May 28, 2014
By Angela Kraus
Since my first article appeared in the Summer 2011 issue of SkipShot, I’ve heard from quite a few readers with questions stemming from articles in subsequent magazine issues. I welcome the opportunity to communicate with readers directly. Once again I thought I would devote this issue to sharing some recent questions and answers with you:
1. When should I start contacting prospective college coaches in order have a chance of being recruited to play water polo in college?
The best times to contact prospective water polo coaches are usually between spring of sophomore year and the winter/spring of junior year—but definitely by the summer between junior and senior year. Seniors can continue to initiate contact with coaches during the season, especially if they’re having a “break out” season, but generally this works better for boys (and some girls, e.g.: Northern California) because they play in the fall (i.e., college application season) than for girls who play in the winter or spring seasons (i.e., after application deadlines have passed).
The best way to contact prospective coaches is by e-mail—send a letter introducing yourself and expressing interest in the school and its water polo program and complete online athletic recruiting questionnaires for the schools that interest you. See the College Directory at http://usawaterpolo.org/community/college-directory.html for a list of schools offering intercollegiate water polo programs, including the names and contact information for the head coaches of each program. Don’t be discouraged if a coach doesn’t respond right away, especially if they’re in the middle of the season. Remember that some coaches are in charge of men’s and women’s varsity teams, so they’re busy year-round. Also, you may hear from an assistant coach to whom the head coach may have delegated responsibility for recruiting.
Rising juniors and seniors can invite coaches to watch them play in any summer tournaments, such State High School Championships (California), “Skills & Drills” (San Diego area), U.S. Club Championships, and JOs—be sure to provide your cap number and game/event schedule. High-profile athletes who participate and progress in ODP can contact coaches after the conclusion of ODP Regional Championships, especially if they’re selected to participate in the training camps. College coaches often attend these events and based on what they see may move forward with the recruiting process, which may include inviting elite prospective student-athletes to on-campus junior days or official visits. High school students also may invite coaches to watch them play in major tournaments during their high school seasons—and depending on their schedules, many college coaches try to attend these tournaments as well, especially if they’re interested in particular athletes.
For more information and tips about communicating with college coaches, please refer to my article, “Contacting College Coaches,” which appeared in SkipShot’s Winter 2011 issue, http://www.usawaterpolo.org/genrel/032713aaq.html.
2. I’m a competitive swimmer in my junior year of high school in the Midwest. I’ve been competing since I was in sixth grade and have been on my high school’s varsity swim team since my freshman year. We play a game of water polo every week, and it’s a lot of fun. Unfortunately there are no water polo leagues in my state, but I’m thinking about playing in college. I’d like to find colleges interested in a swimmer who wants to play water polo, but I’m afraid that none of the coaches would want me to play for them. What should I do?
The best way for you to explore collegiate water polo opportunities is to continue playing as often as possible, and starting now and into the beginning of your senior year, consider attending one or more instructional water polo camps or clinics—especially those hosted by colleges you're considering so you can work on developing your water polo skills. These are usually held during the summer, and information about camps & clinics** is on the USA Water Polo website under the Community tab at http://usawaterpolo.org/community/camps-clinics.html. Please also see my article about Water Polo Camps and Clinics at http://www.usawaterpolo.org/genrel/082213aac.html.
For help finding colleges that offer water polo programs, you can visit http://www.usawaterpolo.org/genrel/032713aai.html for my article, “Considering College Water Polo.” There are two primary ways to determine whether a school offers a desired major and water polo programs. In addition to searching the individual intercollegiate programs as described in my article, you can perform a broad search via the college search function on the College Board website https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/college-search. Once on the site, input your search criteria—in this case, major and sport (men's or women’s water polo), and any other desired criteria selected from the toolbar on the left side of the page— then follow the prompts and see what comes up. This search will yield intercollegiate and club programs at two- and four-year public and private schools, so you can narrow it further from there if you like. Compare the results of both methods for a comprehensive list of everything available.
Since you're a competitive swimmer, you may want to explore opportunities at colleges that offer both sports. You can conduct your search for such schools as described above. Once admitted to a school as a swimmer, male swimmers may have the option of talking to the water polo coach about walking on to the water polo team. Unfortunately this doesn’t work well for women because the collegiate swim season conflicts with the women’s water polo season.
Finally, don’t forget that many colleges offer club water polo programs, so once you’re at school, you can always join the club team. It’s a great way to have lots of fun, get exercise, and meet a lot of people.
3. My athlete is a sophomore in high school in the Pacific Northwest with a strong passion for water polo, but has only about two years of playing experience. S/He is playing year-round and will be competing at JOs this summer. Do coaches from California colleges notice athletes who aren’t from California? I’m thinking s/he will have to work extra hard to get their attention. Is there anything s/he can be working on this year to get the process going?
You're right—your athlete (like all aspiring student-athletes from any part of the United States) will have to work hard to be prepared to compete in an intercollegiate water polo program and be considered for potential recruiting opportunities. In order to improve, your child should be competing with and against stronger players. One way to do so is to play for a club. In addition, s/he could consider participating in ODP, where s/he'll get to play with the top athletes in her/his age group in your area, get to see how s/he "stacks up" against them, and get some good coaching. If s/he does well, it may also give her/him an opportunity to participate in regional championships—and possibly be invited to national training events. College coaches attend these events and JOs because they're good ways to see a lot of athletes at the same time and compare their skills and abilities. If s/he communicates with them in advance (introduces her/himself, expresses interest in the school and its water polo program, invites the coach to watch her/him play at an upcoming event—include his/her cap #--s/he may be able to get some visibility.
Another way to get noticed is to consider attending water polo clinics or camps offered at schools s/he's considering. These are usually held during the summer. Information about camps & clinics** is on the USA Water Polo website under the Community tab (http://usawaterpolo.org/community/camps-clinics.html).
Finally, don't overlook the many schools that offer club programs. These programs are strictly recreational and don’t help with the admissions process in any way, but everyone I know who plays in a club program reports that they're having a lot of fun, getting exercise, and meeting a lot of people.
The latter are just a few of the questions I often hear. I’m sure there are many more, so as always, feel free to call or write if you have any questions. Thank you for your feedback and your interest in this topic and column—and to USA Water Polo for providing a forum for this very important discussion.
**Note: Camp and clinic listings are paid for by the operators; inclusion in the USA Water Polo directory is for readers’ information and convenience and does not constitute an endorsement by USA Water Polo or the author of this article.
This article appeared in the Spring 2014 issue of SkipShot magazine
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