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 75, 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
One of the best women’s water polo teams in the country in the 1970s was the Asheville (NC) YMCA, coached by Chuck Hines. Starting from scratch with a very young squad, they won the Junior Olympics in 1972 and finished second in 1971, 1973, and 1975. They won the AAU Junior Women’s Indoors and Outdoors and then placed second at the 1975 AAU Senior Women’s Outdoors and tied for first at the 1976 AAU Senior Women’s Indoors. They represented the East Coast at the inaugural World Women’s Water Polo Club Championships in 1977, which was won by the Dutch team from Hilversum. Along the way, the Asheville Y girls traveled from Canada to California, New York to New Mexico, and Miami to Honolulu.
Coach Hines, who is now 75, and his players, who are now in their 40s and 50s, are working together to write a book about YMCA water polo in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. Entitled “Water Polo the Y’s Way,” it should be available in December. Twenty of his former players have written their memories of the past. The remembrances of one player can be found below. Selected as an AAU Junior All-American goalie in 1975 while competing for Asheville, she is now the married mother of one child and resides with her family in Marin County, California.
KATHY (OATES) McLEOD: My memories go back to the days of being on the Asheville Y swim team. I think I started in 1970. I must have been 10 years old. In practice, Coach Hines would have us do all kinds of swimming drills. At the swim meets, we ate jello powder out of the boxes. I swam breaststroke. We went to some big swim meets, maybe even national in scope. One day, Coach put out the balls for us to swim with. Then he had us do passing. As we learned, he would time us to see who could throw the most passes without a miss in one minute and then two minutes, using the right hand, then the left hand, then shifting from right to left, then turning around and passing. He brought out a huge medicine ball, and I developed good arm strength. I picked up the regular ball (men’s size in those days) and threw it fast and far with little effort. I was hooked after that.
In water polo practice, Coach was extremely unwavering in what he wanted us to do. He’d blow the whistle if we were in the wrong place. We’d all stop and listen to why, how, where, and when to be in a certain place. We never wanted to make the same mistake again. After each practice, he’d have us sit on the bench, and he’d slowly pace back and forth until we stopped fidgeting and talking. The only sound was the echo of the water settling in the pool. Not until all the sounds were gone would he start talking. He knew how to get our attention without saying a word.
He always managed to compliment each one of us. He encouraged us and made us feel very special. Each week we received a little newsletter recapping all of our practices or games or both. He would take time to underline our individual names in red so we’d read about our own accomplishments for the week. I hope someone saved those newsletters.
In our first year of water polo, it wasn’t clear what our individual strengths were, so he had all of us taking turns in the goal. Personally I loved swimming around the pool and trying to score, but that wasn’t what Coach had in mind for me. I was so disappointed when he put me in the goal. I was bored and dying to swim around. I disliked sitting in that cage. I was wondering if Coach thought I actually had a knack for blocking shots. How could he tell?
After practice one day, as I was gathering my towel and putting on my watch, I mustered up enough courage to request that I NOT be the goalie. Coach told me very firmly but with a slight smile that I WAS the goalie. I was so upset that I threw my watch down on the hard concrete deck of the university pool. Well, I broke my watch, and I was mad at myself. Over the next few weeks, I decided I’d better look at the cup as being half full rather than seeing it as half empty. I accepted my role as goalie. Soon I embraced the position and loved the shooting drills, the games, and being in that position.
We were the junior team, coming up the ladder after our championship varsity girls, and I remember the drive to Lima, Ohio, in Coach’s car for our first tournament in 1974. It was to be five-per-side in the small Lima YMCA pool. There were six of us, ages 13 and 14, and we all squeezed together in Coach’s Buick. We were full of excitement, and Coach was driving calmly and never saying a word. We beat the three other teams at Lima, and I think we realized then that we had good potential.
Flying to Philadelphia for our next tourney at Lower Moreland High School was a first for me. I recall my father saying absolutely NO to that trip. I was devastated at the thought of not being able to go. I knew how much I loved the sport and my teammates, and wondered how in the world I was going to tell everyone that I couldn’t go. Somehow my father changed his mind at the last minute. We were all excited about flying. We met at the YMCA, and we had on our best dresses to wear on the plane. This was when the style was almost all mini-length skirts. I think we all looked very cute.
In Philadelphia, we stayed in the homes of their team members. Our host girl was very nice and one of the best players on their team. She had a true attitude of good sportsmanship, but once we got into the water, she was a fierce competitor. She drove us places for sight-seeing, and at one point we were lost. Tricia Derrough of our Asheville team was with us, and she could find her way around as though she had a built-in compass. She knew exactly where to go and what to do without ever looking at a map. I think she could do that in the pool, too, when playing water polo. She was always in the right place at the right time. We won this tourney, beating three other Eastern teams, and we kept on winning.
We were undefeated against other teams our age, 15-and-under, when we went to Toledo, Ohio, for the Junior Olympic Championships in August, 1975. We had to play a very good team from Miami in the semifinals. Coach had us really pepped up for this game. We won easily, 8-0, with DeeDee Dave leading the way. But we had a hard time in the finals against Tucson, Arizona, the unbeaten champions from the West. Their girls, who were BIG, kept shooting at my face. One time the ball rebounded back to them, and they took another shot at my face. Finally I managed to swim out and wrestle the ball back to our possession. One of their shots caught me off-guard when I had my hands in the water. It hit me so hard that the ball took some skin off my cheek. I remember that! When we drove home, I pressed my face against the window of Coach’s car to soothe the burn. We were excited about taking that trip but not in such a happy mood going home because we’d lost the championship game to Tucson, 9-5.
When I look back on those years, I must admit I’ve never seen anything like it, the way our little group of girls kept on coming back day after day, year after year, and practicing in various pools all over Asheville from morning to night. There were no Olympic Games, no college scholarships, and no future to think of in the sport of women’s water polo. It was just the love of the game that kept us going. The girls trained together and became best friends. Coach saw our potential and pushed us, trusted us, and that was the glue that held us together. We knew we needed each other. I hated when it ended!
Note: Kathy Oates and Tricia Derrough, both Junior All-Americans, moved up to the YMCA varsity and continued playing polo into the 1980s. Another member of the Y team, DeeDee Dave, also a Junior All-American, kept on playing as a member of the Slippery Rock University team, coached by Doc Hunkler.
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