Offsay Returns to Very Familiar Waters

Lela A. Brodsky

Rick Offsay ’05 opted to postpone his first year of Harvard Law School in order to work with the men’s water polo team this season. The former two-year captain has served in the role of assitant coach.

One of the most potent forces on the men’s water polo team never takes the pool.
Rick Offsay ’05 played his last game for Harvard last year. Instead of leaving his beloved team, Offsay postponed his matriculation at Harvard Law School for one year to work side-by-side with Coach Erik Farrar during the season.
After leading the team for two years as a captain, Offsay has easily transitioned to the role of coaching his former teammates and friends .
“Everyone who plays makes a certain impact in the program,” Farrar said. “Rick is a guy who is going to leave in serious footprints, not only for shepparding the team through turbulent areas, but also for his leadership.”
Offsay, who was just the third player to be an All-American in the twenty-five year history of the water polo program, now complements Farrar’s coaching style with his incredible knowledge of the game. He was a powerful offensive force during his time at Harvard, playing the hole set position and known for scoring goals in dramatic fashion while being plunged under water.  
“He and I have a different set of views on the game,” Farrar said. “He brings a superb knowledge of the game, and he’s a great teacher. On a team like ours where have a many men learning the craft, it’s an excellent asset to have him there to teach us.”
Even though Offsay stays on the sidelines during games, he still enjoys leading the team by example during practices.  
“They guys haze him a little bit in the pool,” Farrar said. “We had to have a ‘Rick Rule’ during scrimmages that it was not appropriate for all five perimeter players to come in on him. The guys are severely tested; if he gets his hands on the ball cleanly, something will happen.”
Because of his knowledge and skills, Offsay commands respect from both his former teammates and the new freshmen.
For his fellow teammates, it feels as if he has not left yet. The players are glad to still have access to the wealth of knowledge he offers.
“It almost feels like Rick is part of the team still,” junior John Voith said. “Rick’s the type of guy where he gels with all of us just as if nothing has changed, but he can also turn it on so that the coaching element comes out; he can be real serious and let us know what has to be done in terms of being successful.”
Offsay has helped the team in a variety of ways, from jumping in the pool during practice to helping encourage the team during games. His talents range beyond the pool as well, as he has been known to drive the athletic van around to pick up recruits.
Both Offsay and the players recall the team’s win against Brown earlier this season as a momentous turning point during the season. Earlier in the year, the young team was having trouble creating offensive chemistry and scoring.
Voith recalls Offsay telling the team it had the potential to succeed, but needed to change its attitude.
“He said you guys just need to get it done. He just kept repeating that it was all about attitude,” Voith said. “When we came out and we beat Brown, it was a huge turning point in our season.”
Offsay agrees that beating Farrar’s alma mater, and the team’s biggest Ivy rival, was the best part of the season.
“We beat them the last three times I was there,” Offsay said. “Once as a player in sudden death overtime, once as a spectator to watch the women win in dramatic fashion, and as a coach. I feel like we own that pool a little.”
As for Offsay, he sees water polo being in his future for a long time. After traveling to Australia to play in the national league in the spring, Offsay will return as a volunteer coach next year while he begins studying law.
While in Australia, Offsay will be playing with the Freemantle Mariners, a team located in Perth.
Since Australia has no collegiate system, he will be entering a league with both young college players and more experienced national team players and Olympians.
Offsay is no stranger to playing in international waters, as he spent the last summer playing in Israel making a name for himself.
Upon returning to Harvard, however, his closeness to the team has helped the new coach discover how to teach the people he had played alongside with just a few months earlier.
“I feel like I know what they’ll respond to because I’ve spent so much time with them,” Offsay said. “I know who I can yell at and who I need to coddle a little more. I know who will respond to what coaching styles, which helps me, since I’m new to coaching.”
Observing Farrar has also helped Offsay learn to become a coach. While Offsay helped give the new coach information about the team, Offsay says Farrar helped him learn how to achieve a “balance” while coaching.
“He’s as much of a competitor as the other players, but he knows when to back off and to gave positive feedback,” Offsay said. “He’s been the stable guy the team can look to, particularly in comparison to the other coaches we’ve had in the past.”
The team of Farrar and Offsay has helped the water polo team reach the Eastern Championships, something the team missed out on during the two years before Farrar arrived. Men’s water polo placed third at Eastern’s his freshman year, and Offsay, along with a team of strong seniors, helped bring the team back into contention for that title last year, restoring the program to where it was earlier.
Regardless of how the team performs this weekend, according to Farrar, Offsay has undoubtedly had a positive impact on both the team and the program in general.
“He has an influence that echoes far beyond the years he has spent in the program,” Farrar said.
—Staff writer Megha Parekh can be reached at