The USAWP ODP Is Not Screwed Up It Is Broken!

Richard Hunkler, PhD.
Water Polo Planet
07/15/11

The ODP has been in existence for four years and it has created only one player outside of California good enough to make one of the Junior National Teams?  If the ODP can't get more than one non-Californian up to par in four years then the ODP is not a screw up; hell, it is broken.  You can get a college education in four years; you can become a welder in two years; and you can become a water polo coach with no formal training in zero years. Would you pay big bucks for your son or daughter to go to a college in which they have 1 in 27 chances of getting a diploma? We didn’t need an ODP to create National Teams with one or two players from outside of California because the good ole’ boys from California have been doing this for 50 years and for a lot less money. And don’t forget the people in charge of selecting those teams were non paid volunteers.

Explain to me how we can continue to call our National Teams, National Teams when there are very few non-Californians on these teams. One of these days the Olympic Committee is going to wake up and ask the USAWP, “How come there are not more players on the National teams that are not from California”.  And what if they say, “We can no longer afford to fund a California water polo team under the guise of it being our National Team for the Olympics.”  It is not just the fault of the people from California; it is also the fault of the non-California people as well because these were the people who kept trying to convince themselves year after year that things would get better. My ole’ Dad told me a long time ago to wish in one hand and spit in the other and see which one fills up the fastest.

Why is there not a member of the Board of Directors from outside of California demanding that more players from outside of California be on the National Teams? It appears they are much more interested in winning Olympic gold medals than they are in growing the sport of water polo. Besides why should you raise your voice it has been this way for nearly 50 years – that is exactly why you should raise your voice so it can’t go on for another 50 years. We don’t have 50 more years to get it right because of the terrible two r’s – bad interpretation of the rules and the future possibility of reduced revenue. When the women were in charge of the Women’s National Teams there were many more players from outside of California on these teams. When the men took over the running of the Women’s National Teams the number of players from out of California diminished significantly which placed the women playing out of California back to square one. You know water polo has brought me such joy in my life that if I had the choice of a 100,000 more people playing water polo or the choice of a dozen Olympic gold medals I would take the 100,000 playing water polo in a Nano second.

Of all the challenges and battles I have had about water polo with people from California running the USAWP I have only won two major battles. The first was creating a US National Women’s Collegiate Water Polo Championship. This took me three years and untold hours of lobbying both California and non-California people in the Water Polo community. (In those days proposals from someone outside of California were either laugh at or ignored. Sound familiar, only today you are ignored if you are not on the USAWP Management Team or a member of the Board of Directors.) The second involved the player rosters of the Olympic Festival Teams for men. Four teams from the four different regions, North, South, East, and West, selected 13 players for each team. The selection would involve 2 National players chosen by the National coaching staff, 2 players 18 or under (I forget how they were selected), and 9 players from each region. The powers from California decided there were not enough players from California on each regional team. Thus they made the following roster proposal at the yearly convention: The roster would be 2 National players chosen by the National coaching staff, 2 players 18 or under, 2 players from the Region, and 7 players not from the National Team but from the National Training Teams which consisted at that time of mostly all Californians’. The non-California delegates had a caucus and it was explained to everyone that if we voted as a block we could vote down the proposal and that is exactly what we did. For you see the Olympic Festival was as close as the regional players were ever going to get to the Olympics. I tell you these two stories to show you that we can beat the USAWP through tenacity and solidarity.

Actually there is a gaping big hole in the present day ODP and that is the training of the nation’s coaches. Flying the zone ODP coaches out for a 2 day party in California every year does not constitute what I would call the training of coaches. One of the main reasons that non-California kids aren’t making the team is because many of those kids are receiving poor coaching. There are very few programs outside of California who have the luxury of having a national club team caliber coach. Thus until we get serious about training coaches and producing national team caliber club coaches for the entire nation then we will continue to get the same results and that is National Teams made up of all California players. In other words we will continue to have pseudo National Teams. If you are from out of California or from California and a parent ask yourself this question, “Is your child seen by the ODP as a legitimate candidate for one of the National Teams or is he or she seen as just another fund raiser for the USAWP? Is he or she the former then the WPP wishes him or her great success and if he or she is the latter then the WPP says, "Shame on the CEO and the Board of Directors".

Everyone in the water polo community needs to read Joan Gould’s Interview of Ricardo Azevedo. Here is an ODP plan that will not cost an arm and leg and will make every Zone an integral part not a peripheral part of the plan. I have been waiting a major part of my water polo life for such a plan. A plan that has the possibility of making the sport I love a National sport rather than a Regional sport.  Also a plan that is not about conformity but is about resourcefulness and creativity. This plan is a part of the solution and not a part of the problem. The US of A was built on imagination and freedom so why can’t we do the same for the sport we all love. Thanks Ricardo for the suggestions.

We need to be similar to the TV news anchor in the movie "Network" who keeps saying. "We're mad as hell, and we're not going to take this anymore!" Email the members on the Board of Directors and tell them what you think of this important issue.

USA Water Polo Board of Directors

Mike Graff: Chairman mgraff@usawaterpolo.org

Bill Smith: Secretary bsmith@usawaterpolo.org

Ed Reynolds: ereynolds@uaswaterpolo.org

RoAnn Costin: rcostin@usawaterpolo.org

Richard Esterkin: resterkin@usawaterpolo.org

John Hendrickson:jhendrickson@usawaterpolo.org

Sandy Nitta: snitta@usawaterpolo.org

Bob Sternfels:bsternfels@usawaterpolo.org