Dylan Foster, 28, is well aware he has some big shoes to fill. Most likely, he will never be able to.
But that’s okay for the first-year head coach of the Live Oak varsity boys water polo team.
Foster, who graduated from Live Oak in 2002 after playing water polo in all four years of high school, hopes to just follow in the footsteps of his mentor Mack Haines, who stepped down from his post in May after 26 years by the Live Oak pool.
“I’m going to just learn from Mack,” Foster said Wednesday over the phone. “He was a father figure to me. He was a brilliant coach and I’ve learned so much from him. I just want to keep it going.”
Starting today – the first official day of practice – Foster will have that opportunity. He inherits a team that missed the Central Coast Section playoffs last year for the only the second time since 1975.
But it is not a rebuilding year for the Acorns, which bring back 10 seniors.
“We have a lot of experience,” Foster said. “I think we will really be a force in the league this year. It’s not a rebuilding year.”
Foster has a lot of experience to pull from. The Live Oak alum played two years of varsity water polo under Haines and started playing the game under his father’s wing when he was 10.
He played club water polo throughout college before joining the Live Oak teaching staff in the spring of 2010.
Last fall, Foster took over for the junior varsity program.
Foster’s connection to the Acorns, though, reaches back to the 1980s, when his father, David Foster, coached the Live Oak program before Haines took over in 1986.
As the new Acorn coach, Foster keeps the unique lineage of the school’s water polo program intact.
“It’s great to be a part of the Live Oak tradition,” Foster said.
“Now I get to build off that foundation. We need to keep the Live Oak tradition alive.”
That’s why Athletic Director Mark Cummins expects good things from the water polo team this year, he said.
“He is a very exciting coach, who really relates well with the players,” Cummins said. “He will do a fine job taking over for Mack.”
Like Haines, Foster will focus on the fundamentals of the game. After two years of junior varsity experience, he is ready for the next step, he said.
“Mack always taught us fundamentals and the mental aspect at all times,” Foster said.
“I want to continue that with the kids I coach. Mack always pushed hard work and dedication. I’m not going to do anything different. I want to continue to make this program consistently good.”
In 26 years under Haines, Live Oak won one CCS championship and was a perennial league title hopeful. Haines, who also coached for Salinas (1984-86) and Hanford (1979-84), won 19 conference titles, eight California Interscholastic Federation section finals and two CCS championships.
He was named the 2000 recipient of the CCS Honor Coach and taught 29 high school All-Americans in his coaching career.