50th anniversary

Jeff Campbell: Father, Coach, Olympian

By LUKE CURTIS
Staff Writer 

 

 

 

Out of the 7 billion people that live on Earth, only 15,677 people can say they have won an Olympic Medal. Only 10,500 people today can call themselves an Olympian. Even fewer can boast being a three-time All-American, winning a national title, being an NCAA Player of the Year and NCAA tournament MVP. 

University High School Water Polo Assistant Coach, Jeff Campbell, can state all of this with a humble attitude and friendly smile.

“He’s really humble, calm, and kind. And his coaching skills are great because it’s amazing to be coached by a 2 time Olympian,” junior Liam Horan said.

A true student of Water Polo, one of the most antagonizing and brutal sports played today, Coach Campbell has been able to experience and witness what it means to be a true athlete. Through persistent dedication, he was able to be a standout player at UNI from 1977 to 1981, being a High School All-American twice. To be able to grow and develop as a player, he competed at Newport Water Polo Foundation from 1981 to 1992, winning US Water Polo All-American five times. He continued his career at UCI from 1982 to 1986. He was a part of the 1982 NCAA Championship Team. He solidified himself as a 3 time College All-American and a 1985 NCAA Player of the Year. A member of the United States Men’s National Team (USMNT) from 1981 to 1992, he participated in the 1988 and 1992 Olympic Team and won SIlver at the Summer Olympics in Seoul, South Korea. He also was a part of the United States National Team that won the gold medal in the 1987 Pan American Games. Coach Campbell also received a silver medal at the 1991 Pan American Games. He was able to play as a member of the 1986 and 1991 national teams that went to the FINA World Cup, with the 1991 team capturing the title.

Today, he coaches the UNI Boys Water Polo Team, providing invaluable experience and teaching to a group of talented, young teenagers.

“Jeff taught me to be confident in my shooting, and how to put everything I’ve got to offer into a solid skip shot He’s always eager to share his experience and wisdom with the rest of the team,” senior David Fuchs said.

He still finds the most important and special people that have molded his water polo experience.

“My favorite memory was just the guys I played with. They’re still friends with me to this day, almost 40 years later. I still talk to 3 or 4 guys I played with, once or twice a year. My older brother [Peter Campbell] played as well. He played here [at UNI] before me. He also played in two Olympics, and I got to play with him in the 1988 Olympics, [along with] one year at UCI.” Coach Campbell said.

As a player and coach, he has never strayed away from the meaningful characteristics that define success. His focus has always been on a commitment to excellence.

“In 1988, we lost in double overtime against Yugoslavia [in the final]  You train for four years for something, so it’s a culmination of four years of work. It’s hard work and determination,” Campbell said.

University High has never fallen out of the rearview mirror, in fact, he credits it as the catalyst for his extraordinary journey.

“It’s where I started playing,” Campbell said, “it was where I fell in love with the sport.” 

His son, junior Stewart Campbell is a standout player on the Varsity squad for UNI, and explained what it meant to have such a tremendous father figure.

“Since my dad’s an Olympian, there’s not as much pressure as you might think. He’s an inspiration for me, and he’s always there if I have questions about Water Polo. He is very supportive of everything, and understanding. He’s always able to give me advice and help.” Campbell said.

Outside of water polo, and school, Campbell’s favorite memory with his dad involves the various interactions with surveying other sports during games in order to be exposed.

“Going to USC football games, Angel games, getting to see other sports,” Campbell said.

As a son being mentored and a player being trained, Campbell has seen both sides of his dad on and off the field.

“He’s a little more intense at UNI, wanting to win the games, but he’s pretty much the same overall,” Campbell said.

When coaching the team, Coach Campbell has been extremely helpful giving the team a piece of simple, yet vital advice in order to succeed as a player every day. 

“[That advice] is to work hard in Water Polo, there’s a lot of opportunities that you can get through Water Polo. He’s seen it when he played college and then professionally in Europe,” Campbell said.Viable success comes by phenomenal coaching in the areas of planning, execution, and communication. University High School Coach Jesse Briggs has been able to witness what an essential piece Coach Campbell is for the team.

“When he and I are working well together, as far as communicating with the team, the team is working well together among themselves and the things we work on in practice happen, and we see success with that,” Briggs said.

Experience is also a valued aspect of being able to teach any subject, and its benefits are clear in energetic and high octane sports.

“His experience at a high level of Water Polo brings quick judgment calls, and his experience helps to put together practices, running drills. He has the respect of the team, that’s a big deal,” Briggs said.

If anything, the ability to stay focused, dedicated, and detailed is the most important attribute for any coach to thrive. It is required to make subtle adjustments, necessary changes, or game planning strategy.

“Consistency, is a foundation we try to teach these guys in the sport, and he’s very consistent, as far as a coaching staff member, being able to talk to him after games, during the games, to see his point of view on what we need to work on, and taking it back to the drawing board, is valuable from what he can bring. Seeing it from his perspective and seeing the plays happen, is important, he runs our film breakdown, which is very essential,” Briggs said.

Overall, the players on the team enjoy the support of Coach Campbell, as he brings a much needed presence to the group during their intense games.

“Spending time with Coach Jeff at the last tournament. He’s really a great coach, he supports everyone.” Junior Eli Wirth said, “It’s because he’s been playing for so long, he knows the ins and outs, which is so essential.” 

His presence on coaching is impactful on a daily basis. 

“Coach Jeff is a constant pleasure to have around, with his aged attitude, evergreen passion for the sport. He has an unconditional support for the team.” senior Fuchs said.

 

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