Sean Kern, Senior Director in the Inland Empire office, has plenty of things to feel proud about: Cushman & Wakefield professional since 2007. Over 15M SF in career transactions. Married, father of two boys. But did you know he’s also an international water polo champion and former Olympic athlete?
Raised in Hawaii where water sports are a way of life, Sean got his first taste for water polo when he was in 5th grade, the “earliest possible” time he could try out. He cut his teeth playing for the boy’s squad at Punahou High School in Honolulu (a.k.a. former President Barack Obama’s alma mater) before UCLA nabbed him as the top undergrad recruit in the country.
At UCLA Sean was a force for action, leading the men’s team to back-to-back NCAA Championship wins in 1999 and 2000. His standout performances gained him four consecutive All-American titles, making him one of just two players in UCLA water polo history to earn that distinction. He was also recently named to the Pac-12 All-Century Water Polo Team. Then, to top it off, he landed a spot on the Men’s U.S. National Team during his sophomore year.
Making the leap to the national team meant even longer hours in the pool—and less free time to unwind. “On Fridays everyone would be firing up the BBQ and making plans to go out. Meanwhile I’m like, ‘later guys, I have to practice all weekend!’” Sean jokes. But the hard work paid off in 2000, when Sean made the cut for the U.S. Olympic Team, playing in the Summer Games in Sydney, Australia.
Sean says the thrill of competing at the sport’s highest level is a feeling he’ll never forget. Besides the excitement of the game, highlights from Sydney included the Opening Ceremonies, where athletes from every country gathered together in front of an audience of hundreds of millions of viewers. He even scored an impromptu meeting with Muhammad Ali, catching the boxing legend during an unexpected visit to the Olympic Village.
These days, Sean spends most of his time on “dry land,” finding real estate solutions for leading owners and tenants. However, his water polo background remains an important inspiration, providing him with key lessons for navigating the daily grind of brokerage.
“In brokerage you need a certain drive and hunger for whatever you want to achieve, along with enough grit and discipline to get you there,” Sean says. “You also need a strong relationship with your team and the ability to understand your role in the bigger effort. Ultimately, what you put in is what you get out—that’s how it was with water polo, and it’s a great parallel for how to succeed in real estate.”