By Travis West | Staff Writer
If you were to look in the office of Riverside City College women’s water polo’s coach, David Almquist, you would see numerous state titles and trophies in the room and on the walls.
Almquist has transformed the RCC aquatics program and left a trail of success for the future to follow.
During his 17 years coaching at RCC, he has brought a total of five state championships between water polo and swimming.
When he took over the program, he started out with only 11 swimmers and now has turned it into a very respectable swimming program.
Almquist’s aquatics career began with his very first water polo game while playing for Riverside Poly High School in 1969.
“The very first water polo game I saw, I played in,” said Almquist. “My best friend and I gave it a shot, liked it and stuck it out.”
Almquist has fond memories of his playing days.
After graduating from Poly in 1969 he went on to play for RCC men’s water polo team.
He and his best friend were playing for the Tigers and scored five goals each in a lost to the state champions at the regional, 15-10.
“I still remember that until this day,” he said with a smirk.
Almquist was an all-conference player at RCC before he transferred and became a starter for two years at UC Santa Barbara, where in his senior year they placed fifth in the NCAA.
Along with the success in the collegiate ranks, he still managed to find time to come back home and play with the Riverside Aquatic Water Polo senior men’s team.
“It was all local guys (from) UCR and RCC,” Almquist said. “We went to the men’s outdoor nationals and got eighth, which was a huge deal.”
After Almquist graduated from UCSB he returned to Riverside to coach at Poly High School.
While he was the head coach at Poly, he also was the assistant coach of the United States men’s water polo team in Seoul, Korea for the 1988 Olympics, where it won the silver medal.
In sports you create bonds that sometimes last a lifetime.
Players bond like brothers and when one is in need they are willing to help.
At the grand opening of the aquatic center there were only two shot clocks for the pools, when four were needed.
“We were about $1,800 short,” Almquist explained.
He called a few of his old Riverside Aquatics teammates and asked for a few hundred to help out. They sent a check for $1,800 the next week.
Coaches can also be looked to for guidance and direction in life, the influence Almquist has had coaching has inspired others to follow suit.
“I have about 15 or so people that played for me that are coaching,” said Almquist.
Head coach of the RCC men’s swim, Doug Frinfrock, was a former player of his at RCC who then went on to get a scholarship to UC Irvine and has been on Almquist’s coaching staff for a number of years.
Almquist has helped numerous players get scholarships to schools all over the country. More importantly, he teaches his players discipline.
He was reminded of a time when he was approached by a former player’s parents.
He was thanked for helping their son get serious about life.
The player was a disciplinary problem for the parents and Almquist just gave it to him straight.
“You are going to do it this way or you are out of here,” Almquist said.
Almquist is strict when it comes to problematic players.
The player got the message. If he wanted to play, he had to straighten up.
The player is now coaching high school swimming.
During his coaching career, Almquist has had many opportunities, receiving offers to coach at division one universities.
Despite tempting offers to leave, Almquist said he always dream of coaching at RCC and turned down lucrative offers just to wait for the head coaching position at RCC to open up.
“About six years ago, I got a call from a Pac-12 school and I wasn’t even interested,” Almquist said. “I’ve made the decision a long time ago to stay where I’m at…I think I made the right decision.”
After five state championships and a silver medal, the greatest satisfaction for Almquist is the impact he has on student athletes. Almquist wants to finish his career at RCC.
“I’m looking at two more years here,” Almquist said.