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Water polo back in the SCV

Local club revived and fielding team

Posted: October 2, 2010 11:37 p.m.
Updated: October 2, 2010 11:37 p.m.
 

The Santa Clarita Valley has already developed a reputation for producing quality swimmers.

The next step?

Producing quality water polo players, said Rob Kerchner, a former player and coach who has revived the Santa Clarita Valley Water Polo Club.

“I think it’s a really big need,” he said. “It’s a popular sport, and as a swimmer myself, water polo is so much more enjoyable to both practice and play because it is a team sport, and it develops camaraderie with kids at a younger age, and strategy. It involves the mind as much as the body.”

The club was originally founded in 2000 by Pete Loporchio, who is currently the head swimming and water polo coach at Crescenta Valley High School.

Over the years, the club maintained its certification with USA Water Polo, even when it wasn’t fielding a team.
Enter Kerchner, whose 20 athletes practice at 7 p.m. on Tuesday and Thursday and at 9 a.m. Saturday at the Santa Clarita Aquatic Center.

“We could technically field two or three teams if we needed to, but you want to have a deep bench when you are playing,” he said. “It is a very tiring sport.”

The team is coed and can serve as a more competitive forum for kids enrolled the city of Santa Clarita’s novice program, which is run in conjunction with the LA84 Foundation.

“The city program will function, and has already functioned, as a feeder program into the water polo club,” Kerchner said. “It’s just natural.”

Doug Botton is the city’s aquatic administrator and oversees the swimming, water polo, synchronized swimming and diving programs for 7- to 17-year-olds.

Water polo has been offered for about 14 years and currently has 35 participants in the fall session, Botton said. During the summer, the number of sign-ups ranges from 60-70.

“With the re-emergence of this club team, the youth benefit in this valley because it gives yet another avenue for kids to seek out and get in tune with the importance of physical fitness,” Botton said. “It is really the only contact sport that exists in water sports.”

He estimates that about 50 percent of the kids in the city’s program will go on to play for SCV Water Polo Club.
The club’s first practice took place on Sept. 14, and it will compete in local tournaments in November and December, he added.

According to Scott Tanner, the director of sport development for USA Water Polo, the organization estimates that 75 percent of registered clubs nationally are located in California.

He also stated that the sport has seen a steady growth pattern over the years, particularly in masters programs for people 20 years of age and older, and on the women’s side.

USA Water Polo currently offers consultation services for clubs.

“I think that every club that comes into being is hugely important, because that is really where our sport lives and breathes, even on the Olympic side of the equation,” Tanner said. “You can’t have Olympic athletes without having dynamic and vibrant clubs. That’s where all our Olympic athletes come from. All of our high school and college athletes are also a product of the club system. Anytime a club forms, you want to do everything you can to keep it alive.”

While local high school swim programs have consistently posted quality results at the CIF-Southern Section division championships, year after year they run into schools from Orange County. Last season, the boys and girls Division I champions were both from Orange County, where water polo is commonly a school-sanctioned activity.

Kerchner believes the SCV’s turn to bring in water polo is coming.

“I think it will be here in 20 years, maybe in 10 years,” he said. “But I think it should have been here 10 years ago.”

Because the high school water polo and swimming seasons take place in the fall and spring, respectively, Kerchner said the two sports are very complementary in terms of conditioning.

Regardless of prep affiliation, Kerchner said there are plenty of benefits to playing water polo, including physical and mental exercise, college scholarship opportunities and unity and teamwork, which he experienced during his playing days.

“And that supports you for your whole life,” he said.

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