When junior utility player Kevin Dayan moved from Sao Paulo, Brazil, to Southern California to play water polo, he wasn’t just living out his dream. He was living his family’s dream, too.
“My grandpa wanted to move to the U.S. for school and he got in (to the school), but he couldn’t make it work and wasn’t able to move here,” Dayan said. “When I told my parents and grandparents my plan to move, they were so proud that I was going to be able to do what they had always wanted to.”
Dayan moved to the U.S. with his twin brother Ilan Dayan, two years ago, and the two played water polo together at Orange Coast College until transferring to Chapman and the University of Redlands respectively this season.
The Dayan brothers faced off for the first time Sept. 23. Kevin Dayan got the better of Ilan Dayan, scoring three goals and getting three steals in Chapman’s 12-7 away win.
Growing up, the twins were inseparable.
“Our family is really close,” Ilan Dayan said. “Our parents are super nice, and always motivated us to practice and to do well in school, and growing up doing everything with Kevin was always so fun.”
Kevin Dayan found his passion for water polo when he was 12 and joined a club in Brazil with his brother. The brothers continued to compete in the sport, going as far as worldwide tournaments in Israel and Spain. When it came time for graduation in 2015, their parents were supportive of the brothers’ decision to move to Southern California on their own to pursue an education and water polo at the same time.
“My dad played squash in the same club where I started polo, which is how I met my first coach,” Kevin Dayan said. “He’s very athletic, and was really supportive and encouraging of me. My mom isn’t athletic at all but she’s my biggest fan. The fact that they’re so supportive is the reason I’m still here in the U.S.”
He caught the attention of men’s water polo head coach Eric Ploessel when he moved to Orange Coast College from Sao Paulo two years ago.
“I’ve known the coach over at Orange Coast for a long time, since we played water polo together in college,” Ploessel said. “He actually helped me get Kevin for Chapman’s team, and so far, all of the amazing things he’s said about Kevin have turned out to be completely true.”
Kevin Dayan decided to attend Chapman after playing against the team in water polo, and said he was attracted to the academic facilities, welcoming environment and pool facilities the school offered. Ilan Dayan, on the other hand, wanted a smaller school, and he decided to attend Redlands, which separated the two for the first time.
When Kevin Dayan started school at Orange Coast College after hearing about it from his Brazilian friends, he and his brother were faced with the task of adjusting to a new country, combined with the regular adjustments that college students face living on their own for the first time.
“The biggest challenge for me in moving was not having my parents there anymore and not really knowing anyone, so I focused all my energy on studying and water polo, and my team became like family,” Kevin Dayan said. “I’ve found that here at Chapman too.”
Kevin Dayan’s dedication to water polo was quickly noticed by his coach at Orange Coast, Adam Lee, as well as by Ploessel.
“He’s brand-new, but since the first week of practice, he’s already been a leader on the team,” Ploessel said. “He’s smart, a hard-worker and talented. He’s a great guy, in the pool and out.”
Kevin Dayan attributes his success in water polo to his ability to fully dedicate himself to every practice. That dedication is something he applies to his everyday life.
“I believe that (practice) time is one of the most valuable things you can have, and you should never waste it,” Kevin Dayan said. “I’m spending three to five hours in the pool every day, so I will always put in 100 percent and make the most of that practice time to become the best I can. If I get tired, I always remember to outwork my opponents, because, while I work, the competition is working hard too.”
Kevin Dayan is a business administration major and economics minor, and plans to continue playing water polo recreationally after earning his degree, putting a focus on building a career within the business industry rather than continuing to compete.
“My English wasn’t great growing up,” Kevin Dayan said. “I never would have expected to be able to leave Brazil, travel the world and move to the U.S, and if it wasn’t for water polo, I would not have been able to come here, and if it wasn’t for my family, I would not have been able to stay.”