Coach Craig Rond Continues to Leave His Mark on Cal Lutheran Water Polo Program

Danielle Bonavito, Reporter

Craig Rond is the head coach of both the men’s and women’s water polo teams at California Lutheran University. As one of the pioneers of the aquatics program at Cal Lutheran, Rond has been coaching at the university for 16 years.

Rond previously was the head coach of the boy’s and girl’s water polo and swim teams at Thousand Oaks High School, his alma mater. He also ran his own water polo club called South Coast Aquatics, which still exists today as one of the oldest water polo clubs in California. Rond started the club in 1989.

“I played water polo at Thousand Oaks High School, and I was a two sport All-American in swimming and water polo,” Rond said.

Rond said he wanted to continue playing water polo or swimming after high school, and he attended a college where he could do so.

“My first year out of high school, I went to Pepperdine and was on their swim team,” Rond said.

Rond said the team at Pepperdine was eliminated after his first year. He then transferred to Ventura College where he swam and played water polo. Rond later attended San Jose State College in the Bay Area.

“When I got out of college I was still unsure of where I wanted to go, and I had a friend who was a producer in Hollywood… I was a production associate for about two years, and I wasn’t feeling it,” Rond said.

He said he decided to go back to college to get his master’s degree at The University of Arizona. The school had a club team and he became a player-coach there.

“When I left Arizona, I really decided I’m going to teach and coach, and I really thought that I would be like a high school athletic instructor,” Rond said.

Rond said he was coaching at a high school when he got the call for the Cal Lutheran position.

“A friend of mine told me Cal Lutheran is going to start water polo and I think you would be a good candidate,” Rond said.

Rond said he called Cal Lutheran and spoke with the athletic director at the time, and he suggested sending in his resume. He said after that he was hired for the job and began forming the water polo and swim programs at Cal Lutheran.

Rond’s daughters, senior Lexi Rond and first-year Delaney Rond, also attend Cal Lutheran. Lexi plays water polo on the women’s team.

“Growing up, we were always on the beach and in the water at a super young age,” Lexi said.

Lexi said her dad didn’t push her and her siblings to get into water polo or swimming, but he did encourage them to be active and play sports in general.

Rond said his father was a New York state champion swimmer, and although his father passed away when he was only 10 years old, his mother tried to get him into the water to follow in his footsteps.

“My mom wanted me to have my own identity, and something that was unique to me in my family… She took me down to the local swim school, and that was it, I loved it from day one,” Rond said.

Rond said the swim coach asked him if he had previous swim experience, because the sport came so naturally to him.

“I wasn’t really great at it, but I knew I had a good feel for it. Like I felt at home, I felt like ‘yeah I can do that,’” Rond said.

Rond said his favorite thing about water polo is how physically demanding and unique it is compared to other sports. He said he loves when his players reach their peak physical condition and thrive in the sport.

“Of any sport that you can find, it’s that one sport that you can’t just pick it up and play, you have to be in condition or in shape,” Rond said.

Andre Rivas, junior goalkeeper at Cal Lutheran, has been playing water polo for the men’s team for three years now.

“Coach Rond is kind, helpful and knowledgeable. He’s kind and helpful whether we come to him with a water polo question, or something about life. He’s always very helpful,” Rivas said.

Rivas said Rond is very knowledgeable when the players approach him to ask questions about topics in and out of the pool.

“He really encourages us to follow his path since he’s a beach life-guard, so he provides us with that opportunity and opens that door,” Rivas said.

Rond said he enjoys seeing how the discipline of the sport shapes the players into responsible adults.

“Teaching them discipline, work ethic, or time management, or organization, that’s my favorite part,” Rond said.