Colorado Springs, Colo. – April 4, 2008 – Guy Baker, Head Coach of the USA Water Polo Women’s Olympic Team and Director of the Women’s National Team Program has been named National Coach of the Year by the United States Olympic Committee. Baker’s award was announced earlier today by the USOC along with the rest of their annual coaching awards including Developmental, Volunteer and Paralympic Coach of the Year as well as the recipient of the “Doc” Counsilman Science Award. The awards will be presented on April 15 during the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team Media Summit in Chicago, Ill.
The honor for Baker now headed towards his third Olympic Games comes on the heels of a stellar 2007 campaign. Baker led the 2006-07 USA Women’s Water Polo team to phenomenal international success as the team went undefeated (35-0-1) in competition, capturing gold medals at the 2007 World Championships, the 2007 World League Super Final, and the 2007 Pan American Games, where the team secured their qualifying spot in the upcoming 2008 Beijing Summer Olympic Games. The team’s triple gold performance is unprecedented in USA Water Polo history, and their FINA World Championships earned the U.S. its second title (2003, 2007), which ties the U.S. with Italy (1998, 2001) and Hungary (1994, 2005) for the most FINA World Championship titles held by a country.
In service to water polo, Baker directs and oversees USA Women’s Water Polo Programs for Athlete and Coaches Education (P.A.C.E.) program that has served over 4,500 athletes and coaches since its inception in 2001. In addition, he supervises the USA Women’s Water Polo Olympic Development Program that encompasses three National Teams.
“It is an honor to receive this award on behalf of our players and staff and our sport. I believe the award recognizes the excellence of our players and the outstanding contribution of our Assistant Coaches, Kyle Kopp, Heather Moody and Bernice Orwig,” said Baker. “Presently, we are in the midst of preparing for the 2008 Olympic Games, so there has not been time to reflect on the team’s success in 2007. It was an amazing year that in future years will always be a pleasure to look back on,” he concluded.
This year’s honorees are an exemplary mix of coaches from five different levels of athlete development that have helped to cultivate, mentor and spur American athletes to the great heights they achieved in 2007. The 2008 awards for Volunteer and Paralympic Coach of the Year went to Paul Yetter (Baltimore, Md.) of USA Swimming, Sherman Nelson (Washington, D.C.) of Taekwondo and Adam Bleakney (Savoy, Ill.) of Wheelchair Track respectively. Sean O’Neill (Portland, Ore.) of Table Tennis was honored with the 2008 “Doc” Counsilman Award.
Each year, 43 Olympic and Pan American sport organizations select their nominations for the National, Developmental, Volunteer and/or Paralympic Coaches of the Year as part of the USOC Coach of the Year Recognition Program. Five finalists were selected in each of the categories with the exception of Paralympics, which included three. The first “Doc” Counsilman Science Award was given posthumously to its namesake in 2003 and five finalists were tabbed for this year’s honor.
This year’s finalists hailed from all over the U.S. and coached a total of 16 sports with great success. While all of this year’s nominees were very deserving, only one coach from each category could be named coach of the year. A panel consisting of Steve Roush, Chief of Sport Performance, Doug Ingram, Managing Director of Performance Services, Alan Ashley, Team Leader of Acrobat and Combat, Wes Barnett, Team Leader of Strength and Power, Jay T. Kearney, Team Leader of Endurance, selected the honorees for 2007.
Coaches were judged based on coaching performance, the ethics and character of the coach, the attitude of athletes, service to the sport, and volunteer work within the sport.
“The Coach of the Year program was initiated in 1996 with the mission of honoring the work and sacrifices that coaches make while helping athletes at all levels achieve their dreams,” said Doug Ingram, Managing Director of Performance Services. “These are America's finest coaches. We are pleased to be able to recognize their contributions to America’s athletes and sporting organizations.”