Boy, I’m gassed. Whew.
Me and the team just had one heckuva scrimmage in the auxiliary pool. Hang on. Catch my breath.
I made Bramton play with the gold caps (mostly frosh and sophs) and I couldn’t be more proud of his leadership. What a fighter. And Lindley? We get him in the weight room this summer and he’s gonna be a whole different type of cat come September.
You know what? I’m not afraid to say that I love this group of outstanding young men and I will continue to give all I have coaching water polo to the youth of this prestigious and historic parochial academy.
1. Water polo teens are among our most at-risk youths.
I don’t know what it is about this hardscrabble game that appeals to down-on-their luck boys, but water polo players are by and large the most disaffected and troubled group of athletes in sport.
I cannot tell you how many of my players text their drivers after matches for a ride back to the manse because their fathers are still at the office “performing open-heart surgery on infants” or “governing the state.” Enduring an uncertain home life has placed a chip on nearly all of my athletes’ shoulders, and it breaks my heart (metaphorically, because water polo has contributed to my tremendous cardiovascular health) to see them struggle.
2. Aquatic mobility and endurance are becoming increasingly marketable skills as the polar ice caps disintegrate and our world floods beneath us.
Like I tell my kids every day before conditioning, “In 2025, when Earth is a fish tank, the most important qualifications an applicant can include on his resume will be his resting heart rate and his PR in the 1600 free. You will be useless in business if you are unable to tread water uninterrupted for a ninety minute sales presentation.”
But these youngsters don’t take me seriously. They say that everybody has an 80-foot yacht with an escape sub these days and that the family’s multi-national corporation will be passed to them well before our planet is submerged in water.
I stay up nights worried that my boys will not strive to be anything more than the chairman of the board of directors for a Fortune 500 trans-Atlantic conglomerate.
3. This game needs legends.
In 1987, nearly 5,000 teen boys worldwide played water polo at their lake estates, their local prep school, or the club pool. This period of global fascination with the game is the golden age of water polo and was the heyday of some of the game’s greatest players.
In the past twenty years, however, water polo’s profile has diminished. This is a shocking development considering that all that is needed to play this great game is access to a still body of water at least 2 meters deep, 20 meters long, and 10 meters wide, a handful of young men with years of swim training, several pairs of swim goggles and caps, a ball, and no interest or skill in the dozen or so sports that are regularly televised.
The path to becoming a water polo legend has never been more open. Unfortunately, fame has lost much of its allure to today’s crop of water polo prospects because many of them already have Wikipedia pages with titles like “Whitman Morris Glossing III (heir to pharmaceutical empire)” and a verified Instagram account.
4. The doggone game is in my blood.
I was practically born in the indoor pool at my family’s summer home in Telluride. By the time I was 9, my father and I would spend all of his time off from the firm in the home theater, watching game tape of some of those classic brawls his Tifton Academy boys would have with those stuck-up trust fund babies over at Caldwell. It was there, bouncing on my father’s knee while our houseman Kensington brought us refills of cream soda, that I learned that water polo is not a game for the privileged.
If you want to be a difference-maker, you need to specifically instruct the kitchens to have breakfast ready for you at 5:30 AM, direct the grounds crew to adequately heat the pool for early morning swims, and hire additional security so that one of the guards may be relieved from his gate duties to shag balls for your two hour shooting sessions.
5. You’re telling me you wouldn’t want to spend retirement splashin’ around the deep end with these knuckleheads?
Gosh darn do I love these young men. You won’t believe what Palmer said to me the other day after practice. He said, “Coach, one day, when my father succumbs to senility and I alone am left to lead his real estate kingdom, I will think of you every time I violate a protection mandated by the Department of Housing and Urban Development to greater enrich my shareholders, because it’s just like you said: ‘If the official didn’t see it, it’s basically legal.’”
Honest to God, I got misty and had to dunk myself to save face.
This is why I do it, folks. Water polo makes a difference.