January 2, 2014
By Christina Corrales-Toy
New Northwest Water Polo Club features Newcastle residents
The temperature couldn’t have been higher than 32 degrees.
Puddles of water turned to ice outside the Newport Hills Swim and Tennis Club, and signs warned visitors to watch their step.
And yet there they were, a group of water polo enthusiasts practicing in the facility’s outdoor pool as steam emanated from the water.
“It’s worth it because the game is really fun,” said Newcastle resident Jacob Hepp, 14, a member of the newly founded Northwest Water Polo Club.
While the swimmers bobbed in a steamy heated pool, the real troopers were their parents and coaches who stood freezing on the deck, watching the athletes.
It’s the type of dedication needed to excel in the sport, which is beginning to rise in popularity in the Northwest, program founder and coach John Jacobson said.
Competing among the water-polo elite requires going head to head with athletes from sunshine states where it’s a year-round sport. So, the Northwest Polo Club athletes will practice through a little rain and a crisp chill; the only thing that gets them out of the pool is thunder and lightning, he said.
“We want to expose our kids to a higher level of water polo,” Jacobson said. “Then, we really hope our kids stick with it and get them into college. I know that’s one of the things I did.”
Jacobson played the sport at Mercer Island High School before continuing his career at Whittier College in Southern California. From there, he served as a graduate assistant coach at California Lutheran University.
Most of the kids found the sport through their swim teams. They enjoyed the fitness of the sport, but sought an outlet from the monotony of it, Jacobson said.
Water polo is nothing if not exciting, he said. It combines the physicality of football with the finesse of swimming, all in a soccer-type setup.
“I love the water, so I tried it and fell in love with it,” said Newcastle resident Peyton Thomas, 12. “It’s just more fun and more interactive than most sports.”
It’s also safer than most contact sports, Jacobson said.
“It’s every sport put into one,” he said. “A lot of kids and a lot of parents like contact sports, but injuries are a big part of that, and water polo is low impact. You don’t have a lot of concussions or torn ACLs.”
The goal with the burgeoning club is to give athletes a year-round option to play water polo, while coaching them to compete at a national level and travel to both local and out-of-state tournaments.
A big part of that is Jacobson, who Lynne Hepp, Jacob’s mother, lauded as an excellent coach.
“Jacob has played a lot of sports and he said, by far, John is the best coach he’s ever had,” she said. “He’s a good balance between fun and one-on-one serious training. That’s a good combination.”
The club practices in Newport Hills and Seattle’s Medgar Evers Pool. Its winter session will conclude in mid February, before a short break until the spring session starts.
It offers a variety of membership options from drop-in rates, to a once-a-week practice schedule. Free trials are also available, so athletes can, literally, get their feet wet. The club, which offers teams for athletes ages 10 through 18, operates on open enrollment, so swimmers can join at any time during a session.
Learn more at www.northwestwaterpoloclub.com.