Kentwood boys water polo team strikes out on its own after combining with Kentridge last season
By KRIS HILL
Covington Reporter Assisitant Editor
August 15, 2012 · Updated 9:57 AM
Water polo is growing in the Kent School District.
A game that will look familiar to fans of a number of sports ranging from soccer to hockey to basketball has been played for more than a decade at Kentridge.
This year Kentwood will have a boys team again in the fall for the first time in nearly a decade.
Last season Kentridge’s boys team was allowed to have Kentwood players on varsity for a season, with the idea that Kentwood would recruit enough players to field a full team this year, according to Sharon Wright, whose son Brian is an avid water polo player.
Sharon Wright is also a counselor at Kentwood who coaches both the boys and girls swim teams. Brian will be a junior at Kentwood this fall.
“Brian, my son, was an eighth grader when he opted to play with the Kentridge team,” Wright said. “As a freshman he had recruited more guys and we advertised it around the school because Kentridge had graduated a bunch of guys.”
Mike McKee, a Kentridge parent who coaches the Chargers water polo squad, said it was great having Kentwood players on the team a year ago.
“The league gave us this chance last year,” McKee said. “The more people involved in the sport the better. It’s a great activity.”
But both he and Wright noted that other schools in the South Puget Sound League which field teams — the sport is not officially sanctioned by the WIAA but is still popular in South King County — were concerned that if a multi-school Kent team continued to play it would end up as an all-star type of team of players from throughout the district.
“The goal after last year was to be able to stand on our own two feet,” Wright said. “It’s an uphill battle in terms of advertising the sport and getting people interested in the sport as well as funding because we have to pay for pool rentals and equipment.”
Kentwood and Kentridge water polo teams can’t get the kind of support from the schools they would get if it were an officially sanctioned sport.
“We have an uphill battle because both schools are not really supported like other schools in terms of finances … they treat it like a club activity,” McKee said. “We don’t really have the big push from the schools to help us out, so, it’s a daunting task to make sure we get enough players.”
So that means it’s a little bit trickier because they are last in line for pool time, which especially hard because the Kent-Meridian pool and the Covington Aquatic Center are both booked solid in the fall.
It’s also more expensive for players.
Luckily, Wright was able to get a $3,000 grant from the Seattle Thunderbirds Foundation to help Kentwood get started.
“It’s helping us buy equipment because we literally had nothing,” she said. “So, we’re getting balls and luckily we’ll be able to use the goals at Covington. Hopefully we should be up and running for our first game Sept. 11. We just need the boys interested in playing.”
Practices for both teams start Aug. 20, the same time tryouts for all WIAA-sanctioned fall sports begin at the high schools.
“We went from one player to nine in one year,” Wright said. “So thank goodness they let us (combine teams) because that allowed my guys to experience some tough games tough situations than if they had just played junior varsity. We are really fighting an uphill battle but so far we’re doing really well.”
There are at least 10 boys who have committed to play for the Conquerors, Wright said, with a handful who are still on the fence.
Anyone who is interested can come and check it out. At Kentridge, McKee said, the first week is free.
At Kentwood, Wright said, they have two weeks to decide if they want to play. She suggested that boys who want to check it out ought to go to the pool and watch. If they really want to get their feet wet, they can, literally get in the water to see if they like it.
“The first two weeks is teaching kids how to tread water,” Wright said. “Soccer players tend to make the best transition because it seems like the way the game is played is similar, except it’s in the water. And probably wrestlers, because it’s pretty violent under the water. The guys are tough, man.”
The game is playing in four quarters that last seven minutes at the varsity level. There are six players plus a goal per side. Unlike soccer, basketball or hockey, there are no set positions. Each player is expected to play on offense and defense. Like hockey, if a player breaks a rule, fouls, then he can be pulled out and there is a situation similar to a power play also known as ‘man-up.’
Like any other game, the team with the most points at the end wins.
As a swim coach, Wright likes to see her athletes play water polo in the fall because boys swim is in the summer, while the girls can play in the spring which could lead into summer swim league. Overall, it helps kids get into or stay in shape for other sports.
“It is cardiovascular, and it’s probably cheaper than joining a club swim team,” she said. “Plus the guys just love the game.”
Even with having late practice times around 8 or 9 p.m. with games around the same time, Wright said, the players “convince their parents they’ll get their homework done and they will get up in the morning for school.”
McKee said he sees quite a transformation in kids who were new to the sport.
“You see the kids before they started and after, even though it’s only a two month season, their cardiovascular and endurance go up extremely (high) and often they dovetail it into their swim season,” McKee said. “Last year six or seven of our kids went to state in swimming. It’s a team sport so the kids have a lot more fun with it. I think the kids like that aspect of it. Usually most kids seem to love it once they commit to it.”
From his perspective, it’s good for Kentwood to have its own team in the interest of growing the sport in the Kent School District.
“From our perspective, it gives us a rivalry, but it’s a friendly rivalry,” McKee said. “We want them to succeed because we’d like the whole Kent area to consider adding this to our varsity sport list. Maybe this can be a groundswell of something in the future for the Kent School District to consider.”
He gave Wright credit for putting in the work to help get the Kentwood team going by working with the coaches from the other teams in the SPSL to allow the combing squad to play last season.
“It’s really hard to get a new team going,” McKee said. “I’m hoping they are successful this year.”
There are plans for additional recruiting, Wright said. She hopes to see more girls play, too.
“If we just get 10 girls who say, ‘Yeah, let’s do this, we can make it happen,’ and there’s so much more pool time in the spring,” she said. “As a coach, it’s a win-win for me, because they’re in the water in the spring when they might not be otherwise.”
For more information on Kentridge’s water polo team, log on to kentridgewaterpolo.com.
For more information on Kentwood’s team, visit its Facebook profile or surf to kwswim.com/waterpolo.
Contact Covington Reporter Assisitant Editor Kris Hill at firstname.lastname@example.org or (425) 432-1209, ext. 5054.