Today was a big day for city water polo efforts as the Garfield Gators got into the pool and began their quest for a new sport, water polo.
Practice times: Arrival at 11 am for chalk and tech talk with Coach Mark. We’ll cover skills, tactics, digital badges and use tablets. Then from 11:30 to 11:45 we’ll do dry-land exercises. We used some medicine balls, running, conditioning routines. Change and then hit the pool for a solid hour, from noon to 1 pm.
Weather permitting. This is an outdoor pool. If there is a storm, we can’t swim, of course.
Sports is about competition, but with a new project from BGC seasonal employee, Mark Rauterkus, cooperation is the prime goal. Students from a number of different schools are being recruited to work together to form a new varsity water polo program at Obama Academy. The key to playing well with others rests with adults at the respective schools, the principals and athletic directors.
An email invitation to more than ten different schools was sent in June 2015, in hopes of forming a sports team coop, a PIAA sports term, that allows students from various schools to play under the same team banner in high school competitions. Coach Rauterkus and others at Pittsburgh’s Obama Academy are familiar with squads that include students from different schools. The school’s football team, called USO, has U-Prep, Sci-Tech and Obama. All the Obama varsity teams, such as swimming, basketball and volleyball, can include the students from U-Prep and Sci-Tech.
Coach Rauterkus is the boys varsity swim coach at Obama Academy. His team won a WPIAL section title, going undefeated in its first year in the WPIAL in 2013. Home-school and CAPA students are on the Obama swim team too.
“We’re pulling together an new program that forms a bigger pool of eligible athletes,” said Rauterkus. Catholic schools, (Central, Okland, Bishop Canevin, Seton LaSalle), private schools (Ellis, Winchester Thurston), charter schools (Urban Pathways, City High) and other smaller public schools (Westinghouse, Brentwood, Wilkinsburg) are invited and are considering the co-op.
“Playing well with others is a theme that resonates with me,” said Rauterkus. “The opportunities for the city kids are often much different than what are presented in suburban settings. “With water polo, we can grow the sport and create friendships and better understandings among different groups of people.”
Presently only North Allegheny and two other schools in Erie field boys water polo teams. Pittsburgh Combined, a team hosted by Pittsburgh’s Obama Academy, could be the fourth.
For the past six summers, water polo has been offered as an activity with Summer Dreamers Academy. In 2015, more than 150 students get to learn to swim and play water polo for 3-hours a day for 28 days. Staff from many of those schools help train the students as employees, including more than a dozen from the city’s Learn & Earn job program.
The open letter to school administrators says, in part: “In past years, we’ve had more informal participation and called the team, Pittsburgh Combined. This year, with your okay, we’d love to include students from your school in a more robust program with more jobs and tighter relationships among the educational institutions so that the city kids can compete.”
Water polo seems to be about both: competition and cooperation.
The first night of masters water polo happened in Pittsburgh at a new location, Citiparks Ream Swim Pool in Mt. Washington.
Drive up to Mt. Washington on McArdle Roadway and at the top of the hill, cross over Grandview Drive and continue straight. Just after the first light, on the way down the back side of Mt. Washington, you’ll see the Ream Rec Center. The swim pool is not visible from the road. On street parking.
See you Tuesdays, 6-7:30 pm.
Pay $5 at the door for adults, or get a yearly pass for all Citiparks pools for $30. Kids and veterans are less.
In the City, many of the leading athletes do many different sports and play various roles in the community.
Rohan, back left in the photo, played on the Obama Academy boys varsity volleyball team and competed in a final four match for Class AA PIAA semi-finals at Slippery Rock High School on June 2.
The boys varsity squad with Coach Pete Vitti won its WPIAL Section in the spring of 2015. That Section Win in the WPIAL was only the second time in city sports history that a “city league team” won a WPIAL section title. The boys varsity swim team at Obama Academy won the WPIAL section three years ago, also its FIRST YEAR in the WPIAL. So, first the swimmers and then the volleyball team enter the WPIAL and vault to first place in the maiden seasons.
With more year-round opportunities, more conditioning, challenges and overall support for the mass of the diverse kids and a diverse suite of programs to match — things look brighter.
A couple of the guys playing volleyball worked with the Bloomfield-Garfield Corporation at Pittsburgh Public Schools’ Summer Dreamers in Swim & Water Polo Camp. That’s synergy. Get the talent developed and supported. Then have those youngsters lead the wee ones in more fun in the weeks, months and summers to come.
A win today and the team plays for the state championships. Regardless of the outcome today, the city athletes who show up, are devoted to fitness and high-performance programs, and are responsible role-models are winners in everyone’s book. These teens are an inspiration for other, younger super-stars to come.