2009 Program News

10/10/09: Spotlight- Patricio F. Bridgewater

PFBAs the ICECP coaches gather in Colorado Springs for the final portion of the six-week program, they excitedly share experiences from their respective apprenticeship sites with each other.

During the apprenticeships, participants worked with the coaching staffs of elite sport clubs, national teams, top university programs and the best athletes in their respective sports. They observed and interacted with their sport’s leading coaches and toured some of the finest athletic facilities in the country.

The swimming coaches watched Michael Phelps train at the North Baltimore Aquatic Club. The basketball coaches saw guard Scottie Reynolds run the court at Villanova University’s basketball facility. The track coaches worked with Penn State’s powerhouse program and saw the site of this year’s Division I men’s indoor track championships.

But one ICECP participant actually coached the athletes of the program he worked with on his apprenticeship. And he did such a good job that they added two of his drills to their training regime and named them after him.

Patricio F. Bridgewater of the Netherlands Antilles did more than observe during his apprenticeship with coach Bonnie Kenny and the University of Delaware women’s volleyball program. He rolled up his sleeves, got in the mix and taught the two-time defending CAA champs just as much as they taught him.

“I was not just observing the coaching staff,” Bridgewater said. “I was part of the group. I got inside the training, planning and organizing. I was truly involved in the program for those two weeks and accepted by the players as part of the team.”

Bridgewater made his apprenticeship as hands-on and interactive as he could. Every day, he had detailed discussions with Kenny, the assistant coaches, the graduate assistants and the players.They shared ideas and observations from practice and competition. They discussed strategy, philosophy, administrative tasks and more.

Bridgewater learned about Coach Kenny’s philosophy of the game. He said that she believes that when dealing with her players, she must treat them as people first, students second and volleyball players third.

He also noted admiringly how she sets a foundation of trust between herself and her athletes. They believe in her experience and knowledge of the game and she trusts them to do what needs to be done to make themselves successful athletes.

“In these two weeks, I saw Coach Kenny’s philosophy in action,” he said. “I was able to see the direct results. She is out there during practices, training, explaining, but not overbearing on the players. When game time comes, she trusts them to be ready and to have prepared properly.”

And Kenny did not pass on the opportunity to learn from the seasoned volleyball coach from Curacao while he was there. Bridgewater competed for 23 years on the men’s national team, starting when he was just 14 years old. As a coach, he led women’s national teams that competed in the Pan-Am Games, the North Central America Games, the Caribbean Games and world qualifiers. So Bonnie Kenny knew she could learn quite a bit from him as well.

Before and after each game, the two coaches discussed strategy and observations from competition. Bridgewater was able to make recommendations to help the Blue Hens’ program.

“Coach Kenny asked me what more she can do to train her players,” he said. He was happy to lend his expertise wherever possible.

And he left a permanent mark on the program.

“Some of my ideas were accepted and incorporated into their training,” Bridgewater said. “Two drills I showed them are now a part of their training regime every day.”

So when UD volleyball players do the “Patrick Drill” and the “Patrick Pepper” they will carry on Bridgewater’s lessons. And when future players ask why the team refers to each activity as such, Bridgewater’s mark on the program will be remembered and his contributions recognized.

And though his apprenticeship ended, his working relationship with Bonnie Kenny and UD is far from over. Bridgewater recognizes the vast potential of being so close with such an experienced coach.

His first mission is to help get one of his players from the Netherlands Antilles into UD to play for Kenny’s program. After showing her some short competition footage, he said it is a possibility.

“Coach Kenny was impressed by my player’s skill and athleticism. I am sending her more tapes once I return home.”

The player is a first-year university student in Curacao, majoring in accounting. As a member of the national team, she was the top scorer in each of the team’s games at the recent world qualifying tournament.

She led the team to the third round, somewhere it has not been for quite some time. Bridgewater knows she has the skill to compete at the Division I level.

“She will fit in great in Coach Kenny’s program. She has an unquestionable work ethic and is a valuable outsider hitter, something that the UD program could use,” he said.

Bridgewater is also planning to use Kenny in the implementation of his ICECP project, which is to establish and manage a volleyball school. The apprenticeship gave him a broader view of volleyball training, which will help him develop the program for his school. He was also able to see volleyball at a high level and will set the standards for his school at the same level.

“Bonnie and her program are models for my project. I will invite her to give a workshop there,” he said.

Bridgewater’s stay at UD to work with the volleyball team was mutually beneficial for both parties. He said he realized that even with all his experience, he can still learn more.

“A person who knows he has a lot more to learn is a wise person, while a person who thinks he knows everything is a fool,” Bridgewater knowledgeably shared. “I was busy the whole time because there was plenty to discuss, exchange and learn from each other. If I could, I would stay another two weeks with her.”

Kenny surely feels the same way. Besides the benefit of having another veteran coach in the mix, the Blue Hens were a perfect 5-0 with Bridgewater around. This includes a big come-from-behind win over UNC, a hard-fought victory over conference foe Towson University and a back-and-forth nailbiter over Villanova on the road.

So it seems that Bridgewater was not the only one who saw the benefit of this ICECP apprenticeship.