The American Water Polo National States Challenge East Coast Water Polo at its Finest

Doru Roll
Water Polo Planet
08/01/13

Barely a month after the highly successful JO NEZ Qualifiers, the Northeast was host to yet another important and successful tournament. Organized by American Water Polo as part of their overall strategy to help the growth of the sport, the National State Challenge featured 31 teams representing five states.

ABOUT AMERICAN WATER POLO

American Water Polo (AWP) was organized in 2003 by Dan Sharadin, Commissioner of the Collegiate Water Polo Association who, after 30 years of involvement in water polo as an athlete, coach, referee and administrator on both the collegiate and National Governing body levels, realized that while membership and tournament fees were increasing every year, the sport itself was not growing. He decided to try something entirely different, thus American Water Polo was born. In establishing the new organization, he wanted to make membership satisfaction its total focus. His approach was simple: firstly, coaches had to feel like valued partners in the organization, and secondly: the members had to feel that they were actually receiving something of value in return for their membership fees.

The idea worked, and during its first decade of existence AWP has grown from its home base in Pennsylvania to include scores of teams and thousands of athletes nationwide, organized in several zones each with several leagues. As AWP looks to the future, it plans to broaden its geographic base to other parts of the country, in addition to expanding its services to include coaching education. For more information please visit AWP’s web site.

THE NSC TOURNAMENT

The National State Challenge currently is AWP’s main national age group event. The most recent editions of the tournament prior to the 2013 Championship were hosted in San Diego / Coronado (2010 and 2011) and Pennsylvania (2012). This year’s tournament was held in from Friday thru Sunday, July 19 – 21 at two venues: Villanova University in Villanova, PA and Upper Dublin High School in Upper Dublin, Pa. Villanova hosted the 15U competition with nine games on Friday (July 19) and nine games on Saturday (July 20), while Upper Dublin hosted the remaining 58 games from Friday thru Sunday in the 18U Boys, 18U Girls, 15U and 12U competitions.

The 2013 tournament experienced a dramatic increase in both participation and viewership. The number of athletes this year was nearly double that of 2012, and so was the live audience at over 350 spectators. However, the total viewership for the tournament was probably much higher, as nearly half the games were streamed live over the course of the event.

Competing teams spanned nearly half of the continental United States as teams came from the Philadelphia suburbs, Maryland, New Jersey, Connecticut and as far away as Chicago and its suburbs (800 miles). A total of 31 teams and 425 players took part in the event in three age groups: 18U, 15U and 12U. The two youngest age groups (15U and 12U) competed in mixed gender formats allowing boys and girls to play on the same team. All the participating states except for Illinois were represented in all the age groups.

Over the course of three days of intense competition, Navy AC emerged as the winner in both the 18U Boys' and Girls' divisions, defeating the teams from Chicago Parks District in both finals. The 18U age group was strongly contested, with a $1,000 prize awarded to the champion in each division. This year Navy AC took home both prizes for a total of $2,000 in winnings. However, the biggest game of the tournament occurred in the semifinals of the 18U Girls' division, as Chicago Parks held off Greenwich YMCA in a stunning 12-11 victory to reach the final against Navy.

 

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Navy AC 18U Girls Team

Following is a summary of the event, showing each team’s finish position. The winner (gold) and 2nd place team (silver) are highlighted for each division. Tiger Aquatics had separate Boys and Girls teams in the 15U division, which finished 6 and 8, respectively. Follow this link for complete results and detailed commentary of the games.

Team
From
18U Boys
18U Girls
15U
12U
TOTAL
Greenwich YMCA
CT
3
3
1
Chicago Parks District
IL
2
2
Lincoln Area Way (LAW)
IL
4
2
Mundelein
IL
7
West Suburban
IL
5
Windy City
IL
10
6
Annapolis (Navy AC "B-team")
MD
8
7
Navy AC
MD
1
1
1
2
Tiger Aquatics ( separate
15U Boys / 15U Girls teams)
NJ
3
6 (B)
8 (G)
4
Buxmont Bolsheviks
PA
7
CV Eagles
PA
9
5
Kingfish
PA
5
8
North Penn
PA
6
Philly Select
PA
4
4
Trojan Aquatics
PA
9
3
           
Number of Teams
10
8
9
4
31
Number of Participants
158
102
115
50
425
Number of Games Played
25
20
23
8
76

 

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Navy AC 18U Boys Team

After the tournament, Dan Sharadin had the following comments:
 
“The National State Challenge this year was a great event, with over 30 teams participating from five different states. Not only was it a larger tournament, but we offered 15U and 12U competition for the first time, giving clubs the chance to bring several age groups. One of the things that make it such a unique competition is the fact there is a $1000 prize to the winning 18U teams in both genders. In addition, 30 games were streamed live and coaches received a free DVD of their games.”

Due to the size of the tournament and the fact two venues were used, it was impractical to stream every game. However, the game schedule was arranged such that each team, and therefore each athlete, was streamed at least one full game over the course of the tournament. DVDs of the live events were available for a nominal fee immediately after each game.

The tournament was officiated by eleven referees provided by AWP. In attendance were collegiate water polo coaches from Princeton University, VMI, Siena College, George Washington University, Villanova University and Wagner College to mention only a few, who came to observe and initiate contact with prospective players. The facilities and volunteers supporting the event were led by Damon Newman, Director of Membership for AWP and Brian Young, Upper Dublin Water Polo Director, assisted by a staff of volunteers and water polo professionals who made the 2013 edition of the National State Challenge a great event for the athletes, coaches and supporters of the sport.

WHAT’S NEXT

Although small by comparison with tournaments organized on the West Coast, the importance of this tournament for the future of East Coast water polo cannot be overstated. At a time when the sport is in apparent decline in its historical European hotspots, events such as the NSC are absolutely essential for its continued growth in the US, as Dan Sharadin remarked:

“One of the positive benefits from this event is the fact that the pool rental and associated fees are being used to establish a new water polo program at Upper Dublin High School (ed. note: to commence this fall), where the tournament was held. Access to pools is always the limiting factor when you talk about the growth of the sport and, with such a terrific facility, it will be a great boost for the region to have an active water polo team in the school district. We hope this event, along with other tournaments during the year, will help establish a financial base for the program.”

“As to the future, the idea is to make Upper Dublin the home of this event for the foreseeable future, expanding the number of days to handle the increase in teams expected. Ideally, we would love to see a tournament with 60 teams attending. We think this will also be a great benefit for college coaches and kids alike, offering a place of contact for coaches to meet and see quality players on the East Coast.”

CONCLUSION

There is no doubt that AWP will continue to be instrumental in the growth of water polo, particularly in the East where historically the sport has not been as popular. The low membership and tournament entry fees are used almost entirely to sponsor events such as the National State Challenge and help start new programs, as opposed to financing a burgeoning corporate structure with redundant C-level executives. Even with the limited means available at their disposal, AWP still managed to provide live streaming and DVDs of at least one game for every team. Perhaps the future of water polo, both on the East Coast and nationally, is not a matter of available funds as some have said, but rather a matter of the determination of those involved. Congratulations to AWP on a truly great tournament, and best of luck to Upper Dublin HS with their new program.

***

Special thanks to Ed Haas, Director of Communications, CWPA, for his contributions to this article.