When Justin Ferdinand took over as the athletic director at Serra High School prior to the start of the 2018-19 academic year, he said the school’s goal was to find someone to run the aquatics department — which encompasses water polo, swimming and the summer program.
After a nearly two-year search, Ferdinand and Serra have found their man in Andrew Silva, the former water polo and swim coach at Morro Bay High School along the Central Coast and a longtime coach with USA Water Polo.
“As an administrator of the athletic department, we’ve always had that as a goal,” Ferdinand said in hiring one person to handle all the teams and usage of the school’s swimming complex. “Continuity and consistency is what led us to this decision. It gives us the opportunity to have one person to run all the programs associated with the aquatics complex.”
Ferdinand, who helped build the Half Moon Bay boys’ water polo into a Central Coast Section playoff team, coached the Serra team last season, becoming the Padres third coach in as many years. But as the school’s athletic director, as well as having a family with two kids who also require a father’s time, Ferdinand didn’t feel he could give the water polo team the commitment it needed to be successful.
“You’re talking about trying to run an elite-level athletic department and spend just as much time trying to maintain a high-level water polo program,” Ferdinand said. “There is not enough time in the day and the time necessary to do both.”
The school certainly seems to have found the right man for the job. A career water polo and swimming coach and administrator, Silva, 43, has spent most his life in and around the water. A water polo player and swimmer at San Luis Obispo High School, Silva immediately got into coaching after graduating high school in 1996. He went on to become the women’s water polo coach at Marist College in New York, moving on to become an assistant coach at University of California, Santa Barbara and later became the aquatics director at Citrus Community College in Glendora.
For the last four years, he has been coaching at Morro Bay High School.
“There are a number of factors that make the opportunity at Serra so incredibly attractive. The academic and athletic reputation of the school is just the starting point,” Silva said. “Serra has a wonderful history of providing the best for their students. … To be part of that and to elevate the aquatics program … is extremely exciting.”
Silva has proven he can build programs. In 2006, he led the Marist College women’s team to its first-ever NCAA playoff appearance in just his second season as head coach. In his first year at Morro Bay, 2016, his boys’ team went 1-4 in Ocean League play in the Central Section and 6-13 overall. The Pirates had a winning record in 2017, going 3-2 in league play and 10-6 overall. In 2018, he led the Pirates to an undefeated league championship, outscoring opponents 150-41 and going 24-7 overall. Last year, Morro Bay was 2-3 and 6-13.
“I was fortunate to take over a program that was up and coming at Morro Bay,” Silva said.
At the same time, Silva has been heavily involved with USA Water Polo, where he has served on senior-level coaching staffs and was a member of the 2019 men’s and women’s junior teams that competed in the junior world championships.
“In my opinion, [USA Water Polo] is the highest level of personal development I could be in water polo,” Silva said. “I’m incredibly fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with our country’s best coaches and athletes which has allowed me to learn so much from them.”
He’s going to need every ounce of that training and learning he has had in a career of coaching as he takes over a Serra program that has fallen on rough times of late. The Padres have managed just one win in each of the previous two seasons, according to statistics submitted to MaxPreps.com.
It will be no easy task as the Padres play in the West Catholic Athletic League, one of the toughest leagues in the state that features national powers Sacred Heart Prep, Menlo School and Bellarmine.
“I have a great deal of respect for the coaching in the WCAL,” Silva said. “The challenge of competing on a regular basis with some of the best programs in the state, that’s a tremendous opportunity for growth.”
Silva is still in the process of moving his life from the Central Coast to the Peninsula, but Ferdinand believes Silva will be here in plenty of time to get ready for the beginning of the season, with the first day of practice scheduled for Dec. 14 and the season opener Dec. 28.
“He’ll be here well before the season starts in December,” Ferdinand said. “There will be plenty of time to prepare for the coming season.”