The gene pool runs deep in the family of Bill Parrish.
Grandson Ethan is swimming the latest leg of that legacy as the senior star of the Dos Pueblos High School water polo team.
“There’s a whole fleet of us,” said Ethan, looking back over a half-century of family heritage and ahead to the future of three younger siblings.
Parrish wears his heart on the sleeve of brother Blake’s Stanford warmup jacket, which he wore proudly to school this week. It was a fashion statement to announce that he’s following Blake’s footsteps and will play for the Cardinal next year.
“I took it from my brother and, actually, have been wearing it since got into Stanford,” he said. “I figured out mid-summer that it’s also where I want to go, but I’ve trying to figure out scholarship money … I settled on that pretty recently.”
Blake was a three-time All-American at Stanford, leading the Cardinal to the NCAA final in 2018.
Ethan celebrated his decision with a remarkable 10-goal outburst during a recent victory over Arroyo Grande. The 6-foot-3 attacker has come a long way from his days as a “chubby, short freshman” and Charger starter.
“I took a bunch of lumps from bigger teams my freshman year,” Parrish said, “but progressing through that and dealing with that, I think I’ve matured.
“It’s not only the physical transition from freshman year but the mental transition, too — the way I’d look at the game … The way I’d look at other teams and opponents and my goals for the rest of the season. That’s really evolved since I was young.”
As a sophomore, he took the Chargers on a Cinderella run to the CIF-Southern Section Division 3 final.
“At the beginning of the year, we had no expectations of even getting close to that far,”
Parrish said. “We all thought about it as a rebuilding year, but that also ignited the flame for some of us. We were going, ‘We can do this … We can be better than anyone expects.’
“That team, and the progress we made that season, was the most rewarding thing I’ve done in the sport. That year was amazing.”
That’s saying something, since he’s already spent five years in USA Water Polo’s Youth National Program.
Parrish grew up in the game of water polo. It all started with Grandpa Bill, who won CIF-San Diego Section Player of the Year honors in 1969 after leading Coronado High to the championship. He was also a wrestling champion and played a season of water polo at UCSB before concentrating on his studies in electrical engineering.
Bill and wife Kristi were inducted into the Santa Barbara Athletic Round Table Hall of Fame as community leaders in 2012. They helped build the pool at Santa Barbara High as co-founders of the school’s Aquatics Booster Club. They were also movers and shakers at the Santa Barbara Swim Club.
“My grandfather is a huge influence on me, even helping me with my math homework,” Ethan said. “I’d go over to his house and we’d study calculus together – all year long. I’d study statistics and do some of my homework over there.
“He’s a really smart guy and a really kind man. He’s been a blessing in my life, and he passed his competitive spirit on to me. My dad, my brothers, my sister are all very competitive, as well.”
Ethan’s father, Chris, starred at San Marcos High during the mid-1990s. He returned to Santa Barbara in 2002 to succeed Jim Ranta as the aquatics coach at Dos Pueblos. He guided the Chargers to the CIF-SS boys’ water polo championship in both 2004 and 2005, which sandwiched a CIF swimming title in the spring of 2004.
Chris also served on the coaching staff of the girls’ water polo program during its CIF-record, 69-match winning streak. He became the head coach for its final championship season of 2010-11. He stepped away from coaching altogether in 2016 — a year after Blake’s graduation from DP and a year before Ethan’s arrival.
“He found another work opportunity, so that was good for him, and I’m happy he found something the liked,” Ethan said. “It would’ve been nice to have him coach me here, but he’d already been coaching me since I was like 10. I got my interest in the sport from him.
“He’s been a big role model for me, seeing what he’s done with the program at Dos Pueblos, and how he taught my brother, and the way he raised me in the sport.”
Ethan played three seasons at DP for Connor Levoff before former UCSB star Bryan Snyder took over as head coach this fall. He’s known Snyder since he was “12 or 13, training in the national program.”
“I know the way he coaches and was really excited for him to come to the school,” Parrish said. “He’s taken a lot of what we’ve learned from previous years and added that to a new system and way of playing.
“It’s been hard for some of the kids who are newer to water polo, but the way he’s been able to implement it has been super-beneficial for everyone. We train really hard and we have seen the same amount of progress since the beginning of the year.”
DP, which is ranked 20th in this week’s CIF-SS Division 1-2 poll, will travel to Righetti on Thursday before playing in the D2 Showcase at Palos Verdes on Friday and Saturday. The Chargers will then open Channel League play with a cross-town showdown at Santa Barbara, the No. 6 team in Division 3.
“He’s a great captain,” Snyder said. “He holds all the guys accountable at practice, making sure they’re working hard, making sure they’re doing correct form in the weight room.
“He’s just a great all-around player and leader on our team.”
Ethan has high hopes for a return to the CIF final, although the road will be tougher than it was in 2017 no matter if it’s in Division 1 or 2.
“This team has the potential,” he said. “If we work together and work well in our system, we can do whatever we want.”
The sky is the limit for his own career at Stanford and with USA Water Polo. Brother Blake spent a year with the national program’s senior team — it’s top level — and is now playing for its “Olympic Club” team.
“My brother has been a big factor for me in water polo,” Ethan said. “He’s been the biggest role model that I could ever imagine.”
His Youth National squad actually played Blake’s Olympic Club team a few years ago, although he never got the chance to guard his older brother.
“I wasn’t playing a lot because I was a really young kid on a team of experienced guys – a 14- or 15-year-old playing with a bunch of 18-year-olds,” he said. “It was a bummer because I’d always wanted to play against him.
“But just being able to say that I’ve been in the water with him is a blessing.”
He’s been making a big splash all his own.
Mark Patton’s column appears on Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday.