June and July have been memorable months for Sam Bailey.
On June 7, Bailey became an uncle for the first time. A day later, Corona del Mar High named Bailey as its new girls' water polo coach.
Bailey has not even coached the Sea Kings for two months this summer and the disciple of the program's former coach, Aaron Chaney, has the team playing at a high level.
The Sea Kings on Sunday reached the final of the California State High School Championships. The title appearance marked the second one at a premier tournament for CdM in an eight-day span.
The Sea Kings' next event takes them to Los Angeles County to compete in the S&R Sport USA Water Polo National Junior Olympics. This time, Bailey will not be around to lead the teenagers.
The 33-year-old is leading another cause that is dear to his heart.
While the Sea Kings prepare today for the four-day tournament that starts on Thursday, Bailey plans to be in the air for 10 hours. His flight is to Ecuador, where for the next three weeks he and four dozen volunteers will try to empower communities.
Bailey is the founder of Eco Surf Volunteers and he and his staff do not just ride waves while in Ecuador. The organization is in its third year, and every time Bailey visits, he wants to help the people of Canoa.
"We teach English through arts and crafts to elementary kids," Bailey said. "The organization is designed to help educate the kids, provide material and financial support to the schools.
"Most of these people depend on the fishing industry. The new industry is tourism and outside investors want to take over the local economy. I want the locals to have a say."
Reaching out to Ecuadorians is important to Bailey. He said this is the last time he probably can in person because the job at CdM is going to be a 12-month commitment.
When Bailey took over one of the elite programs in Orange County, he said he informed CdM of his prior commitment to Ecuador. Bailey said school officials were OK with him leaving.
Bailey said he feels the Sea Kings are going to be all right without him for three weeks.
Taking the reins during the four days at the S&R Sport USA Water Polo National Junior Olympics is Bailey's assistant, Christina Hewko. Bailey knows Hewko well and trusts her. Bailey coached Hewko at CdM during her senior season in 2003, when Bailey was an assistant under Chaney.
Bailey and Hewko found each other in college. Hewko went as a player to Stanford and Bailey followed two years later as an assistant. In 2005, Bailey and Hewko helped Stanford finish second at the NCAA finals.
The two find themselves back together and the Sea Kings have benefitted this offseason. The results so far have been more than impressive.
CdM has beaten Newport Harbor the past three times the Back Bay rivals have met this summer. That is a change of events, as the Sailors beat CdM twice during the last high school season.
The Sea Kings first knocked off the Sailors in the finale at the Santa Barbara Summer Tournament of Champions. Trailing by three goals at halftime, CdM stormed back and won, 5-4, in sudden-death triple overtime.
The latest victory against Newport Harbor came on Sunday, when the Sea Kings prevailed, 8-3, in the semifinals of the California State High School Championships. The Sea Kings showed their depth with five players recording at least a goal.
Cassidy Papa scored three times, Diana Murphy twice, and Pippa Saunders, Maddie Schwartz and Devon Greenlee each once. Many of those same players did not know Bailey previously coached at CdM, three years as an assistant with the girls and one year as the head coach of the boys.
The one player Bailey said slightly remembered him was Murphy. That is because Bailey coached her older brother, Jacob, in 2004. At the end of that season, after guiding the boys to the semifinals of CIF Southern Section Division I playoffs, Bailey earned the coach of the year honor in the section.
Bailey knows reaching the semifinals with the girls is not enough this upcoming high school season. The Sea Kings advanced to the Division I title match in two of Chaney's final three seasons.
There is far more pressure on Bailey, who last year coached at Marlborough High in Los Angeles. Bailey started the school's water polo program.
At CdM, Chaney in nine years established a perennial contender, having won five straight section titles from 2002-06, four in Division II and one in Division IV.
Chaney left CdM to return to Hawaii and be closer to his mother, but everything appears in place for the Sea Kings to make a run at a crown.
"The girls really believe in themselves," said Bailey, who as a player won two national championships while at UCLA in 1996 and 1999, and as an assistant coach he helped the UCLA women's team win the national title in 2008. "This is something that I was definitely interested in doing long term. I'm working on my teaching credential and my master's in education at National University. I look to student teach in the winter, and in four or five months I'll earn my master's and hopefully step in a classroom by fall 2011."