by Amber Carter
The 2016-2017 school year started less than three months ago, and growth and new beginnings are already in place at Immanuel Schools. From the capital campaign to the building of the new elementary, the school year holds much promise. One addition in particular was the introduction of water polo to the athletics program.
The idea for the new water polo team at Immanuel came with the new swim coaches from last spring’s swim season. Head Coach Karin Deaver and assistant coach Emma Bolton played a huge role in bringing this program to Immanuel. “At Immanuel we saw how our lack of water polo was hurting us in the swim season, so we made a plan that would allow us to bring water polo to our school,” Deaver says. Most schools in the area have both a water polo and swim team that build off of each other. It is also very common, especially in the valley, for high schools to have strong aquatics programs. The hope is that with the coming years, having the water polo team will strengthen the entire aquatics program.
Although Coach Deaver has not had any water polo experience, the assistant swim coach Emma Bolton brings years of experience despite her young age. Bolton graduated from Clovis East in spring of 2015 with eight years of water polo experience under her belt. She brings youth and passion that help make the team. “She has a deep understanding of the game and has what it takes not only to build fundamental skills into the players, but to also take them to the next level as they go on their abilities,” says Deaver. The coaches work together to build the team, schedule games and scrimmages, and learn more about water polo.
However, new programs bring new challenges. For the Immanuel water polo team, one challenge is the practice time. The only time the team has to practice is early mornings, four days a week. Team captain Amber Carter says, “Early mornings were hard to get used to, but now are just part of my everyday schedule. I do, however, really enjoy watching the sunrise every morning.” Another challenge came because the team started later in the season and did not have time for preseason conditioning. The game of water polo is very intense and requires much stamina and the players to be in very good shape. In the future, Dever and Bolton plan on building the preseason conditioning for the team, so that they will be ready to play earlier in the season.
Because the team was established late in the season, the team has only been able to scrimmage against other JV teams in the central Sequoia league. Both the boys, with seven players, and the girls team, with ten players, have played hard in all of their scrimmages and learned much about the game because of them. “We measure success and small things. And our first game we cannot hold onto the ball for more than 10 seconds. We recently played a game where we kept running the shot clock out. To most that looks like a turnover, but to us it meant that our kids have learned how to handle the ball better,” says Deaver. Even though there are many challenges to overcome, there have been silver linings. Just last Thursday, October 13, the Immanuel girls water polo team won their very first water polo game, and the first in Immanuel’s history with a score of 14 to 15 against Dinuba.
New teams, ideas, and programs always bring new challenges. But for the Immanuel water polo team, these challenges will be overcome in the coming years. “As coaches we look forward to establishing and strengthening the program. We see that we have a lot of good core younger players, and we look forward to seeing how they develop,” says Deaver. The coming swim season brings much promise, as does the water polo team next year. Be sure to follow this team as they grow and strengthen together in the coming years.