Flintridge Prep water polo clinic

Olympian Dudo Simenc and All-American Sasha Poljak were guest coaches at the Flintridge Prep Water Polo clinic held on campus on Thursday. (Roger Wilson/Staff Photographer) (June 5, 2014)

LA CAÑADA — Whether it was his ability to dissect game footage, give one-on-one pool instruction or just relay a life lesson, three-time water polo Olympian Dudo Simenc certainly left an impression at Thursday’s Flintridge Prep water polo clinic on campus.

The former Yugoslavian and Croatian medalist was joined by three-time Pepperdine All-American Sasha Poljak, Flintridge Prep coaches Dan Hare, Sasha Bucur and Jeff Chase and a group of 30 participants ranging from the fifth-grade level to high school seniors.

“It’s an absolute privilege to have Dudo come down to Flintridge Prep,” Hare said. “He’s like the Michael Jordan of Croatia. Everyone knows who he is in his homeland and his knowledge of the game and his ability to coach are second to none. We’re honored to have him here.”

Simenc was in town for the Masters Nationals tournament in Irvine from June 6-8 and stopped by the Flintridge Prep clinic, in part, because of the efforts of Bucur, who is friends with Poljak.

“I couldn’t be happier to have those type of connections on staff,” Hare said. “Who knew?”

As for the clinic, there were three sessions, a morning pool skills clinic, an afternoon film study and a concluding one-on-one demonstration and practice with Simenc.

“I’m also an under-16 coach in Croatia and I love what I do,” Simenc said. “We have the same problem in Croatia that you have in America. We can’t get kids off Facebook and the electronics.

“So, whenever I see an enthusiastic group, that’s what’s rewarding for me.”

Flintridge Prep sophomore Greg Walsh, a La Cañada resident, said his biggest thrill came during the morning session as Simenc demonstrated different types of shooting styles and arm angles and stressed the importance of solid passing.

Simenc even attempted shots against Walsh, the junior varsity captain and team goalie.

“I blocked one of those,” Walsh said. “That’s all I was trying to do was to touch one of his shots. He’s just so quick and it’s amazing to go against an Olympian.”

Even though Flintridge Prep’s Alexander Muletis enjoyed Simenc and the coaches’ hands-on attention, the junior was amazed at the film session.

“The way he broke down film, that just doesn’t happen at many camps,” Muletis said. “I can’t believe how much I learned from just that.”

Simenc and the coaches analyzed the 2012 Olympic men’s water polo gold medal game between Croatia and Italy, won by Croatia, 8-6.

Simenc made several observations, noting the ability of Croatia’s Maro Jakovic, a left-hander, to fire a goal top-shelf, cross-pool against the Italian goalkeeper.

“When you have a goalie with a wingspan of 6-foot-8,” Simenc said during the film session, “you want to shoot high and make him have to move those big arms.”

Perhaps the highlight of the session came at the conclusion when Simenc, a member of the 1988 gold medal squad for Yugoslavia and the 1996 silver medal club for Croatia, handed out his Olympic hardware to clinic goers.

“I couldn’t believe when he passed those around [medals],” said Flintridge Prep freshman Scott Fordham, a Glendale resident. “This was just a great experience all-around.”

Hare was hoping that Simenc would consider making an annual trip to the school, something the Olympian said he wouldn’t mind doing.

“California is wonderful and when you have a group of [athletes] who are willing to learn, you feel motivated,” Simenc said. “This is a great sport and it’s an honor to pass it on.”

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Follow Andrew J. Campa on Twitter: @campadresports.