Chuck Hines enjoyed a 40-year career with the YMCA, specializing in Aquatics and International Programming. A midwest champion swimmer in his younger days, he started playing water polo at the age of 25 and became a 3-time YMCA and Honorable Mention AAU All-American player in the 1960s. He then coached teams to 10 national YMCA and AAU championships in the 1970s, mostly in junior competition. He wrote two instructional books on water polo and served as chairperson of national water polo committees for the YMCA, AAU, and American Swimming Coaches Association and as secretary for the U.S.A. Men's Olympic Team that brought home the bronze medal in '72. His Asheville YMCA girls team represented the East Coast at the first Women's World Water Polo Club Championships in '77. Buck Dawson, the exec of the International Swimming Hall of Fame, once stated in the 1970s that "Chuck Hines has single-handedly kept water polo going in all of the U.S. outside of California." Now 74, Chuck is retired but remains involved with the YMCA. He's recently written a book entitled "A Walk on the Y'ld Side," which is an autobiographical accounting of his Y career and contains some of his water polo experiences. He contributes occasional commentaries to the WPP web-site under the pseudonym of Torchbearer
A HISTORY of U.S. WOMEN’S WATER POLO in the 1960s and 1970s
In 1958, the YMCA of the USA revived its national men’s and boys’ water polo pro-gram after a 30-year hiatus, and we began playing at the Minneapolis YMCA, where I had just been hired as the Aquatic Director and swim coach. We had 40 male players of varying ages and our own four-team intramural league, and we held a national YMCA men’s tournament in 1959 featuring players from Detroit, St. Louis, St. Paul, Winnipeg, and, of course, Minneapolis.
In 1960, we invited girls from the nearby Minneapolis YWCA swim team, which I also had been coaching, to join us, and thus we had about 10 teenage girls playing beginning-level water polo amongst themselves for two months.
In 1961, Rosemary Dawson revived the AAU’s national women’s water polo program, and in 1961, 1962 and 1963, she conducted tourneys for women at Ann Arbor, Michigan, with half-a-dozen teams, all from the State of Michigan, participating.
I had moved from Minneapolis to Iowa, and with Bob Helmick’s assistance, had start-ed a men’s and boys’ polo program at the Des Moines YMCA in 1962. We knew nothing about Rosemary’s efforts, but we rounded up about 15 teenage girls to play Y water polo, and they played games against Davenport, Iowa, in 1963 and 1964. The Davenport player-coach was Ruth Johnson, who was in her 30s at that time.
In 1964, at its annual convention in Houston, the AAU organized a national women’s water polo committee and appointed Dave Rivenes of Montana as “chairman pro tem.” Dave was coach of a girls team in Miles City that hosted the first two women’s junior national tourneys in the mid ‘60s. These were played in a lake! Bob Helmick and I attended the convention in Houston and successfully melded together the AAU and YMCA polo programs.
The next year, at the ‘65 AAU convention, Bob was elected as chairman of the national men’s water polo committee and I as chairman of the national women’s water polo committee, replacing Dave Rivenes, who had become busy working on the new Junior Olympic program. This was a chairmanship I continued to hold through 1976, mainly because no one else was willing to work as hard at promoting women’s water polo nationally in this pre-Title IX era.
I was still playing and coaching myself, and I was elected to serve as secretary of the U.S. Olympic Men’s Water Polo Committee for the Games of 1968 and 1972, but I did what I could to promote women’s water polo. From a single national tournament held annually, we started conducting AAU indoor and outdoor tourneys, senior and junior, and we began selecting All-Americans. After I moved to the Canton, Illinois, YMCA, we held the first two Y women’s tourneys in 1968 and 1969 at Belleville, Illinois, both of them hosted by Jack Simon. Davenport, with Ruth Johnson leading the way, won in 1968, and Houston, coached by Don Atwood, in 1969. (A few years later, Don Atwood organized the first women’s water polo teams in Puerto Rico. He and Paul Barren were two of the leading women’s water polo referees in the early years).
Also in 1969, the first Junior Olympic championship in water polo was held. Under the direction of Dave Rivenes, Bob Helmick, and this writer, the JOs at Des Moines attracted teams from every corner of the country. There was a single 15-and-under division. For the girls, Portland, Oregon, finished first. For the boys, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, won. Des Moines was runner-up in both categories.
The best senior women’s teams in the 1960s were the Northern Virginia Aquatic Club, coached by Brian Zimmerman, and the Santa Clara Swim Club, coached by the famed Olympic swimming coach, George Haines. NVAC had the better water polo skills, winning seven indoor and outdoor tournaments, while SCSC had the speed, with several Olympians in its lineup, and won two indoor titles. Probably the best junior women’s team was from San Leandro, California, coached by Dave Beaver. They won a couple of junior national tourneys, including one hosted by Dave Rivenes at Miles City, Montana.
By 1970, two new teams had forged to the front. They were the Sheridan Swim Club from Quincy, Illinois, and Miami, Florida. Sheridan, coached by Dan Ditmer, won the ‘70 outdoor (summer) championships in both the senior and Junior Olympic competition, while Miami, coached by Vince Santostefano, hosted and won the senior indoor (winter) championship. Nine teams from coast to coast competed in this latter event, held at the University of Miami pool. One entry was from the Asheville, North Carolina, YMCA, where I had assumed duties as Aquatic Director and coach. Our young, beginning-level girls finished in sixth place.
Another Florida club, Coral Gables, then moved to the top. Coached by Billy Burrell, they won the Junior Olympics in 1971, followed by five senior indoor and outdoor championships over the next few years. They were challenged by Cincinnati, Ohio, coached by the famous swim coach, Paul Bergen, who had two Olympians in his lineup, and Anaheim, California, coached by Stan Sprague, which later became FAST (the Fullerton Area Swim Team). Both of these clubs eventually managed to win a senior national title by the mid ‘70s.
In the AAU’s junior and/or Junior Olympic competition for younger players, perhaps the best team was Asheville, which won the Junior Olympics in 1972 and then the junior women’s indoor and outdoor championships, plus three YMCA women’s and girls’ titles. Asheville hosted the senior women’s outdoor tournament in ‘73. This was won by Coral Gables, which beat Fresno, California, coached by Flip Hassett, in the finals. Two YM-CA teams – North Dade from Florida and Asheville – finished third and fourth in the ten-team field, followed by the Northern Virginia Aquatic Club, Cincinnati, and others.
The North Dade YMCA, coached by Mike Burdges, defeated Coral Gables, Anaheim, Asheville, and Fresno to win the 1974 senior women’s outdoors, hosted by Flip Hassett and Fresno. Immediately after the event in Fresno, a women’s water polo competition was contested for the first time as part of the annual Hawaiian Invitational. An all-star squad with players from six clubs in southern California and coached by Dave Bishop took top honors, followed by Asheville and a Hawaiian club led by All-American goalie Sue Nishioka, who went on to develop several other women’s teams in the 50th state.
Some of the other outstanding teams in the early and mid ‘70s were Fort Lauderdale, coached by Cullen Bullock, which continually challenged in senior national women’s competition; Lexington, Kentucky, coached by Steve Hellmann, which won a junior national women’s tourney; Tri-Cities YMCA of Kentucky, coached by John Schiebel, which won one national Y title and was twice runner-up to the Asheville girls; Nashville, Tennessee, featuring the famed Caulkins sisters, Tracy and Amy, plus Olympian Joan Pennington; Fremont YMCA in Nebraska, coached by Gerry Saunders, which hosted the 1972 Junior Olympic Championships, attended by teams from California and Puerto Rico and elsewhere; Albuquerque, New Mexico, guided by lay leader Dr. Roy Goddard, which conducted a couple of JO Championships and always was a threat; and Tucson, Arizona, which won the 1975 JO’s held at Toledo, Ohio. Many more AAU and YMCA women’s and girls’ teams could be found in Florida, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Virginia, West Virginia, Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, and farther west.
In 1975, the first North American tournament, an indoor invitational, was conducted at Mercersburg Academy in Pennsylvania, under the guidance of Pat Barry, with four teams from the U.S. and two from Canada competing It was won by Asheville YMCA over runner-up Commerce, California, which was coached by Sandy Nitta. A club from Hamilton, Ontario, took third. Both Commerce and Mercersburg were AAU junior national women’s champions in the mid ‘70s.
There was more North American and international action for the women and girls in 1976 and 1977 in tourneys at Commerce and Montreal/Quebec City, with teams coming from Australia, Mexico, and The Netherlands. A 1977 summer tourney hosted by Asheville was won by the team from Quebec City, perhaps the world's best women's team at that time, over second-place Asheville (9-6) and other entries from Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Houston, and Ontario.
This was my final NATIONAL effort, as I had stepped down as chair of the women’s water polo committee at the 1976 AAU convention, replaced by Flip Hassett. In 1978, a new organization, USA Water Polo, began governing the sport. For me, it had been a good 11 years. Under the auspices of the AAU and YMCA, we’d seen much growth in the sport nationally and had opened the door to more international women’s water polo competition, ultimately resulting in more formal World and Olympic events. To those who played a role in the development of women’s water polo in “the ol’ days” as players, coaches, and supporters, many thanks. We couldn’t have done it without you.
(Names are underlined for emphasis not Links.)
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