Richard “Dick” Draz, known to most people simply as “Coach,” passed away on September 12, 2023, due to natural causes. Coach Draz was born on November 17, 1930, in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, to Dorothy and Frank Draz. He was a loving husband, father, motivator, and inspirational figure to his family and thousands of high school and college athletes throughout his distinguished coaching career.
Growing up in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, he attended Chagrin Falls High School before enrolling at Ohio Wesleyan University. While at Ohio Wesleyan, he began a lifelong involvement with the Beta Theta Pi Fraternity. After serving four years in the U.S. Navy, Draz earned his master’s degree at Kent State University. He started teaching in the San Diego Unified School District at Pacific Beach Junior High School before joining the staff at Crawford High School in 1962.
At Crawford, Draz coached football and was the head swimming coach. After several years of success in the pool, he became intrigued with water polo. He traveled all over Southern California to watch games and attend clinics. In 1969, with an abundance of passion for the sport, he coached Crawford’s first water polo team. The rest is legendary.
Coach Draz created a swimming and water polo dynasty at Crawford High School and was a driving force in the success of aquatic sports in San Diego schools over the last 60 years. The “Ironman Relays” swimming meet, which he co-created in 1968, and the “Draz Classic” water polo tournaments (2006) are still popular aquatic events in San Diego every year.
One of the winningest Southern California aquatic coaches, his dual meet boys swim team record at Crawford was 253-38-1 (including 21 undefeated league championships), and his boys’ water polo teams were 334-106-1 (including 13 league titles). After finishing his 25-year coaching career at Crawford, he coached men’s water polo and the men’s and women’s swim teams at San Diego Mesa College for nine years.
Coach Draz received national and local recognition from multiple organizations. He was inducted into the U.S. Water Polo Hall of Fame (2003) and was the National High School Swimming Coach of the Year (1986). He was also inducted into the San Diego Officials Association (2016), the San Diego Hall of Champions (1999) as a “Coaching Legend,” and the Chagrin Falls HS, Tiger Hall of Fame (1996) to name a few.
Coach developed a love of sports at an early age. Whether playing hockey on frozen lakes or football on the gridiron, he loved learning the intricacies of the sport and competing. Over the course of his career, Coach taught, challenged, and mentored many student-athletes and coaches. When he retired from active coaching, he became a trusted advisor to many. In this role, he supported the continued development of swimming and water polo and left a long legacy of people touched by his mentoring. His coaching tree includes numerous former students and athletes who are not only motivating young people in classrooms but are instrumental in the continued success of aquatic sports in Southern California.
Coach Draz married the love of his life Helen in 1955. For 68 years, they worked together to build a loving home where they raised three children. Dick was actively involved in his church and enjoyed the many friendships developed from the St. Mark’s United Methodist and First United Methodist Church communities.
Dick’s family knew how much he loved what he did but were never in doubt about how much they meant to him. He frequently recognized the support of his family, especially Helen, for giving him space to coach. He will be greatly missed by his immediate family as well as his large extended family of athletes, coaches, and friends.
Draz was preceded in death by his brothers Peter and David, and granddaughter Rebecca. He is survived by his wife, Helen, three children, John (Cathy) Draz of Knightdale, NC, Kathy (Tom) Zopatti of Twinsburg, OH, and Dan (Patricia) Draz of Naperville, IL, grandchildren Courtney, Cody, Quinn, and Wyatt, great-grandchildren Ava and Olivia, and several loving relatives.
A memorial Service will be held on Sunday, October 1 at 1:00 PM at First United Methodist Church of San Diego, 2111 Camino del Rio South, San Diego. A reception will follow at the church in Linder Hall. In lieu of flowers, memorials in Richard’s name may be made to one of the following organizations or projects he was passionate about. First United Methodist Church of San Diego, 2111 Camino del Rio South, San Diego, CA 92108, CIFSDS - Draz Classic or Ironman Relays, 3470 College Avenue, San Diego, CA 92115, San Diego High School Coaching Legends Selection Committee, 3470 College Avenue, San Diego, CA 92115.