Narrows Water Polo Team Makes a Comeback
Local team opens up access to water polo
By Rachel Kelly
Narrows Water Polo Team, or as they are occasionally called, the “Bad News Bears,” is making a comeback! It’s been a while since the team has been active, as during the pandemic the team (like many of our favorite things) had to shut down along with local high schools. Once everything came full circle, and most things were once more open and moving along nicely, the local water polo club hadn’t yet got its swimmers’ legs back. This last year, local coaches Mike Kelly and Aaron Huston would re-establish the club.
It goes without saying that everyone is glad to be back and doing a group sport. And not just back, but back with a vengeance. The team has started up again and brought with it a fighting spirit! Upon first starting back, the club began with high school boys and girls. At first the team was losing to other larger teams that have significantly more resources and practice behind their sport, but coaches Mike and Aaron weren’t discouraged. They were achieving their goal, which was to provide access to a sport that isn’t particularly thriving in the Pacific Northwest.
The capitol of water polo is Orange County, most likely because of the warm water seasons that exist virtually year-round in that area. Though our beloved Pacific Northwest has a lot of water, that water is often cold. Tumultuous even. Swimming isn’t a year-round activity here, but there’s no reason that our kids can’t thrive regardless. Swimming is in our blood.
Many of the kids on the team don’t have prior experience with water polo. True to our community of inclusion, winning and skill is not a requirement for joining the team—a desire to play is.
“We are excited to build a culture where kids get to be a part of something bigger than themselves,” says Aaron. And this year, the Narrows Water Polo Team got to be a part of something bigger. Not just reaching for and achieving their goals but finding new ones. The Narrows Water Polo Team did fantastic this year, meeting other teams, traveling to new places and discovering new skills. Every step along the way this year, every new experience, has bolstered our youth in confidence and positive experiences that encourage them to stretch the length of their abilities.
Once the kids started playing and practicing, they started to really feel out the sport. They began trying new things, pushing boundaries and reaching personal goals; something that we all want to see in our youth. When given a chance to chase after their goals, how far can the Narrows Water Polo Team go? Turns out that they can go pretty far. By the end of the year, the team was beating teams that, in the beginning, they lost to, showcasing huge personal and team growth.
Because the Narrows team culture is about access, it’s no surprise that the team sent three groups to the Junior Olympics Qualifying Tournament: 18U girls, 14U boys and 12U girls along with other players from the Bainbridge Water Polo Team (whom the Narrows team joined with for the tournament). The 14U boys did very well but didn’t qualify. The younger teams, however, don’t have the same qualifications, and were able to travel to Orange County for their Olympic tournaments. It was great exposure for all involved, not just for the team’s name but for its members. The Narrows Water Polo Team provides competitive opportunities to allow its members to see what they’re capable of.
Currently the Narrows Water Polo Team practices at local high schools, specifically Gig Harbor High School and Peninsula High School at different times of the year. The club has opened up to 60 youth members from ages 8 to 18 and is currently open to new members, even those who aren’t experienced swimmers!
Here in Gig Harbor, teams are being created and formed and allowed to grow, rather than being recruited. This opens up opportunities to our youth, allowing them to be a part of something “bigger than themselves”. Opening up avenues for them to know what they might achieve. Who knows what next year will bring? I guess we’ll have to see! Until then, we’re rooting for the Narrows!