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Local water polo club ready to see sport grow
Water polo is becoming an increasingly popular sport in the greater Seattle area. While the success of Mercer Island teams is well known here, the passion for the sport has now expanding to areas beyond just the Island, seeping into a wide area.
To foster that growth, the Rain City Water Polo club was formed last winter to give kids an outlet into the game and teach them about the sport.
“It was a couple of parents, actually, and their kids were really involved in Midlakes — they have a water polo program right after the swim season, but it’s really short, about four weeks,” explained John Jacobson, the head coach and executive director of the club. “A lot of these kids get really excited about it, really enjoy it and want to keep playing, so some of the parents thought it would be a good idea if they bought some pool time, found a coach and ran it a couple times a week. It turned out, the very first practice, they had 70 kids show up. There was a really good turnout and there was definitely a demand for it. It turned into something a little more serious. They had a winter session, a spring session and now we’re in the summer session. It’s been pretty positive.”
Jacobson, who joined the program this spring, grew up on Mercer Island, played water polo for the high school and went on to play in college, as did the rest of the organization’s coaches.
Rain City has kids ages 10 to 18 playing with them right now, said Jacobson. He knows firsthand how an early passion for water polo can turn into a lifelong pursuit.
“My background — I actually started in Midlakes, the same as these kids,” said the coach. “I was lucky enough a gentleman moved up from San Diego when I started playing and formed a club team. I was 14 years old and playing on a club team with a bunch of 18-year-olds, and got to travel in California and Canada and all over the place. It was a great experience, and I got hooked pretty early.”
He, along with the other four coaches with Rain City, hopes the kids in their program will catch the same bug. Right now Rain City has 25 kids ages 10-14, 18 playing with the men’s 18 and under team and nine on the women’s 18 and under team.
The program has four coaches: Evan Kaseguman, who coaches the Bellevue High School team, Jeff Welch and Johnny Muir.
“It’s nice for us because all our coaches played in college, so they bring a lot of experience to our kids and that’s something we want for the older kids who are thinking about college — not necessarily playing in college but because it opens doors,” said Jacobson.
Despite having plenty of kids interested, the one issue Rain City has found is a simple lack of teams in the area. This means they have to travel to tournaments.
“The issue is there are not a lot of water polo teams out here for games. We actually just went to a tournament in Oregon, called the Nike Cup, last weekend,” he said. “It was a good experience for them and they got to travel and play. Our goal is to go to the Junior Olympics. It’s at the end of July or early August; we have a 14 and under team that’s going for sure.”
While things are starting to pick up, Jacobson said he thinks it’s only the beginning.
“Swimming in the Pacific Northwest is huge; there are a lot of competitive swim clubs,” he said. “I think that sometimes for kids, whether because they peak or are not interested in swimming anymore, I think water polo is a great option for that. You get the team sport and still get the swimming. I think it’s a very unique sport and the water polo community is a very different climate than from a basketball tournament or football tournament. It’s eclectic.”
Someday, he said, the club hopes to offer summer camps through local clubs, where Rain City coaches come in and teach kids how to play.
“That’s one of our biggest goals, to just grow the sport of water polo, and opening doors. That’s what our coaching staff is all about,” he said. “(The game) opened up doors for us and we’re hoping to open up our kids’ eyes about it and give them the same opportunities we had.”
Currently, the club has a two-day a week trial for kids who might not be sure water polo is for them.
“We have people who are interested, and we say come on down to practice and meet the kids. That’s the great thing about Rain City; the athlete group is an outstanding group of young people. I’ve coached a lot of kids out there, and it’s very rare to find,” said the coach. “We actually have a great group of kids, so that’s a big positive. If you’ve never played before, typically it’s the swimming part that gets them. It’s hard to swim the whole time, but I found, especially with the younger kids, once you’ve done it for about two weeks you break through that wall and it gets easier. It’s a very tough sport, a very demanding sport, and you can’t make it easy, but after those two weeks it gets a lot easier. If people stick it out. It’s fun.”
While no firm plans are set for a fundraiser, Jacobson said they hope to set up a coaches versus kids game this summer. It will be a great way for the kids to get some extra game time, he said, and they get very excited about playing their coaches.
To learn more, visit raincitypolo.com or visit their Facebook page.