Two Texas Leagues Hurt Prep Water Polo

By Evan Mohl
The Galveston Daily News

Two separate leagues hurt high school water polo

Published October 21, 2009

A rift among Texas high school water polo coaches has diluted the sport with two separate leagues, two state championships and two sets of competition.

It doesn’t make sense, and, more importantly, it’s hurting a sport in search of recognition and inclusion by the University Interscholastic League, the governing body for Texas high school sports.

The two-league system — the Texas High School Water Polo Coaches Association and the Texas Interscholastic Swimming Coaches Association — raises questions about the real state champion and about the level of competition. It also signals division among the coaches, never a good sign for a group trying to gain popularity.

“It’s a lot different than it was,” Clear Creek coach Anne Woolweaver said.

The disagreement started two years ago about a relatively benign question: When to hold the water polo season?

Traditionally, the sport had been played in the fall. But some coaches argued a move to spring would benefit athletes.

They believed a spring season would not interfere with the start of swimming, usually the first week in November. They also felt a later start would give more time to train. Students arrive to school in late August, and in two months, they need to be prepared to compete in region and state tournaments in October.

Some coaches even felt a move to spring would enhance the sport’s chance to get recognition from the UIL.

So after the 2007 season, the swimming coaches association decided to move the sport to the spring. It was the first time water polo would be held in April since the organization’s founding in 1972.

The bold move caused a rift. Not all coaches accepted the outcome.

“Water polo has always been a fall sport,” Woolweaver said. “And there’s so many other things going on in the spring that wouldn’t allow me to coach.”

Woolweaver cited other UIL competitions like band and debate that take place in the spring. She also teaches advanced placement classes and said she could not miss time in late April when her students need to review for AP tests.

Traditionalists like Creek (three-time boys state champion) and Clear Lake (six-time boys state champion) formed the water polo coaches association. They committed to playing the fall.

While the sides are trying to come together, it hasn’t been easy.

“I don’t know what they do in the fall, play for fun I guess,” Friendswood coach John Little said.

Galveston County, and more broadly the greater Houston area, has been most affected. Most teams reside in the area — in fact, the swimming coaches association divides the area into two separate regions, east and west, along with one in San Antonio and another in North Texas.

The area also dominates the sport. A Houston region has won the state championship every year since 1988, both girls and boys.

But now Clear Brook does not play Clear Lake. Ball never plays Creek.

It’s an inane system for a sport, an Olympic sport for that matter. Spring or fall shouldn’t matter — the health of water polo, which needs and craves attention, is far more important.

The two-league system is certainly not a way to achieve better results for water polo.


The Great Divide

Galveston County water polo teams and which league they belong to:

Texas High School Water Polo Coaches Association

Clear Creek

Clear Springs

Texas Interscholastic Swimming Coaches Association

Ball High


Texas City