Manderino's juggling act

It's been such a chaotic week for Jocelyn Manderino.

Ever since she was named Fountain Valley High girls' water polo coach last month, she's felt as if she's been playing catch-up.

This past week, she could barely breathe with all the pressure and duties needed to be completed.

In addition to working in her first head coaching job, Manderino, a former Newport Harbor water polo standout, has been wearing other hats, as well.

She's an apartment manager in Tustin. As if working with teen-aged girls wasn't challenging enough, she's a single mother of two young boys.

This past week was tough indeed. She couldn't get things settled.

"Everything was up in the air and I hate when everything is up in the air," she said.

As apartment manager, she had two vacancies she needed to fill. With her team, she had been concerned and frustrated that the stomach flu had hit some of her players and they missed time.

She also had a practice site jumbled. She wanted to get her team in a bigger pool for practice, but was denied. However at the last minute, she was approved.

Also, Manderino discovered there were some obstacles to having her younger sister, Kathryn, as an assistant coach.

It wasn't until later in the week that she had Kathryn approved as a volunteer assistant, meaning she can only be with the team if her older sister is there.

"Now everything is getting settled and I can breathe again," Manderino said.

Manderino likes calmness. She wants to bring stability a program that has had three coaches in the past four years.

Manderino believes she's found a home. She knows she's been wanting to become a head coach.

After leading Newport Harbor to its first CIF section title in 1999, she went on to play at USC. After USC, she was an assistant at Newport, learning under Coach Bill Barnett.

"I learned so much about the basics of water polo and the sheer fact that if you build that basic foundation how that can elevate your game so much more," Manderino said of working for the legendary coach, who she'll face in a Sunset League game at Newport Harbor on Jan. 5. "Sometimes coaches go into it and they want to teach the advance stuff. But if you don't have that solid foundation, it's hard to grasp that higher stuff.

"Barnett really preached all that and he taught hard work ethic. He didn't put up with a lot of stuff. When I coach, it's the similar aspect. Barnett yelled, but he yelled in a caring way."

Manderino wanted to stay at Newport Harbor, but her life pulled her in another direction.

Marriage and children came along, yet Manderino still found time to be an assistant coach at Beckman, and then later at Cypress College.

A year ago, she experienced a sort of liberation. In a word, divorce.

"It wasn't that hard to deal with," said Manderino, who is mother of Teak, 3, and Linden, 5. "Once I made that decision things got a lot better. Once I went through the divorce I was able to pursue other things I wasn't able to pursue before. I wouldn't have been able to pursue this job if I didn't go that route."

Manderino also credits strong family support for being able to move on and find stability. She's the oldest of five siblings, all of whom attended Newport Harbor, including brother Chris and sisters Tiffany, Calli and Kathryn. That too has helped her move on and attain some of her goals, like getting back into coaching.

This summer Fountain Valley boys' water polo Coach Eric Peralez called Manderino to be an assistant coach. She assisted this past fall. Later, former Barons girls' water polo Coach Brent Dana left for a full-time teaching position in Pasadena.

Manderino had to apply. She remembered what winning felt like at Newport Harbor and believed she could connect with the girls.

So far she's been able to do that while guiding the Barons through transition. They lost a valuable defender to graduation in Danica Fascella, but the Fountain Valley team has been able to regroup just fine. The Barons are 9-4 heading into Tuesday's game against Murrieta Valley at Huntington Beach.

"For high school, she's my first female coach," said junior Kayla Robert, who's had a new coach in each of her three years on varsity. "She really understands us. A lot of the girls haven't been able to bond before, but now Jocelyn just understands us better.

"She's definitely strict. She has her boundaries and she has her limits. She knows she needs to push us in order for us to reach our goals."

Robert, who is part of the Olympic Development Program, has also tried to help with the transition. Rather than complain about having a different coach each year, she said it has helped her adjust to different styles and learn new systems. It has also helped her prepare for the next level, when she'll have another new coach.

Senior Deandra Van Houten, the Barons' team captain, has also enjoyed Manderino's coaching style.

"She really knows how to work with the team and explain what's going on," Van Houten said. "Whenever there's a problem, she works with it. She makes sure everyone understands it. She knows how to work with us … She's very good with how she handles situations."

Manderino knows she'll be excited when the Barons play against the Sailors at Newport Harbor in a couple weeks. She knows what to expect.

The Sailors usually have a good team, and they always play hard, she says. She wants to get her team ready for that game and for the competitiveness in the Sunset League.

She also wants to get the Barons into the CIF Southern Section Division I playoffs. She believes Fountain Valley is plenty capable of winning at least a game.

Whatever takes place, she's happy coaching the Barons.

"I love coaching," Manderino said. "It's just something I really love, I just love this level. They are trying to learn a love for the sport and I can see their heart in it."

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