Texas high school water polo will begin the 2013 season with a very different regional configuration after eleven teams from the San Antonio-area Northside ISD (NISD) withdrew from the upcoming spring season. The district made the decision after the 2012 season ended in May when its qualifiers struggled at the TISCA state championship tournament in Austin. West Regional qualifier Alamo Heights of San Antonio did not join the exodus and will participate in the upcoming spring season.
Scott Zolinsky, NISD’s Aquatics Director, announced the district’s withdrawal to TISCA’s water polo board in an email after its representatives met not long after the 2012 championship tournament. Zolinsky’s response to TWp’s interview questions was not available at the time of publication.
The Texas Interscholastic Swim Coaches’ Association (TISCA) water polo board chairman Chris Cullen expressed disappointment at the NISD’s decision but was hopeful it could help foster the growth of the sport, especially in areas such as Waco, Katy, and Austin, where strong swim programs already exist.
“I’m an optimist,” he said in a phone interview. “We’re trying to turn it into an opportunity.”
Cullen, and coaches with whom TWp spoke, mentioned Katy as an area of particular interest for expansion. Scott Slay, winner of multiple state championships at Sterling and Tomball, now coaches in the area, where aquatics programs and facilities have been strong. There he is hoped to build a club and high school water presence.
TISCA is encouraging Temple, Midway of Waco, Round Rock, McNeil and Bowie, schools dotting the I-35 corridor between Austin and Dallas, to form or build competitive teams for the spring. Temple competed in the North region in 2012 and Round Rock in the West, where it will remain.
The NISD’s decision generated a variety of reactions among coaches with whom TWp spoke, who did not want to be identified.
Several noted that the NISD had only recently given its full support to switching from fall competition to the spring but changed its mind after disappointing performances by its teams at the state championships.
“They haven’t won a game at state [championships] in quite a while. They don’t like those first round losses,” said a South District coach.
Others were convinced that the coaches were not committed to the sport to begin.
“They’re swim coaches who were forced to coach water polo,” one said. “They tried to get rid of water polo a while ago but the parents and schools disagreed. Now they play just enough to satisfy the district,” the North District coach noted.
The NISD recently completed its new 11-team fall season on October 6 with the Alamo Cup, a championship tournament culminating a four-week three-tournament season. Results of the championships are not currently posted on the NISD Aquatics website.
A South-region coach was more forgiving about the NISD’s decision, agreeing that the spring season made for very tight scheduling against a slew of mandatory testing and social events, like the prom.
But another coach familiar with the decision welcomed it, saying it would bolster the growth of the sport in Texas.
“This is actually going to be a VERY good thing for development of the San Antonio and Austin areas,” the coach wrote in an email.
The Northside ISD was “never very friendly to new programs and made it very difficult to play the sport. There is now a West Region coaches’ committee in control of the region, new teams are [being added], and the process for everything has been streamlined for simplicity and to maximize growth.”
The 2013 TISCA water polo season, including the reconfigured West Region, begins immediately after the state championship (UIL) swim meet on February 22-23. The state water polo championship tournament is tentatively set for the last week of April at the Carroll ISD Aquatics Center in Southlake.