Local group hopes to make a splash with youth water polo

07/06/2014 12:00 AM

07/03/2014 5:20 PM

Christine Weaver-Crafton stood on the edge of the pool at Raleigh Swimming Association’s William H. Sonner Aquatic Facility, snapping photos as her three children tried their hands at a sport she grew up playing in California.

“We’re all on swim team and I played water polo in high school. ... I’ve never heard of water polo here, and for such a young age, so I was excited to hear about this,” she said. “It lets them stay in the pool. They love swim team, so I wanted to expose them to another aspect, and it’s more team-oriented.”

Daniel Weaver, 11, and his siblings Emma, 9, and Joey, 7, were among about a dozen area youth who participated in a youth clinic held by the Triangle Water Polo Club June 28.

“We’ve done it over the last four or five years every summer,” said Scott Ennis, president of the Triangle club. “We run a youth league. Last year we had a low of three teams, and we’ve had upwards of five teams over the last five years. ... This year we’re trying to get a little more organized and get a lot more participants and a lot more teams.”

Teams, made up of roughly 10 players each, are based at local aquatic centers, Ennis said, adding that more participants would also allow the league to divide teams by age groups.

The league is scheduled to begin in late July and run through Labor Day, but the Raleigh Swimming Association would like to eventually turn the youth league into a year-round offering.

The clinic wasn’t Tyler Robinson’s first opportunity to play water polo. She was introduced to the sport at a camp in Michigan four years ago.

Though she swims competitively, there is a certain thrill Robinson gets from playing water polo.

“I like scoring. It feels really good when you score,” she said.

Ennis, who first played water polo on a club team in college, says the Triangle Water Polo Club competes in adult and college tournaments through the year.

“We have a decent number of people who have come out and been introduced as adults, he said. “Probably 50 percent of our team played when they were in college.”

Ennis hopes the summer clinics will help grow local interest in the sport through youth education.

The Triangle youth clinics are open to participants ages 17 and younger who are capable of swimming 50 yards of continuous freestyle and comfortable treading water.

In addition to local youth clinics, USA Water Polo sponsors Splashball, a program that teaches water polo and swimming fundamentals for children under age 9.

“As a masters water polo player in the area, I’m going to age out eventually, so we need the kids to age in eventually,” he said. “Our vision is to grow water polo in the area, not just in the adult league, but in youth and high school. We do have high school (water polo) in several surrounding states -- Georgia and Tennessee. In 50 years maybe we can be on the level of Florida and then in another 50 years, maybe we can be on the level of California.”

Triangle Water Polo Club will host two more youth clinics this month, July 12 and 19, at the Sonner Aquatic Facility.

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