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.