TUHS Board endorses proposal to start another Wildcat sports team

A new sport is about to make a splash at Taft Union High School.

It's water polo, and, for the time being at least, its going to be a co-ed sport.

Two enthusiastic coaches backed by about 20 equally enthusiastic water polo players and their parents got their wish Wednesday night when the Taft Union High School board voted 4-0 to endorse the proposal from swimming coaches Nathan and John Usrey to start a water polo program.

Water polo is played with seven players to a side and consists of four eight-minute quarters. There are six field players and one goalie on a team, and the object is to throw a ball into the other team's goal for a point.

It's a grueling, physically demanding sport. Players are not allowed to touch the sides of the pool or ropes during play and must stay afloat using and underwater “eggbeater” kick and stroke to stay afloat when not swimming with the ball or shooting.

It's a natural at a school with a strong swimming tradition and one of the best high school pools in the area.

The Usreys are part of that tradition (both are former competitive swimmers who swam for coaches like Ken anderson, Mike McCormick and rick Woodson) and now they want to start a new chapter.

Already, with little fanfare, a water polo program has drawn 15 boys and girls to the pool to take up the sport, Nathan Usrey said.

About half are swimmers, and some haven't been competing in high school sports, he said.

“These aren't football players or cross country runners. They're not fitting in anywhere else,” Usrey told the board. “You'd never see them together in any other situation.”

The polo players and their parents have even purchased water polo balls
That meshes in with the Local Control and Accountability Plan the school is implementing which sets a goal of engaging more students in extra curricular activities.

So far the Usreys are working with the young water polo enthusiasts four days a week – Monday through Thursday – in the TUHS pool.

They may add some evening workouts at CSU Bakersfield's pool.

As far as competition, well, teams are a little bit scarce in the region, but there are opportunities, and, with Taft starting a water polo program, only one more team is needed to form a league,.

Two Bakersfield schools, Bakersfield Christian and Garces, have interscholastic water polo teams and two others, Stockdale and Centennial, have club teams.

Other schools in the area that have teams include Porterville, Hanford, Arroyo Grande and Paso Robles.

The CIF has advised Usrey to start with a co-ed water polo temas to avoid any problems with Title IX, federal regulations that mandate equal opportunities in sports for both and girls.

A co-ed team would play boys varsity and other co-ed teams, Usrey said.

To make things even easier, the TUHS diving pool, where water polo is played, comes with everything needed to hook up the ropes and nets needed for the game, Usrey said.

Interscholastic water polo is played in the fall months.