High School Water Polo: You Have Nothing to Fear and Stand Only to Gain

High School Water Polo You Have Nothing To Fear And Stand Only To Gain
By Terry Lowe, Swimming and Water Polo Coach at Greenwich High School, Greenwich, Connecticut.

Terry Lowe is the most successful high school swim coach in Connecticut state history. In the 1980’s his boys’ team won every state team title. After a single blemish in the 1990’s, his team won again last year, and placed three All-American High School Relays. Over the years, his teams have also won numerous Eastern High School Water Polo Championships.

If it wasn’t for water polo I seriously doubt that we would be fielding a full boys swimming team at Greenwich High School – let alone winning the state championships every year. In our area, boys’ swimming on both the high school and age group level has dropped off dramatically. A typical ratio of girls to boys is 2:1, while other programs have fallen off even more. There is just so much more competition from other youth sports than there was when I started coaching in the 1960’s. Without doubt – water polo is keeping our boys’ swim program alive and well.

My first involvement with the game came about twenty years ago when some of my swimmers suggested we start a water polo program. I was a swim coach and knew absolutely nothing about the sport. The kids saw it as something to do in the fall to get in good shape for winter swimming. At the time, there were not the manuals, tapes and number of clinics offered by US Water Polo or ASCA today – so its actually easier to learn than when I started. I found some clinics and read some books, but we really learned together. I don’t think any of those early players could have imagined the quality and level of intensity with which we are playing today.

Water polo has been a tremendous boost to our program, primarily in two ways. First water polo has attracted kids to swimming who might not otherwise have become involved. Second, I believe that by having a variety of related athletic experiences, kids stay fresh mentally. You come into something able to give it a different level of commitment and intensity when you change your routine.

Our kids generally come into the swimming season in mid-November feeling positive about their polo experience. They trained hard for water polo and they expect to do the same for swimming. They come in with a wonderful attitude about it. They don’t see it as a kind of drudgery like they would if they were doing it for 10 or 11 months a year. And they come in with a real strong commitment to swimming as a team, rather than as a group of individuals.

Another way we have kept our boys’ program going is through a summer water polo league in Fairfield County with summer swim programs. We have over 20 teams with kids starting water polo at the 8 &under age group level. We have about 650 swimmers playing water polo in this league and interestingly, we have an equal number of boys and girls at the lower age group levels, but the ratio of boys to girls goes up with the age groups. So in the older age groups we have boys to every girl. This is how we compete for aquatic athletes with soccer, little league, hockey, basketball; etc.; etc. Many of the kids move into other local programs, like Wilton Y’s water polo and swimming program, which is continuing to build it’s water polo while staying at a top level in swimming.

My recommendation is to try it. Not knowing anything about water polo is not an acceptable excuse. You can learn and your enthusiasm will grow. Today there are many individuals and organizations, including ASCA, where knowledge about how to run a good program can be obtained.


55 Ideas for Better Swim Team Management

55 Ideas for Better Swim Team Management

by John Leonard

One of the recent additions to our Level 5 Leadership School is an extensive section on “Selling.”… how to use your communication skills to help others solve problems for themselves. We include that as one of the most meaningful leadership skills a coach can develop and we will continue to expand that section over the years, because coaches are constantly “selling” their ideas, whether it is an idea of training harder to young swimmers, an idea of why we have to swim this set of 12 x 400 IM upside down, backwards and underwater with no breathing, or selling a team trip to Cincinnati, or selling the idea of a new training pool, or selling the idea of a new assistant coach to your board, or selling the idea of city support for your recruitment drive… well, you get the idea.

The flip side of leadership is MANAGING. Management is what you do after you have sold your idea and now you have to make it work! Here, culled from a variety of management books, are fifty-five ideas on better managing your organization. Feel free to call ASCA at 1-800-356-2722, if you need any clarification, want to get more details, or want to ADD an idea of your own to this list.

  1. Stand behind your people in times of stress and conflict.
  2. Return phone calls quickly…be responsive.
  3. Be especially considerate of those who interact with the public all the time. They have a tough job.
  4. Dress for success. Look like a professional and you’ll be treated as one.
  5. Improve your oral communication skills. Practice. Use a video camera to see how you come across to others.
  6. Praise in public, criticize in private.
  7. Be humble in victory and gracious in defeat.
  8. Spell and pronounce names correctly. If you don’t know how to pronounce a name properly, simply ask, “I’m sorry, I don’t want to mis-pronounce your name, can you tell me how to say it properly?”
  9. Have someone you can confide in and mutually “unload your problems” on. Be careful whom you select.
  10. Don’t surround yourself with “yes” people.
  11. Surround yourself with people who augment your own skills and don’t duplicate them. Strive for a “complete” staff.
  12. Know when to advance and when to retreat. Don’t “have to win” every argument.
  13. Schedule free or quiet time regularly to plan and do that rarest of things, THINK.
  14. Be an active listener.
  15. Encourage and reward risk-taking in others.
  16. Be a mentor to someone on the way up.
  17. Invest time in training your staff. Nothing pays off more.
  18. Celebrate the personal and professional triumphs of your staff.
  19. Use “We” not “I.” Unless you swim in the meet yourself, accomplishments belong to the team, not the coach.
  20. Look at every problem as an opportunity. What can you do with it to overall improve your situation?
  21. Cut down on paper. Do more face to face communication. Experts say up to 80% of real communication is done with body and facial language. You can’t do that on paper.
  22. Network with people outside swimming. Get into Rotary Clubs; etc., to meet the business people in your community. They solve problems every day that relate to your situations.
  23. Invest in the continuing education of your staff.
  24. Use K.I.S. (Keep It Simple) whenever possible.
  25. Learn to say “I don’t know” with accuracy, candor and without embarrassment.
  26. Be a positive role model of any behavior you want.
  27.  What ‘Gets Measured, Gets Done.’ Learn to become a good measurer.
  28. Learn how to say “no.” And say it nicely.
  29. Understand your own metabolism. When do you work best? Do most important tasks at the peak time for you.
  30. When you must fire someone as a last resort, do it quickly and mercifully. Sometimes it is best for your organization and the person.
  31. Be proactive. Go directly at your problems. Its never as bad as the anticipation of it is.
  32. Conduct an honest self-evaluation each year.
  33. Follow through. Follow through. Follow through. Become known as someone who does what they say they will do.
  34.  Don’t be reluctant to toot your own horn. But not too loud or too long.
  35. Make sure that ideas and plans flow both up and down in your organization. What people own, they take care of.
  36. Seek first to understand, then to be understood.
  37. Start and end things on time. People plan their lives around your swimming schedule. Allow them to rely on you.
  38. Walk the Talk.
  39. Recognize that what is right is not always popular and what is popular is not always right.
  40. Answer questions and question answers. Get more information. Get the same questions answered from different sources.
  41. Be on time for appointments. Being late means “my time is more valuable than yours.” Is that a message you want to send?
  42. When in doubt, trust your gut.
  43. Smile, especially when those around you are in doubt. Confidence is contagious.
  44. Timely and honest communication is critical in times of stress. NOTHING is more stressful than lack of information.
  45. Be careful about accepting “quick fixes.” Bandaids do not cure disease.
  46. 80% of what you accomplish comes from 20% of what you do. Concentrate on the 20% and try to expand the amount of time you spend doing it.
  47. Differentiate between things that are important to the others in your organization and what is important to you. There is a time and place to concentrate on each. Learn what those times are and act on them.
  48. Bring more humor to work…..laughter is a great medicine.
  49. High performance comes from a full tank. Make sure you get enough Rest, Recovery and Re-Creation to be at your best a high percentage of the time.
  50. Become a good “scan reader.” Look for ideas you can use, outside the field of swimming. Creativity comes from a full subconscious.
  51. Remember, friends come and go, but enemies accumulate.
  52. Be decisive. Do something. Be action oriented. No endless cycles of study and debate.
  53. Place the needs of your family over the demands of your work. No one on their deathbed ever said, “I wish I’d worked more.”
  54. Take your responsibilities seriously, but don’t take yourself too seriously.
  55. Deliver more than you promise.

Professional Water Polo: More than a Possibility

Professional Water Polo More Than A Possibility

by Chris Martin of United States Water Polo

Lake Forest, CA – The surf was up at the beach and in the pool on August 9 in southern California as the first professional water polo game in the United States was held. The two teams competing in this exhibition game were the Newport Beach Wave and the San Francisco Bay, respectively. Before a packed, standing room only crowd of over 1500 people, the Newport Beach Wave ended up winning the game and the $5,000 winner takes all purse, presented by John Hancock Financial Services of Orange County, CA.

“It was a great game, a great standing room only crowd, and an exciting start for a new era in water polo,” said winning coach Joe Vargas, brother of the US National Men’s Water Polo coach John Vargas, who stepped in at the last minute as head coach because coach Jim Cruz had to attend a family emergency.

The new era in water polo will be continuing in the next two years until 1999, when an official four to six team league will be formed. Along with the California teams, south Florida and New York will be fielding teams. During this time the teams will be traveling the California and East Coast playing exhibition games. Once the league is formed the format of the “winner takes all” will more than likely change to a more team friendly format used in other professional sports (I.E. – prizes for 1st place, 2nd place; etc.), according to Bruce Wigo, executive director of United States Water Polo Inc., the sport’s national governing body.

“I think we showed this weekend that there is an audience for professional water polo in the USA,” said USA Water Polo President Bret Bernard. “In the last few months we’ve seen tremendous fan support for elite-level water polo.” Bernard was not only referring to the standing room only crowd of 1500 plus spectators at the inaugural professional game, but the more than 8,000 fans who turned out for the Newport International tournament in May at Corona del Mar, CA.

“When you consider where we’re starting and compare it to the first efforts of beach volleyball, indoor lacrosse and some of the other sports, I think our prospects for success are good,” said Bruce Wigo.

Water Polo fans in the United States are just getting a glimpse of what hopefully will be a long, promising future of the fastest growing water sport in the country.