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
Games to Play and Lessons to Learn
We were ridin’ high as we boarded a plane in Asheville, NC, and headed to Miami for the 1973 U.S. Junior Olympic Water Polo Championships. Our girls were the defending champions, having copped the JO crown the preceding year at Fremont, Nebraska. Four of the girls from our 1972 team had “aged up” and were no longer eligible for the JO’s 15-and-under competition. This included our goalie, our best defensive guard, and our leading scorer, Elizabeth Jeter, who had won the MVP award at Fremont. But we now had over 40 girls enrolled in our Asheville YMCA water polo program, and I was so confident we could repeat as JO champions that I took along several extra players. That proved to be our undoing.
The 1973 JO Championships were being hosted by Ransom School in Miami. This was the fifth JO competition for young water poloists. The first event in 1969 was held at Des Moines, the second in 1970 at St. Louis, the third in 1971 at Albuquerque, and the fourth in 1972 at Fremont.
Now, in 1973, a dozen boys teams and half-a-dozen girls teams from coast to coast were coming to Miami, having qualified for the JO Championships by virtue of winning in AAU regional action. Our Asheville YMCA girls were housed in a small motel in which, unfortunately, a couple of the boys teams also were staying. The night before the competition started, our best girls bedded down early. But three or four of the extra girls I’d brought along, knowing they probably wouldn’t be playing much the next day, de-cided to sneak out and visit the boys.
At midnight, I received a phone call from the motel’s manager. “Coach Hines,” he shouted, “please come and get your girls!” I found them in rooms occupied by boys teams from California and New Jersey. They were just talking, but even this was un-acceptable, especially for a team representing the YMCA, which always prides itself on its high standards. The coaches of the boys teams were furious with me and our “out of control” girls. I couldn’t blame them. I roused our other girls, and we had a serious one-hour chat at 1 a.m. about being responsible young adults. There was much debate and finger-pointing and contentiousness, not unusual for such a group of teenaged girls.
Thus it was a very tired and grumpy group of Asheville YMCA 14- and 15-year-olds who gathered on the deck of the Ransom School pool the following morning to take on a tough team from the Northern Virginia Aquatic Club. A few weeks previously, at ano-ther major tourney, our girls had edged Northern Virginia, a perennial power in women’s water polo in those days, 8-to-6. I knew Coach Bill Mahood and his NVAC gang were eager for revenge. And they got it. They played very well. Our distraught girls played poorly. The result was a Northern Virginia victory, 4-to-3, and NVAC went on to win all of its remaining games and claim the 1973 JO girls title.
As for us, our Asheville girls were divided into two groups: the best players, or starters, who were displeased with the actions of the extra girls I’d brought along, and the extras who had been backed into a corner by their own inappropriate behavior. I held two more team meetings and hoped for the best. Our girls responded reasonably well, easily de-feating opponents from Cerritos, California, and Dayton, Ohio, and the hosting Ransom School.
We then faced our arch-rival, North Dade YMCA of Miami, to see which club would take home the second-place trophy. During the ‘70s, when the YMCA of the USA had a comprehensive nationwide water polo program, Asheville and North Dade, coached by Mike Burdges, clearly had the best Y women’s and girls’ teams in the U.S. We both won major national AAU and YMCA tournaments, taking turns beating each other by the narrowest of margins. So it was no surprise that our clash at the 1973 JO Championships was a thriller. Our Asheville girls came from four goals down to win, 13-to-12, on a goal by Connie Hartman with four seconds remaining. We celebrated, and we celebrated again when Connie, who also was an All-America sprint swimmer, received the tournament’s MVP award, having scored six goals altogether against North Dade, including the game-winner.At the same time, we were very disappointed at losing to Northern Virginia and failing to defend our Junior Olympic title. I still think back on that occasion with much dismay, blaming myself for my laxness in supervising our teenaged girls. But maybe our young girls learned an important lesson, which is this: what you do and how you behave out of the pool often determines your successes, or failures, in the pool.
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