Sep 4, 2013
With the start of the academic school year yesterday and this morning's first official water polo team meeting, new Michigan assistant coach Ryan Castle is experiencing a busy week in Ann Arbor. But after arriving in July and meeting only scattered Wolverine players over the summer, it's a welcome change to see the campus come to life.
Castle came to Michigan after serving three seasons as an assistant coach at CWPA Western Division rival Hartwick (2010-13), where he contributed to a solid 83-37 record over his tenure. He also spent three years coaching at Arizona State (2007-10), helping guide the 2008 Sun Devils to their most wins (21) and highest national ranking (No. 4) in program history at the time.
Q: What are some of things that attracted you to Michigan?
A: I think it's a whole bunch of things. I think the tradition made a huge impact on me. Everybody knows about Michigan, even from where I'm from down in South Africa. I love the football program and all the athletics programs. The facilities here are amazing. I know Matt [Anderson] very well, and I'm really looking forward to working with him. I also know a few of the kids through coaching and recruiting, and I liked the idea of working with them.
Q: With your background and experience, what do you think you can bring to the Michigan program?
A: I'm looking forward to bringing a bit of an international game, try to add some different skills and drills that I've picked up internationally. Michigan has followed an American way of doing things, and I think I can bring something completely different. Matt and I have already had tons of great conversations, exchanged ideas and tried some different things out. Matt is very open to seeing how things work and trying to create a system that works and moves Michigan to something a little different.
Q: What does adding some international skills and style open up for Michigan?
A: It's just a different way of playing. Michigan has had a certain style of play over the last several years, and I think it's allowed opposing coaches to game plan against them. I'd like to bring in a few things to change it up and make other coaches have to guess what we're up to. As the season progresses, teams will work us out, and that's when we'll make some more adaptations and adjustments. On the recruiting side, I think it will open us up to more athletes. Michigan attracts the best athletes anywhere in the world. We won't change overnight. But we will look a bit deeper in the world, see what is out there and make sure we bring the best athletes we can to Michigan.
Q: You have quite a bit of familiarity with this team, albeit from a different, opposing-coach point of view. What are some of your expectations?
A: First and foremost, I'm expecting the athletes to be very open to whatever we bring. Most of the kids that I've grown to know, they're goal driven, competitive and just want to win. I think they're looking forward to hearing another voice, even if I'm saying the same thing. That's a funny thing with coaching; sometimes you just need to hear the same thing from a different voice or in a different way, and it seems like the word of God. I'm definitely expecting them to come in and want to work hard. They're not happy with how they finished last year, and they want to be a top-five team, go to NCAAs and win a national championship. Those are the expectations that I'm expecting from the athletes who are signed up to be here.
Q: How did you first get involved in water polo?
A: I actually started in high school. I went to a boys-only high school, and we had to play two sports. So, I had to play cricket and water polo. Cricket was all day in the sun on a Saturday, and water polo was 35 minutes on a Friday afternoon, which then allowed me to go home and go to the beach. That's how I first got hooked on it. I kept playing and eventually specialized in it. Toward my junior year of high school, I wanted to get into refereeing, and one of coaches suggested I help one of the lower teams coach and then referee all their practices. That's how I got started in coaching.
Q: What do you love about water polo?
A: I love that it's a contact sport, but I also love that there's also a lot of chess-like tactics involved. You also add water, which is a completely different element, and have to learn to tread water. I love the fact that there's not really that many tactics in water polo; it's all about execution and putting it all together. There are a lot of components that are easy to adapt and make it interesting.
Q: How do you like Ann Arbor so far?
A: It's great. I'm enjoying everything: the culture of downtown, amazing restaurants, friendly people. Another aspect is I like to cycle, so I've been cycling all over the place. There are so many bike paths downtown and outside of town. I'm just really enjoying it.
Contact: Leah Howard (734) 763-4423