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
During my 40-year coaching career, mostly for the YMCA, from 1957 through 1997, I had the good fortune to teach and develop a number of champion athletes in four sports: swimming, kayaking, triathlon, and water polo.
Coaching swimming, kayaking, and triathlon took one set of skills because these were “individual” sports.
Coaching water polo required a completely different set of skills because, obviously, this was a “team” sport. Furthermore, coaching the boys was done one way and coaching the girls another way.
I believe I did my best coaching job with an “individual” athlete in the “team” sport of water polo. It was with a girl. She was Elizabeth Jeter, who, when I came to Asheville, was one of the slowest swimmers on the local YMCA youth swim squad. In fact, when the Y team was divided into two sections, she was relegated to the slower of the two. She was 13 years of age, and when I timed her, she did the 100-yard freestyle in a pokey 1:11.
We were just starting a water polo program in Asheville, during the winter months of 1969-1970, and when we played a few games, I inserted Elizabeth into the fray as a substitute. We won these games against other relatively inexperienced teams here in the Carolinas and thus qualified for the Junior Olympic Championships, which were being contested in August of 1970 at St. Louis, Missouri.
There was a single age category at the JO Championships, 15-and-under, and we had a tough time organizing a team from our beginning-level program to go to St. Louis. We ended up with two 15-year-olds, three 14-year-olds, and three 13-year-olds. One of the 13-year-olds was Elizabeth, our s-l-o-w-e-s-t swimmer. What position should she play?? Although slow, she handled the ball reasonably well and seemed to have a serious atti-tude. So I stuck her at hole forward, or Set, in front of the opposing team’s goal. We had no one else to play that position, and maybe by being down at the offensive end of the pool, her slow swimming wouldn’t hurt us too badly on defense.
After being battered in our opening game, 18-to-3, by the national champion Sheridan Swim Club from Quincy, Illinois, we lost two more matches, 5-to-3 and 9-to-8, before finally tying one game, 5-to-5. When the smoke had cleared, we were in last place. In our four games, we’d managed 19 goals, and lo and behold, Elizabeth had scored 13 of them for us from her Set position. She was amazing, displaying a powerful arm and a unexpected array of shots for a 13-year-old. As a result, she was named to the all-tournament and/or Junior All-America Team.
Instead of dropping out of swimming for being s-l-o-w, like so many youngsters, Elizabeth was encouraged to stay in the water and keep on plug-in away as a water poloist. She practiced diligently, and the next year, as a 14-year-old, she was our top scorer as our girls defeated all other Southeastern opponents easily and then upset Sheridan Swim Club twice in an intersectional skirmish, 25-to-10 and 17-to-12. At the JO Championships, Elizabeth led our girls to second place. Again she was selected to the all-tournament and/
or Junior All-America Team.
A year later, our YMCA girls WON the Junior Olympics, held in Nebraska, and Eliza-beth, now 15, scored all 9 of our goals in our 9-to-4 triumph in the title tilt. She earned the MVP award and all-tournament and Junior All-America honors for a third time.
By now, we were also competing in U.S. Senior Women’s competition. In those pre-Title IX days, there was practically no college women’s water polo in the country except at Slippery Rock University in Pennsylvania, where Doc Hunkler was working hard to promote intercollegiate women’s water polo. As a result of this situation, Senior Women’s competition was generally being played by older teenaged girls ages 17, 18, 19, plus maybe a handful of 20- and 21-year-olds. Almost all were strong swimmers, some of them Olympians from California and Cincinnati and Nashville, who also enjoyed water polo. Games were played in smaller 25-yard and occasionally 25-meter pools, and the action was fast and furious, with an emphasis on finesse rather than roughness. It was fun to play and fun to coach and fun to watch.
Our Asheville YMCA girls slowly climbed the Senior Women’s ladder, from 6th to 4th to 2nd. We took on the top teams in the U.S. from Florida to California, from New York to New Mexico. We even flew out to Hawaii to play. Our gal Elizabeth continued to ex-cel. At every tourney, she ranked among the top scorers. She was a slender 5-9 and 130 pounds, stunningly beautiful, and an honor student in high school. She had improved her swimming speed for the 100-yard freestyle to 1:01, still one of the slowest on our squad, but her stamina was superb as we now had two swim-conditioning sessions weekly along with four or five polo practices. She was adept at getting good position in front of the opposing team’s goal, wriggling free from the defensive holds, and firing the ball into the net. She took most of our penalty shots, and I don’t recall her ever missing one.
At the 1976 U.S. Senior Women’s Indoor Championships, held at Mercersburg Academy in Pennsylvania, our girls walloped several teams in the preliminary rounds, whipped a Chicago club coached by Jim Mulcrone in the semis, and then faced Doc Hunkler’s Slippery Rock women in the finals. One of the refs was Paul Barren. Paul and Doc and Jim Mulcrone have all been inducted into the U.S. Water Polo Hall of Fame, so there was quite an array of talent on the deck at Mercersburg.
For this tourney, we were missing one of our normal starters and then, against Slippery Rock, lost another starter who suffered a broken nose in the second quarter (okay, per-haps there was SOME roughness in those days), and it looked grim for us, as Doc’s gals were ahead 2-to-1 with time expiring. Gathering around their goal to protect it, Slippery Rock left no room for Elizabeth to set up. I shouted, “Shoot!” and she did, from 30’ out, with just two seconds remaining. Her long, hard shot rocketed into a corner of the goal and tied the score at 2-to-2. There were no overtimes in those days, so the Asheville vs. Slippery Rock championship match ended in a deadlock. Afterwards, Elizabeth was selected as a Senior All-American for the third time.
In the spring of 1977, our YMCA girls played internationally at Montreal and Quebec City against the Aussies, Canadians, and Dutch. Elizabeth was in college by now and in a tough pre-med program, so she wasn’t in very good shape, and although she played in this tournament, which was billed as the World Women’s Club Championships, her performance was mediocre at best. However, that summer we hosted our own national/ international/invitational tourney here in Asheville, and Elizabeth was in better shape. In easy Asheville victories over Houston, 18-to-6, and Fort Lauderdale, 12-to-3, she scored 6 and 5 goals, respectively. Against powerful North Miami Beach, despite being double-teamed, she tallied 4 goals as Asheville survived a scare, 9-to-8.
This put us in the championship clash with Quebec City, a club that was ranked No. 2 in the world at that time, just behind the Dutch champions. The score was tied 5-to-5 at halftime, but the Quebecois forged ahead in the second half to win, 9-to-6. Elizabeth tossed in 3 of our 6 goals. She emerged as the No. 1 scorer and earned the MVP award for this tournament, which was her last one, as she concentrated on her pre-med studies thereafter.
For Asheville, too, this was our last big tournament, as the YMCA of the USA dropped water polo as a sanctioned national sport in 1978. While we in Asheville kept on playing throughout the 1980s/1990s and even hosted an Olympic Development Clinic in 1984 as part of the Los Angeles Olympic Games, our playing was amongst ourselves in the small YMCA pool and strictly for fun, fitness, and fellowship.
Elizabeth, meanwhile, graduated from the Univ. of North Carolina with honors, attended medical school, and is now, 30 years later, in 2007, a practicing physician here in Asheville. An anesthesiologist, she’s married to Dr. Don Trask, a pediatrician, and they have two children, one of whom is active with the YMCA.
I still see Elizabeth once or twice yearly, and we exchange monthly emails. Recently she wrote, “Thanks for all you did for me.” I would like to think that my coaching helped her or at least encouraged her. She and I worked hard on her swimming and on her water polo. I worked even harder on keeping our team of teenaged girls together and playing as a unit. I put in about 10 hours weekly with these girls over a period of nearly 8 years, from the winter of 1969-1970 through the summer of 1977. Much of it was in my spare time and unpaid. I seldom missed a practice. Elizabeth seldom missed a practice. While she was our leading scorer, she’ll be the first to tell you that she didn’t do it alone, that it was a “team” effort. Four other Asheville YMCA girls earned Senior All-America status as our team traveled extensively and won not only the YMCA Championships thrice but also the Junior Olympics and the U.S Junior Women’s Indoors and Outdoors and the U.S. Senior Women’s Indoors while also competing internationally against the “world’s best” of that era.
Twice Elizabeth announced she was quitting. One time was at the age of 16, when, like so many girls that age, she was busy with her schoolwork and became interested in boys (or vice-versa, as she was a beauty). I was able to talk her into continuing. The second time was at the age of 18, when she headed off to college. I eventually coaxed her back into the pool, and she played her best-ever water polo as a 20-year-old against outstand-ing opposition at our invitational tourney in the summer of ‘77.
In retrospect, Elizabeth had what it took to be a success. Her main attributes were her mental toughness and determination. This enabled her to get into medical school 25 years ago, when the admittance of women was still unusual. I mostly encouraged her, and I was lucky to come along for the ride with her, and it was a memorable experience for me.
NOTE: As with all YMCA athletic activities, there was more to it than just “playing the game.” As a team, we attended religious events once or twice annually, and I remember holding hands and praying together before winning the JOs in 1972. At the three YMCA Nationals we attended, we conducted Sunday morning devotionals for all the participants. As a service project, our girls also taught several free youth learn-to-swim courses every summer for the Asheville YMCA. Winning is cool, but the Y emphasizes more than that.
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