Minnis Forges Unlikely Path to Harvard

Coach Minnis
Emma G. Smith

Head water polo coach, Ted Minnis, has led the men's and women's teams in achieving great success since joining the program in July 2010.

The alarm clock rings at 2:00 a.m. on Friday morning.

Twenty-three-year old Ted Minnis rolls out of bed, gets dressed, and kisses his three-year-old son Josh goodbye before stepping out into the crisp morning air in Menlo Park, Calif.

It’s now 2:10 in the morning. Minnis is off to work at Durham Meat Company, where he lifts hundreds of pounds of meat into a truck and makes deliveries to locations all over the Bay Area.

At 11:00 a.m., Minnis drives down in the meat truck to Lynbrook High School in San Jose. He arrives in the parking lot just as his team is starting to warm up and blows his air horn to let them know the coach has arrived. He runs to the pool, gathers his team, and gives them a few quick last-minute words of encouragement.

It’s now 12:10 p.m. Minnis has a quick post-game meeting with his players and then rushes out again to finish his deliveries.

At 2:00 p.m., Minnis returns to coach his second game of the day. Afterwards, he finishes up his final deliveries and then returns home to play with his son before going to sleep.

Nearly two decades later, Minnis finds himself in a very different place in his second year as the Harvard water polo coach. But it’s a place he always imagined he would end up.

“I think I realized early on that I wasn’t going to be a pro athlete,” Minnis says. “But I loved sports, and I wanted to be involved in something to do with sports with my life. Everyone said that I was good at coaching.”

Now standing at 6’5”, the Menlo Park native was always taller than most of his peers growing up. His athletic career began on the basketball court, where he was known for his low-post game. But in eighth grade, one of Minnis’ friends introduced him to a different sport: water polo.

“It’s funny because, I’m almost 6’5”, but for a basketball player, I’m not tall,” Minnis says. “I couldn’t handle, I couldn’t dribble; my basketball career was short-lived. I was trying to decide if I was going to play football, because I’m a big man, or water polo; all my friends were going to play water polo, and I had a swimming background.”

His decision to return to the pool turned out to be a defining point in his life.

Minnis jumped right into the sport, joining the Menlo-Atherton high school team, where he played in goal.

But Minnis did not graduate from Menlo-Atherton, leaving the school after the birth of his son, Josh. In order to provide for his family, Minnis found a job making deliveries for a local meat company.

“I had a son, so I had to make money,” Minnis says.

But Minnis did not stay away from the pool for long, though, returning to coach the men’s water polo team at his alma mater at age 21. It was a position he held for the next 11 years of his life.

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