Volume 2 Number 2 Sandy Nitta July 1, 2008

Sandy NittaAge 15 made US Olympic Swim Team - 200 mt Breaststroke.
City of Commerce: Novice Swim Coach & Life Guard - AAU Swim Coach & Senior Guard -    Water Polo Coach & Pool Manager then promoted to Aquatic/Recreation Supervisor. Began the City of Commerce Water Polo  Team in 1971.
1977 Hosted the 1st International Women's Tournament - which began the planning for    Women's International Competitions for the future.
1979 1st USA Junior National Head Coach.
1980 USA Senior National Coach to 1994.
(On the FINA sub committee which helped promote women's water polo in the world -  made rule changes for women's water polo - smaller ball, shorter course - improved    the professional aspects of women;s water polo.)
Member of the USA Water Polo Hall of Fame.
Head Coach for Queensland, Australia State Team
Head Coach for Brasil - Coached in the 1st Pan Am Game for Women (Coached Brasil to    it's 1st win ever over the USA).
Head Coach Team Vegas 1994 to 1999.
Head Coach Tualatain Water Polo in Oregon (coached Elsie Windes).
Head Coach Team Vegas/Henderson 2004 to present.
Coach former players to the Gold Medal at the Masters World Championships in 2006.
Event Director of the Master Festival for USAWP.
Member of the USAWP Hall of Fame Committee.
Member of the USAWP Master Committee.

Still love the sport at all levels - this summer I am coaching a 10 & Under Coed team at Junior Olympics!!!

Remembrance of Things Past


This article is on the lighter side of the Women’s National Team’s history. Recently I have seen many of my former national team players: Master World Championships last summer at Stanford, age group tournaments (which they were either coaching or watching their children play) and each time we get together we talk about not the games but the great times we had together. 

It seemed like every trip we always had at least one memorable situation happen. During the years we had many characters and here are a few of the more interesting stories involving these characters.

We were in Hungary playing in a Women’s Tournament along with a Men’s LEN tournament, this was back in the early 90’s and LEN (European) Referees did not referee many Women’s games. (Dave Alberstein was our USA official and was the 1st American Referee to do a LEN tournament!! Dave refereed the men’s side and the LEN referees did the women’s games).  These games were called like no other games I had ever seen and like no other game I have seen since.  The LEN Referees let everything go. I think they wanted to get the game over quickly so they did so by not blowing any whistles and let the clock run.  At that time it was not very funny but looking back, it is pretty funny now.  We are playing the Dutch team: I am yelling at Maureen O’Toole because she is on offense and swimming back to defense chasing a Dutch player trying to punch her lights out. Sandy Vessey (Goalie) was making an outlet passes trying to hit the Dutch player on the head. Lynn Wittstock would hit any Dutch player and swim away; she was so fast they could not catch her. Serna Buckholtz (the youngest player and her first International Tournament/Game) was afraid to get in the water. Theresa Breckon was getting so upset; she is just hanging on the wall, rolling her eyes, and not wanting any part of this so called water polo game.  I pride myself in remembering every game, every situation but this game I cannot remember the score or even who won that game – I do know we won the battle in the water. We played this game in the morning and had the rest of the day off, which meant that with so much down time this could only spell trouble.

After breakfast some of the USA players and players from Hungary (our good friends outside of the water) were sitting in Vessey and Lynn Wittstock’s room. They went out on their balcony and saw “The Dutch Suits” hanging on the balcony next door…. (trouble about to happen) so Maureen O’Toole, Vessey, Wittstock and some of the Hungarian players: Beach Bunny, Ballerina, The Kicker, Marge and Crow (these were nicknames we gave the Hungarian Players) got a long stick and unwrapped the suits from the balcony and brought them into the room. Then a bright idea came to them – let’s cut the crouch out. So they cut the suits then the Hungarians took the suits, wet them and asked the kitchen to put the suits in the freezer. To top this off someone took pictures of someone’s hand cutting the suits (they sure looked like Mo’s hands).

When the Dutch found their suits were missing – they confronted the Hungarian players calling them all kinds of names and following them around the hotel threatening them with bodily harm. So the Hungarian players came to Lynn Wittstock (I guess it was her bright idea in the first place) asking Lynn to tell the Dutch players it was not them who had cut the suits. So now you have the Dutch following the Hungarians around the hotel – the Hungarians are looking for Lynn – Lynn is hiding in my bathroom, lying in the tub all afternoon till after dinner. The Hungarians kept coming to my room asking for Lynn…. This went on for at least 8 hours. So finally I went to the Dutch room with most of the Hungarian players telling them I cut the suits and it is not their fault. Being good friends with the Dutch Team Leader, and having done some big favors for some of the Dutch players I figured nothing would happen to me and poor Lynn could come out of my bathroom. This ends one of many situations we got into and somehow things turned out OK.

Let me tell you about a few of the places the National Team Players and staff have stayed during tournaments and or training trips.

Holland:  What we referred to as: Camp Snoopy – this was down the street from one of their training centers.  Picture it: drive into a wooded area after midnight – with no outside light and a dirt road.  An old red brick building!! Walk in and you are in this large room with tables and chairs, off to the side is a small kitchen with old plates, few forks, knives and spoons.  On the left side of this large room are 2 rooms with wall to wall bunk beds.  On the other side are 5 rooms also with wall to wall bunk beds.  We all decide to stay on the side with two rooms because the other side smells bad from the toilets that did not flush.  So 16 of us are in two rooms with 4 bunk beds.  Let’s say Cozy not crowded.  The cost for our wonderful rooms includes (yes we had to pay for this) meals, what a bargin!!!  The meals were brought to us in Vats and left on the door step (really!!).  Meals consisted of beans, beans with a large chunk of bacon fat, or beans with a red sauce or beans with a light brown sauce.  So after one day of beans we decide to go shopping and make our own meals in the Charlie Brown kitchen at Camp Snoopy.

The nice part of these living quarters was: we had no TV so everyone came to the family room and we played table games, cards, read books, did homework or just sat around and talked.  Guess we know why we called it the family room.

France:  We stayed in a small, really small place, can’t say it was a hotel, but can say it was a dive!!  We have to lug our suitcases and team gear up this spiral stair case; this took about 10 minutes per person to carry one suitcase up to our room.  All 12 of us were in one small room with 6 bunk beds, 3 on one side and 3 on the other side.  The bunk beds went from the door to the end of the room.  The bottom bunks went to the rookies and the younger players because:  when you got in the top bunk all the dust and bed bugs came out of the mattress onto the person who was in the bottom bunk.  When we walked from one side of the room to the other you had to turn sideways so you could pass each other.  We only came back to this awful place to sleep.  This was the #1 place not to stay on my list!!!

Malta:  After the FINA Cup in 1980 we traveled to Malta for an International Tournament.  I will only tell you about the place we stayed, maybe later I will write something about the pool with seaweed, sea snakes and sea bugs we played in.  On to Places Not to Stay – we stayed in this nunnery (Convent) we were all sleeping in the huge room with beds lined up on both sides – the room was huge, almost the size of a small church.  Most of the beds were OK but again our rookies got the beds that sank in the middle.  One night Ruth Cox slept on the floor because being a youngest rookie she got the worst bed which looked like a horse with a sway back.  One morning while she was sleeping we turned one of the beds upside down and placed it over her.  Ruth looked like she was sleeping behind bars.  In the morning she got up and just gave her cute little snicker.  That night the girls got me back, they tied me to my bed (my arms and legs were tied to the posts) and rolled the bed out in the hallway.  The nuns came and had to untie me.  But I got them back by leaving them on the island without and airline ticket (true story but again for another day).

USA: San Diego – We entered the National team in a Women’s Tournament that Denny Harper hosted.  I had a room at Motel close by, nothing fancy.  Well the all the players ended up staying in my room – I had two double beds, here is how we slept:  3 per bed – Theresa Breckon slept in the small closet because she could not sleep unless it was dark, and no one could say a word.  I think Simone La Pay was sleeping in the bath tub and the rest were on the floor.  We are ready to turn out the lights and no one wants to get up and switch the lights off, so we all start throwing things to try to hit the light switch we got one light out but still needed the other light out so they all got up and got their shoes, towels, books, bags, get back into bed and begin to throw things at the switch this goes on till the front desk calls my room and informed me to stop making all that noise or we would be out in the street.  Crazy, 14 people in one room, throwing everything in sight to shut off the light!!

Now we did play some awesome water polo, we worked hard, we were intense and all so competitive but we ALWAYS took time to have fun!!

Lest We Forget: Pioneers of Women's Water Polo

WATER POLO PLANET.COM: the Alternative Voice www.waterpoloplanet.com