Former Olympians share 30 years of water polo experience in 6 hours

Former Olympians share 30 years of water polo experience in 6 hours

Scott Hyon

Varsity boys water polo players improve their game through half-day clinic with older, more experienced team


In preparation for another grueling season, the varsity boys water polo team thought of a creative way to improve its game — by practicing with the old guys.

On August 21, junior Cameron Yates and his water polo teammates invited an older veteran team to run a voluntary six-hour clinic at MVHS. Since many of the veterans possessed over 30 years of experience in the sport, the practice session was a very valuable experience for the team. To ready themselves for the upcoming season, the boys varsity water polo team engaged in rigorous training in the pool over the summer. Photo by Scott Hyon. 

The veteran team was comprised of active players around the ages of 40 to 60, including Yates’ father, Mike Yates. Many of the players played water polo in college and took part in the 2010 Federation Internationale De Natation (FINA) World Master’s Championships in Sweden this past summer.

“Because they have been playing [for so long], they knew a lot of techniques and little things about the game,” the younger Yates said of the experience. “In terms of strategy, we learned stuff we never even thought of before.”

The day started out at 11 a.m. with an intensive training session for the goalies of the varsity water polo team. Steve Hamann, the trainer in charge of the goalies, was a member of the 1980 U.S. Olympic water polo team and a former water polo coach at UC Davis. Meanwhile, the other members of the team educated the varsity team on how to be aggressive and shoot “wet shots,” or shots that bounce off water.

“It helped us in a big way in that we were shown new perspectives [on the sport] that applied directly to how we played,” captain senior Alex Bagdasarian said. “The team as a whole really improved.”

Even though the training clinic lasted only half a day, it would be hard to quantify the value of the veterans’ experience for the young high school players. Consisting of just six field players and one goalie, water polo requires not only top-notch physical fitness but astute strategical focus that come only with experience. The crucial techniques and the seemingly small details of the sport that  can be gained only through extensive practice were also extremely important components that the boys learned in the clinic.

“[When we practiced together], we helped [them] see that there is more to the game than what they were seeing,” Mike Yates said, “We got them thinking about how a team can play better, [in terms of] how to be aggressive and guard the hole.”

At the end of the clinic, the two teams faced off in a final scrimmage. To no one’s surprise, the hardy, bigger veterans won decisively.

This year, the boys varsity water polo season starts on September 14th, and it will be interesting to see how much improvement the team will show from last year. Regardless of how they fare, practice with a few Olympic-level athletes on one quiet summer afternoon surely didn’t hurt.