Published: Thursday, January 14, 2016 at 7:28 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 14, 2016 at 7:28 p.m.
After three years getting a club team going in Gainesville with Gator Water Polo, David Huelsman, one of the club’s co-founders, says it is ready to take the next step.
“We will be launching water polo at Gainesville High,” said Huelsman, who is also an assistant swim coach for the Hurricanes. “We are ready to take that next step.
“It is pretty exciting. Parents have really been the ones that have driven this to happen.”
Water polo has been a spring sport in the Florida High School Athletic Association since 2005 when it had 69 schools participating, all in central and south Florida. Last year there were 72 schools within 16 districts and nine independent schools.
But although the growth of the sport in the FHSAA has been stagnant to a certain part of the state, with Gainesville joining in this season as an independent, it represents a north movement the sport has been looking for.
“The first year of play we are not allowed to play in a district,” Huelsman said. “Hopefully, next year we will be in a district. You need three schools for a district.
“Most of the club kids are made up of Buchholz and Gainesville High kids. South of Orlando, everyone has a program, it is gradually moving up the state. Some are swimmers, but not necessarily. There are lot of crossover athletes, basketball players on offseason, looking for conditioning aspect of it. It is a really good option for them.”
Practices for water polo officially begin Monday, with first week of games set for Feb. 8.
“There is quite an interest in it, always has been a passion of coach Huelsman, he has been the catalyst,” said Gainesville athletic director Cindy Boulware. “The way he convinced us it would get more kids involved in playing sports. Not necessarily the competitive swimmers, kids that like the aquatic activities will get out there.
“Like lacrosse, we wanted to be the school that keeps up with the trend of interest for kids in the city. We hope other high schools would open opportunities as well. So we wouldn’t have to travel south all the time. We would like to play Buchholz in anything.”
Both Gainesville and Buchholz will have water polo tryouts at the 300 Club pool on Jan. 30 from 12-2 p.m.
Huelsman said because Northeast Pool is under renovations, the Hurricanes boys and girls teams will be practicing at 300 Club and opening the season on the road. They will travel to Orlando or Tampa the first few Saturdays, playing three games each trip, and hosting three games at Northeast Pool when it opens in mid to late February.
He compares water polo to soccer in the water.
“In water 7 at a time, the game very much resembles soccer in the water, has a similar set-up to soccer, six on both sides with a goalkeeper,” Huelsman said.
He is hoping other schools in the area show interest in the sport. Having a district consisting of area schools would cut down on traveling costs.
“David is very passionate, he has Rob Ramirez’s (GHS swim coach) endorsement,” Boulware said. “Hopefully we can get more kids involved in both sports.”