Former Clayton High School Swimmers & WP Players Celebrate Coach Dennis Bledsoe

Dennis Bledsoe, a water polo innovator who co-authored a how-to book on the sport in the 1970s, was celebrated by some of his former athletes recently as he turned 85.

Bledsoe and the legendary Pete Cutino published “Water Polo For Coach and Player” in 1976, during Bledsoe’s early days at Clayton High School where he coached swimming and water polo for nearly 40 years, from the early 1970s until 2010.

Many of his former water polo players, swimmers and students got together on May 23 to celebrate his 85th birthday and share many memories.

“He touched the lives of many and his imprints on water polo are up and down the State of California,” said one of his former athletes, Rob Brownell. “He never once made a cut of any swimmer or water polo player in all the years he coached, he felt anyone who wanted to should be a proud member of the team.”

Bledsoe coached countless All-Americans, from NCAA Division 1 through to Community College athletes, and led both his swim and water polo teams to Northern California and North Coast Section Championship titles in the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF).

In 2007, he was named the North Coast Section Coach of the Year.

Some of the words from his former athletes that stuck out from the celebration included:

  • “He was an even better teacher than coach.”
  • “He believed all athletes should get a chance, never once cut an athlete.”
  • “He took the time to teach the hows and whys of water polo, even designing plays for specific player’s strengths.”

“One of the more amazing parts about Dennis (aka Mr B or Sir) is how many swimmers remember what they learned in his junior year American History class, from how important taking notes was to his timeline of how American events came together,” Brownell said.

Bledsoe played water polo collegiately at Fresno State in the early 1960s, and served as the head water polo coach at his alma mater in 1968-69 before spending one season as an assistant at Cal before returning to Clayton High in 1970 (he initially coached the swim team there from 1966 until 1968).

He was directly involved in the growth of women’s water polo, helping start one of the first women’s teams in the CIF North Coast Section in 1992.

Brownell says Bledsoe helped get almost all his four-year athletes into college, either by writing letters of recommendation or calling coaches on their behalf. Bledsoe also had several of his athletes go on to coach either swimming and water polo elsewhere.

Bledsoe is now retired from coaching and teaching, but is back in the water training with the Walnut Creek Masters in California.

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19 days ago

Nice to see familiar faces around here. He set a precedence for years to come, and I was privileged enough to be a member of the first girls water polo team at CVHS! I have always said, “Had I been born one year later, I would have gone to college on a water polo scholarship, rather than swimming.”

I had Miller for US History my junior year, and he was cut from the same cloth! Coach Bledsoe was gracious and kind to me in some challenging days of my swimming.

Screaming Eagles forever!

Kerri Kelly
Class of ’93

Rob B
Reply to  swimkap
19 days ago

Kerri! Wish we would’ve gotten a hold of you.

19 days ago

Nice to see things like this!

About James Sutherland

James Sutherland

James swam five years at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario, specializing in the 200 free, back and IM. He finished up his collegiate swimming career in 2018, graduating with a bachelor's degree in economics. In 2019 he completed his graduate degree in sports journalism. Prior to going to Laurentian, James swam …

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