In the early fall, four days a week from 8-10 p.m., the men’s club water polo team practices at Amazon Pool.
The team conditions, works on fundamentals and develops strategy for upcoming tournaments. The hours spent in the pool go toward winning games and having fun in the process.
The club team is one of the best in the Pacific Northwest. However, like most club programs, much of the Ducks’ success is dependent upon their on-campus presence and ability to recruit players to the club.
“A majority of it is word of mouth. … Unfortunately chance or coincidence is a big part of getting people out,” senior Jake O’Malley said. “It kind of works out. Most people who want to be out here find their way out here.”
This season, the club consisted of roughly 16 players. Many of those players have been with the program for multiple years, and the club has members who started their freshman year. Oftentimes, the most committed players do not start right away.
“Most of the time, guys who come in freshman year stay three or four years,” club president Randy Kenyon said. “What is really key to our success are guys who come later and stay through their senior year.”
The players travel to tournaments on the weekends, where they play regional foes like Oregon State, Washington and Washington State. Traditionally, the Ducks enter the regional tournament as a No. 1 or No. 2 seed. This year was no different, but they were eliminated in the semifinals 14-7 by Oregon State.
Because of the time they spend together during the season, many of the players build close bonds outside the pool.
“We would watch and go to football games together and we’d hang out and see each other,” O’Malley said. “It is definitely a pretty cool team.”
Four years ago, the program won the region and was able to travel to San Diego, California, for the club national championship tournament. The Ducks finished ninth.
While they battle with other teams in the pool, outside the pool they try recruit the right players for competition. They go to tabling events, ask for donations from alumni and try to be active on Facebook.
Kenyon believes that using the on-campus UO REC center for more water polo related events would help the program.
“That is the next step for really developing our team as a campus symbol — to be seen as a major part of university life. It’s not only water polo, but club sports in general,” Kenyon said.
With all the efforts to gain attention from outside, the men’s water polo team also wants to build from the inside out.
“Club can only grow if the current members are all in,” O’Malley said. “The first step would be to engrain team pride into the younger members, so going forward, they fight to create a legacy for the team.”
Follow Jack Butler on Twitter @Butler917