From Cuba with intensity

WATER POLO

Former Cuban international Luis Cruz put the NIAS squad through their paces on the weekend. He's pictured with Billie Mitchell and some of the members of the girls squad. Photo: Barry Smith 220614BSH01

Former Cuban international Luis Cruz put the NIAS squad through their paces on the weekend. He's pictured with Billie Mitchell and some of the members of the girls squad. Photo: Barry Smith 220614BSH01

THE Northern Inland Academy of Sport water polo squad members relished the chance to learn from former Cuban international Luiz Cruz on the weekend.

Cruz was the special guest coach for the squads second intensive training weekend.

“He was great,” assistant coach and program manager Gail Salter said.

He is currently the UNSW women’s head coach, but has previously worked with the NSW Institute of Sport program and national teams.

“I was here working with the Australian team before the London Olympics,” Cruz said of a stint lending his expertise to the Aussie men as well as some work with the women. As a player, Cruz was part of the Cuban squad at the 2000 Olympics, and played professionally in Spain, where he played alongside Tamworth product Nathan Thomas.

He also played with Thomas at Sydney Uni.

He had a lot of knowledge to share, particularly around centre forward play.

That was where he played during his playing days, and he did a lot of centre forward and centre back work with them.

One of the areas he focused on was passing skills.

That is one of the key traits of a good water polo player, Cruz said – good passing skills.

They did four hours Saturday and another four hours Sunday, and Cruz really pushed them hard.

“He was after intensity with the kids,” Salter said.

It was about getting them to keep their focus when they’re tired in a game situation.

Paddy O’Brien is the trainee coach with the program and thought it was an “extremely successful” weekend.

“Everyone learnt a lot about intensity and training,” O’Brien said.

Not just the players, but the coaching staff as well.

“He had a lot of pass on,” he said.

“I was very surprised by some of the drills.”

“He had drills I hadn’t seen a lot of.” He is enjoying being involved in the program.

“It’s fun and challenging.”

It’s not his only coaching assignment.

He’ll also looking after one of the Sydney Uni 16s sides at next month’s Pan Pacs in New Zealand.

It’ll be his third time there.

“I’ve played there twice,” he said.

He went in 2010 and 2012 and had a great experience.

“I certainly learnt a lot going to it,” he said.

“At international competition you see and experience things you wouldn’t normally.”

Several of the NIAS squad will also be playing in the tournament with various sides.

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