PALO ALTO, Calif. -- Monica Vavic decided where she was going to college to play water polo when she was a 12-year-old seventh grader.
It was an easy decision and even easier to tell the head coach. All she had to do was look across the dinner table and tell Southern California head coach Jovan Vavic that she wanted to be a Trojan.
“It as probably the easiest recruit I ever had,” Jovan Vavic joked. “She said it more than once that she didn’t want to play against her dad. It was very easy recruiting her.”
It wasn’t the first Vavic child that played for their father. Nikola Vavic played on the USC men’s water polo team from 2010-2014.“When my son went to USC and she saw how we won championships, she wanted to win one too,” Jovan Vavic said. “That added to it her decision.”
But Jovan said coaching Monica was easier for a couple of reasons. The first was because Monica was a different type of player than her older brother.
“In terms of water polo, she’s a student of the game,” Jovan Vavic said. “She’s an intelligent player and is well prepared. My son was different.
“My son was a great, great gamer. He’s one of the guys that I wanted to have the ball in his hands at the end of the game. But he didn’t necessarily like all the training and the preparation. That wasn’t his strength.”
In an effort to make Nikola a better practice player, Jovan Vavic became sterner with his son.
"I think that’s what happened with my son, I pushed too much,” Vavic said. “He quit after the first semester. We won a championship and he quit. I was too harsh on him. He actually deserved it. He was pushing it the other way, he didn’t go to class, he was playing too many video games.”
Vavic’s son came back to the program, but Jovan had definitely learned a lesson and applied it to his daughter.
“With her it was easier,” he said. “She is the proactive one. She is going to ask me questions about water polo. When we are home as a family she starts the conversation, where my son didn’t want to talk about it. With her, she was really open to learning.”
When Monica joined the Trojans four years ago, she was definitely nervous.
“It went well from the beginning,” Monica Vavic said. “My biggest goal as a freshman was to prove to my teammates that I deserved to be there and play. My biggest fear was my teammates saying I’m only playing because I’m the coach’s daughter. I never was concerned about playing for him, I was more concerned about working hard and earning my teammate’s respect.”
Her goals maybe were a bit too modest and Jovan Vavic decided his daughter needed a little motivating.
“My goal my first year was just to make the traveling squad,” Monica Vavic said. “If I did that I was set with myself. My dad actually made fun of me. He said, ‘You’re the type of person that if you make top 12 or 16 that’s good enough for you.’ So now I am going to try and be better than that. I absolutely did more than I ever thought I would.”
The turning point came in her sophomore season when her dad the coach disciplined his player.
“He’s never been especially harsh on me, the only time he got on my case was my sophomore year but I was totally deserving of it,” Monica Vivac said. “I felt like I was a bit entitled and I had a bad attitude. But that was the only time he rode me hard but then I changed and I ended up having one of my best seasons and we ended up winning an NCAA Championship.”
Jovan has had the joy of watching both his children win national championships, a goal he has for any player he coaches.
“I really want all my players to win a championship while they are here and feel like a failure as a coach if they don’t,” Vavic said. “She got a ring, got a great education and hopefully she goes to the Olympics so everything is good.”
Monica Vavic set the Trojan’s all-time scoring record and also became the top all-time scorer for the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation.
Now with his daughter ready to graduate, is there a sense of sadness for Jovan Vavic?
“Once they are gone it’s all good,” Vavic said. “It’s a life path. I’ll be happy she had four good years, got a great education and won a ring.”