Moving back after 18 years in Spain was bittersweet. Saying goodbye to family and friends was really hard. Finally being closer to family and friends State-side was awesome. One tough decision was taking our son away from his water polo club in Madrid. He started playing with them when he was 9 years old. The kids, coaches and parents were family, so that was bitter. However, finding Gator Water Polo (GWP) here was sweet. The kids and coaches on the Silver team took my son in as one of their own from day one. Getting involved in the Orange / Blue teams has allowed me to meet enthusiastic parents and their kids. They make me feel at home. I’m really excited to help build GWP internationally and here in Gainesville, but I’m especially happy to have found such a wonderful water polo family again. Very sweet indeed.
On our 3rd birthday Coach David Huelsman shares his thoughts on Gator Water Polo’s history. Thank you to all of our amazing athletes, parents, coaches, and volunteers that have helped us make the past 3 years! We’re even more excited for the next 3!!
“When John came up with this idea to start water polo in Gainesville, I thought to my self ‘this is going to be an up hill battle’. I came to Gainesville in 2007 and was coaching Baseball at GHS. Most people in North Florida had absolutely no idea what water polo is. Being from Southern California, and playing water polo there, water polo was a thing, people knew what it was and it was what the “cool kids played”, it was a part of every high school. When we set up our first practice in April 2013, John printed flyers at UF, passed them around, and we had three awesome kids show up. It was a blast, but very small.
As Gator Water Polo has grown up in Gainesville I look back to that first practice and I’m amazed at the success we have had. It really is incredible to see these kids growing up with the sport, and really making their own mark on it. In Fall of 2015, two of the three girls that came to that first practice started their first semester at UF. They sent me a message saying they were trying out for the UF Women’s team. I was so proud to see these girls that started, not knowing anything about water polo three years ago, to joining an amazing team at the collegiate level.
Next year, we will continue to grow Gator Water Polo. We are pushing to build out our 10/12U programs, as they are the next wave of athletes to push GWP forward. We will also be building out Girls and Guys teams at both GHS and BHS. If you are looking for a sport, and or not happy with your current one, give water polo a try. It will be the best decision of your life. Getting in the water will change your life. We turn our kids into health young adults.
We are so fortunate to have an amazing group of young athletes and families, we also have one of the finest coaching staffs in the country.
The future for Gator Water Polo is a bright one, I can’t wait to see what the next three years hold. Happy Birthday!!!”
To help celebrate our 3rd birthday (tomorrow!!) Coach Max shared his thoughts on the club today! He is not only one of our Head Coaches, but also a parent of one of our athletes, and reflects upon both below.
“I joined Gator Water Polo as head coach of the 10/12U team in 2014, about a year after John and David founded the club. I have a unique perspective because I am both a coach and an athlete’s parent. One of the first things I noticed once coming aboard was the deep love and experience that John and David have for our sport. I have played from the age of 9 through high school and college in California and beyond, so I’ve been exposed to a great deal of different water polo philosophies and traditions. Gator Water Polo’s coaches bring all of those philosophies together in a youth club that has tremendous potential.
I never pushed my son into the sport because I didn’t want to be ‘that kind of dad’, but he knew that I coached. When he was 9, he asked if he could try water polo. I said sure. So, we went to the pool, and he froze up and didn’t want to get in the water – just wanted to watch from the deck. I walked over to John and had a quiet, discreet chat, asking him to go over and talk to Max. He agreed and after about 5 minutes, Max was in the pool and being taught technique by John and David. He was hooked from that day on and plays for both the 12U and 14U teams today. To this day, I don’t know what John told my son, but I am thankful for it.
Perhaps the most meaningful aspect of coaching is seeing the development of our young athletes. It’s very rewarding to see the progression of our kids as athletes and people. It’s great to see them work hard every week, get better, deal with bad days, see them laugh and also get frustrated. But probably the best thing is to see them have fun.
As a non-profit organization, we have made great inroads into our future development. From David and my trips to Tallahassee to lobby for pool funding, to grant writing, and to laying the foundation for the expansion of water polo as a varsity sport in our local high schools, our future is very bright. We have an outstanding core of athletes and families and I look forward to celebrating many more birthdays to come!”
To celebrate our birthday week, we’re having some of our coaches share their thoughts on Gator Water Polo. First up is one of our Co-Founders, John Trimble!
“Water polo isn’t a sport to me, it’s a passion. I fell in love with it when I went to my first practice in 9th grade. I could barely swim a lap, let alone tread water, but somehow, I was excited, not discouraged, by my initial failings. I’ve now played for 8 years, swimming and treading are no longer a challenge, and every year my love for water polo has only grown. It helped me take a break from the homework in high school, immediately find a place among 50,000 students at UF, and stay active and healthy throughout my life. I can’t accurately describe what water polo means to me, other than to say it is what I live for. I can’t imagine what my life would be like if I had grown up in Gainesville, without the opportunity to discover water polo.
GWP has given me the opportunity to bring that sport that I love to the next generation in Gainesville. Three years ago, when David and I started the club, we had a goal of making water polo accessible to every kid in Gainesville who wanted to play, and I’m very proud to say that no athlete has ever been turned away. To me, that is our single biggest accomplishment. It overwhelms me with pride to know that no kid growing up in Gainesville will ever miss out on the opportunity to discover water polo because there isn’t a team, they don’t have any swimming experience, they can’t afford the costs, or any other reason we can affect.
GWP’s future is very bright. As we continue to grow we will be able to offer better opportunities for the next generation of water polo players, and be able to compete, not just in Florida, but nationally, and even internationally one day. My vision for the next 3 years includes boys and girls’ varsity water polo teams at multiple schools in Gainesville, and competitive teams in every age group from 10U to 18U playing in national tournaments.
It has been a fantastic 3 years so far, and I can’t wait to see what happens in the next 3!
Happy birthday Gator Water Polo!”
Picture of Coach John on deck in 2014.