Water polo coach Sam Cox hoped to create a youth water polo program at the Leigh Pratt Aquatic Center, but it wasn’t until pool manager Josh DeCola gave the go-ahead that it finally came to fruition.
Sixty-eight kids attended a free water polo clinic at the Aquatic Center earlier this summer after just one week of advertising, showing the interest that exists for the sport in Tooele County. As of Wednesday afternoon, 21 kids had signed up for the facility’s junior water polo program, which will open its summer session Friday for boys and girls age 7-15.
“We know people that live here in Tooele who travel to Olympus High (in Holladay) to do the 14-and-under program,” DeCola said. “They came to us and asked us, ‘do you guys ever consider running our own 14-and-under program so we don’t have to drive an hour to go play water polo for our 14-and-under kids?’ That’s kind of how the whole thing really got started.”
Cox teamed with Mike Wells to bring water polo to Tooele County in 2004. After starting off with 25 kids, that program has now grown beyond the pool’s capacity, as athletes from Tooele, Stansbury and Grantsville high schools all come together to form Tooele’s high school boys and girls teams. However, while there has been a lot of success on the scoreboard, Tooele has lacked a feeder program for younger players to develop. Adding to that challenge is a lack of pool time, as the Tooele players have to wait until the high school swim season ends to shift gears to water polo.
“All the other teams that have high school teams are feeding them with kids who already know how to play, and they’re feeding it with kids who play water polo year-round,” Cox said. “Tooele can’t do that. They only get three months to play water polo. Tooele can stand their ground — we’ve done really, really well and we’ve won at least three state championships. If they could play year-round, there would be no stopping them.”
Cox said developing skills at a young age gives players a leg up once they reach high school.
“They have to learn a lot of technique,” she said. “If they wait until high school to learn that technique, they’re already two years behind.”
Registration for the program is available online at www.tooelecity.activityreg.com, and costs $30 per player. There will be seven classes through Aug. 21, with classes on Mondays and Wednesdays from 10 a.m.-noon and Fridays from 5-6:30 p.m.
The Aquatic Center also needs lifeguards once the school year starts, and will be offering a lifeguard class this fall for those needing to become certified. Those interested can visit www.tooelecity.activityreg.com or call (435) 882-3247 for more information.