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
In 1975, Mercersburg Academy in Pennsylvania hosted the U.S. Junior Indoor Championships, which at the suggestion of the national women’s water polo chairman was turned into the 1st North American Invitational.
The Mercersburg swimming and water polo coach at that time was Pat Barry, and he had several All-America prep school swimmers who were proficient poloists. The national women’s chairman was, well, this writer. I too, as coach at the Asheville YMCA in North Carolina, had some fast teenaged swimmers who were good polo players. In fact, our Y girls had won the U.S. Junior Olympics in 1972 and then the U.S. Junior Indoors and Junior Outdoors. As a result, we were no longer eligible for junior competition. So we went to Mercersburg and played in the North American category.
The number of entries at Mercersburg was quite small. I believe there were eight teams entered alto-gether, five from the East and South, two from Canada, and one from California.
Commerce, coached by Sandy Nitta, was the California club. Believe it or not, in those days there were just four women’s and girls’ teams from the entire State of California – Anaheim, Fresno, Cerritos, Commerce – that were competing nationally. They were all good. Our Y girls from North Carolina had done well against them. We had beaten Anaheim once while losing twice to Coach Stan Sprague’s team; we had split even in our two games with Fresno, which was coached by Flip Hassett; and we had dunked Cerritos in Junior Olympic action. So we were 3-3 against California.
Commerce came to the competition at Mercersburg, and with their well-coached team of teenagers, they had no trouble winning the Junior Indoor title. This was the first of many national championships taken by Sandy Nitta and her Commerce club.
Our Asheville girls defeated one of the U.S. teams and the two Canadian clubs in the North American bracket, and then we faced Commerce for the overall tournament title. It was a tight tussle, but Ashe-ville prevailed, 6-to-3. Hamilton of Ontario finished third and Mercersburg fourth.
The next year, in 1976, Mercersburg hosted the combined U.S. Senior Indoors and 2nd North American Invitational. Asheville and Slippery Rock University, coached by Doc Hunkler, played to a 2-to-2 tie in the U.S. championship game. A very strong squad from Ste-Foy of Quebec, Canada, coached by Claude LaVoie, won the North American title by beating our Asheville girls, 7-to-4. Hamilton of Ontario and Chicago, coached by Jim Mulcrone, and Mercersburg, still led by Pat Barry, were the other top chal-lengers, and there were additional entries from New York and West Virginia and elsewhere.
A year later, in 1977, Ste-Foy hosted the first real women’s international tournament, with clubs in-vited from Australia, the Netherlands, the U.S. and of course Canada. This was followed by an even larger international tourney conducted by Sandy Nitta and Commerce out in California. And finally, in 1978, FINA sanctioned women’s water polo as an accredited sport. It took a joint effort by teams and coaches from the East, South, and West, and from our neighbors in Canada, to get the water polo ball rolling in women’s international competition. The Aussies and Dutch jumped in to facilitate the process. It’s interesting that these four countries – the U.S., Canada, Australia, the Netherlands – remain among the best internationally as we continue the countdown to the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, China.
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