La Cañada High has new boys' water polo coach in Todd Sprague

Todd Sprague has enjoyed plenty of success in the world of high school water polo. Now, the coach with more than 20 years of experience has come to the La Cañada High boys' water polo team in search of a new opportunity.

"I have had success everywhere I've gone, but everywhere I've gone didn't have a water polo program with a tradition like La Cañada," said Sprague, who was announced as the Spartans new coach in a press release from La Cañada High Athletic Director Craig Franzen Friday. "I've always wondered what I could do with a foundation where the kids knew how to play water polo coming into high school."

Franzen is enthralled to have the 48-year old Sprague at the helm.

"It's absolutely awesome that he wants to come to La Cañada," Franzen said. "He understands the culture of La Cañada — the dedication to academics, the dedication to water polo — he gets it."

Sprague has coached two schools to a total of three CIF Southern Section championships. He guided Whittier High's boys to one and won two more with the Rosary High girls' squad.

With a resume like that and the Division III semifinals run the Spartans put together for the first time in five years under first-year Coach Steve Neville, Sprague doesn't deny he's looking to win La Cañada's sixth CIF title and first since 2007.

"[Division III] is kind of ripe for the picking because Laguna Beach is out of the division now," said Sprague of the Breakers, who defeated the Spartans in the semis last year, 14-5, and went on to win their second straight title. "I believe they hired me because they see the opportunity, but it's about more than a CIF championship. I am more long term, I want to make a difference in the future."

The overarching goal Sprague has set for himself is creating a "top-to-bottom program" at La Cañada.

"I really want to make a difference in the whole program," Sprague said. "I am all about building that foundation. You truly need that foundation to build upon."

The first step to creating that foundation is installing the "perimeter-strong system" he's had his success with in his career, which is something La Cañada isn't used to.

"We are trying to really develop these kids," Sprague said. "We are going to try to tweak [the system] a little bit and that's one of my concerns. Can we actually get this group of kids to buy into what we've been successful with?"

The system requires a strong two-meter presence, which Sprague believes he may have in Bryce Hopkins, to control the center in front of the cage and skillful shooters on the outside who can make defenses pay if they collapse on the two-meter man.

"We've got the pieces," said Sprague, who referenced returners Alden Geller, Symeon Stefan, Peter Loakes, Chase Borisoff, Justin Moh and John Louks. "I've got some big kids. They're big, fast and they're lean, but they just need to learn a few more things, things I think they're lacking to become champions."

La Cañada provided Sprague the opportunity to be a head coach again for the first time in four years and the chance to coach again with his father Jim Sprague, who will serve as his assistant coach. The father-son team first coached together at Servite and hasn't coached together in around 12 years, Todd Sprague said.

Franzen said his hope is to have Sprague enjoy a Larry Naeve-type career at La Cañada. Naeve, who resigned in 2008, coached the Spartans for 21 years and earned five CIF Coach of the Year awards in that span.

"I envision him creating long-term stability in the program," Franzen said. "He is at that age where we hope he can stick around like a Larry Naeve."

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