Basic chemistry states that oil and water don't mix. But slightly
more advanced science shows that there is an interaction between the
When Jeff Powers first showed up to play water polo at UC Irvine,
he and Coach Ted Newland, initially, didn't quite mix well together.
"He was squirrelly," Newland said. "I raised a lot of hell with
Powers said it was a conflict in personalities.
"Newland is a real disciplined kind of guy. He does the same
routine every day," Powers said. "I'm a more wild card and mess
around. He would get irritated."
But upon closer examination, just oil and water, an interaction
"By my sophomore and junior years," Powers said, "Newland molded
me into maturity."
Powers led UCI in scoring during the 1999 and 2000 seasons and was
named first-team All-American in 2000. Newland said Powers, now a
member of the United States Olympic team, has changed.
"He's much easier to deal with," Newland said. "It's nice to see
him grow up."
Powers is one of five former Anteaters on Team USA, the most from
any school. The two-meter man said Newland is the main reason for the
success of UCI's alumni.
"He does what a lot of other coaches don't do and that's put in
the time," Powers said. "Most coaches leave after practice ends, but
Newland is there on deck after putting extra time with his players."
Newland's incessant work ethic led him to recognize early that
Powers was special.
"I knew he had potential from square one," Newland said. "He
understands games really well. He's just a really good athlete."
Powers played basketball and soccer growing up, before joining the
water polo and swim teams at San Luis Obispo High. He said his varied
background is what introduced him to water polo.
"I love soccer and basketball, and water polo combined both of
those sports with swimming," Powers said.
Growing up in an athletic family -- his father played soccer at
Tufts University, his mother played basketball at Eastern Michigan
and his brother plays water polo at Purdue -- is also a reason he has
"He has great versatility," U.S. Coach Ratko Rudic said. "He can
play two-meter defender. And he can play center. He can be helpful in
Coming from a background in contact sports like basketball and
soccer, it is no surprise that Powers enjoys the physical nature of
"I like the physical play," he said. "I like it when [the opposing
team] tries to rough it up. Plus, that's [Rudic's] style of play."
Water polo is an extremely physical sport, but spectators might
not know it because most of the action takes place under water.
Sometimes players can get serious injuries.
"I've been lucky, I've never been cut open," he said. "Others have
been cut from getting punched in the face, people clawing at them
under the water, having their shoulder dislocated from the other guy
wrenching the arm."
Powers admits that he has dished out some punishment, but claims
it was only in retaliation.
Powers said he brings size and quickness to the U.S. Olympic team.
"I pride myself on being the fastest guy on the team," he said.
"And, strength, too. I'm not the strongest, but I'm one of the
strongest on the team."
Speed and strength mix much better than oil and water.