For Vavics, water polo is legacy
USC's squads feature star coach, players from same family
BOSTON -- Whenever Southern California head coach Jovan Vavic goes to work, it is a family affair.
Jovan’s daughter, Monica, plays for the Trojans' women's team and his son, Nikola, is a member of the reigning five-time national champion men’s squad.
An 11-time national coach of the year, Jovan loves spending extensive time and being involved with the development and upbringing of his children on a daily basis. Surprisingly, he has never pushed his children into playing the sport in which he has dedicated the majority of his life. They found their own paths, which just so happened to line up with his own.
“We started all of our kids in all different sports,” Jovan said. “They played soccer, basketball, football and Monica did gymnastics.
“To me, it’s stupid to push a kid into doing something that they might not be good at. Let them play and see what [they] like the most … [My kids] really love the water.”
When Jovan mentions his kids, he is also referring to his two youngest boys of 12 and 14 years old. Talented water polo players in their own right, they could find themselves swimming the waters of USC in the near future.
“They will play,” Jovan jokingly said of his youngest children’s potential water polo careers with the Trojans. “They’re both already very good and talking about playing.”
Monica echoes her father’s praise of the up-and-coming Vavics waiting in the wings.
“One of my younger brothers skyrocketed and is about to be taller than me,” Monica said.
“I’m a bit nervous. It’s only a couple of days until he is better than me. [My brothers] are eager to be [at USC], the same way I was.”
The 11-time national champion Jovan is extremely optimistic about the possibility of coaching his other children down the road.
“My wife would not be happy if I coached the two older ones and not the two younger ones,” Jovan said.
The formula seems to be working thus far. Monica doesn’t seem to mind having her dad on the sideline. In fact, she is one of his biggest fans and wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I respect the way [my dad] coaches,” Monica said. “I thrive under his coaching. In high school, it was tough watching myself digress as I got older as a player. Now, I know every day I am getting better and accomplishing what I want to.”
Monica has seen her eldest brother hoist three national title trophies in as many years and hopes to capture her first this season as a member of the top-seeded USC squad.
Constantly following in her older brother’s footsteps throughout her early career at USC, Monica finds Nikola as a form of motivation and strength in her development as an athlete.
“It’s nice to have an older brother who has been in the similar position as I have,” Monica said. “It’s very calming to have him as someone to talk to. He cares about you as a family member would, but has the wisdom that you would get from a teammate or a friend.”
If Nikola is any indication of the direction and potential the Vavic family can expect, then there are many successful years to come for the men’s and women’s programs.
Aiming for overall national title No. 12, his fourth with the women’s team, Jovan understands the importance of winning. However, he knows what he and his family are doing goes far beyond that.
“Winning with [my children] is not relevant,” Jovan said. “It’s important that we are together. Winning is just the icing on the cake.
“Monica was in the championship match last year and we came a little short. Sometimes you love your kids even more when they don’t succeed. You learn more from your losses than you do from your wins.”
Monica and Jovan might not always agree on everything, but they both understand the importance of their relationship in and out of the pool.
“What happens in the water stays in the water when you go home,” Jovan said. “[Nikola] doesn’t want to talk about water polo, but Monica initiates the conversations. She really wants to be taught more.”
Monica isn’t all serious at home. She knows when it’s time to kick back your feet and enjoy some family time. Nevertheless, sports consume the Vavic home.
“The household environment is good,” Monica said. “My mother is a fantastic cook so we are usually gathered around the table or watching some basketball.”
When asked of his team’s expectations during this year’s tournament following its first-round 27-1 rout of eighth-seeded Pomona Pitzer, Vavic left no doubt to what was on his mind.
“We are excited about hopefully getting the opportunity to avenge our loss from last year,” Jovan said. “I’m really hoping we get another opportunity to play Stanford.”