Polo Association and in later positions with Water Polo Canada he continued to contribute to and shape the sport. He’s the only coach to have coached the six Canadian National Team programs.
David competed in his fourth Olympic Games in Sydney as assistant coach with the Canadian Women’s Team, becoming the first and only four-time Canadian Olympian in water polo.
He then accepted the head coaching position with Ottawa Titans Water Polo, growing its membership from 80 to 300 athletes in his eight years at the helm.
In 2001, David created one of the most innovative and important Canadian water polo programs—I Love Water Polo—helping pave the way for the Ottawa Titans to become one of the top clubs in Canada.
In 2008, David decided it was time to slow down, spend time with family, and pursue his interest in music and composition. He helped bring Celso Rojas from Vancouver to Ottawa to take over the Titans head coaching job and he spent two more years in the background assisting with the transition of leadership.
After leaving the organization in 2010, David was approached by the Men’s and Women’s Canadian National Team head coaches and offered a mentoring and talent scout position. He spent the next four years working with several of the most promising young coaches in Canada, attending national competitions and international tours with junior and youth teams.
During this time, David and his wife Francesse Kopczewski were blessed with the arrival of a grandson and a granddaughter. By the fall of 2014, David decided his international travel days were over. He wanted to have his grandchildren spend summers with him and Francesse at their Centennial Lake home 90 minutes outside Ottawa.
Soon after, he was approached with yet another interesting offer. Celso Rojas, now head coach of the newly-created Capital Wave Water Polo Club, invited him back on deck, on a part-time basis, as a mentor.
Back coaching with Capital Wave Water Polo Club
David began a trial run with Capital Wave in January 2015. “As the season ended in May 2015, it became apparent to both Celso and I that we had clicked and he asked if I was willing to return next season to help build Capital Wave’s Splash, Initiation, and Development Programs,” David explains. “So I will be back once again on deck.”
“I think David is one of the best coaches and mentors in the country and Capital Wave now benefits from this,” Celso notes. “With his experience and dedication to the sport, our young athletes are in great hands.”
Kim Oastler, Capital Wave’s president from 2012-2015 adds, “Capital Wave is very lucky that the timing was right to collaborate. David joining the team indicates that he supports Capital Wave—the coaches, the philosophy, the athletes, and the community. That means a lot.”
David is a passionate, intense, didactic, demonstrative, and empathetic coach. He has a clear picture of what an athlete can become and he coaches for the long-term instead of short-term outcomes or results. He constantly pushes each athlete outside their comfort zone to discover their full potential and to help them build an immense love for what they are doing.
“While I love competition, I no longer have the desire to pursue that aspect of the coaching experience,” David adds. “I have won a lot of championships and titles over the years, I am now most interested in assisting beginning-level athletes to develop the fundamentals and build a love for the game.”
I don’t think anyone in the sport would disagree that David has had a tremendous impact on water polo in Canada. “I am proud and honoured to have had a positive impact on so many athletes over the years and perhaps that is my greatest legacy – at least I’d like to think that’s the case,” David shares. “Championships are wonderful, as are awards and recognition, but when an athlete you coached tells you—often many years later—that you changed their life in a hugely positive way … well, that’s worth more than any other kind of recognition.”
David invites parents with young kids who love the water to come and give Capital Wave Water Polo Club a try for free. It helps to build tremendous self-confidence in the water, it’s a team sport, and the fitness level the children achieve is among the best of any sporting activity. Ottawa is lucky that David has returned to the pool deck once again. See ottawawaterpolo.com for details.