Club water polo teams navigate challenges of pandemic
Right now, Newberg's club water polo teams were supposed to be gearing up for the thick of a summer schedule packed with games and tournaments all over the West Coast. Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, they are stuck at home, doing dry land workouts and keeping up with one another via the video conferencing app Zoom.
"We have been writing workouts for the kids and doing a weekly meeting with them over Zoom," boys club coach Jake Kinne said. "The plan is to get them back in the pool when it opens, follow all the rules and just focus on conditioning along with a handful of drills."
Newberg athletes plan to return to the pool at Chehalem Aquatic and Fitness Center around June 22, barring any sudden changes with the virus or regulations from the Chehalem Park & Recreation District. The pool has strict social distancing guidelines and athletes will only be allowed to do conditioning workouts and drills where they remain at least six feet apart in the pool.
It's expected that the squad won't play any games this summer. Kinne said he and girls coach Cari Blanchard are just hoping their teams can get in some water-based workouts.
"It's very up in the air right now," Kinne said. "If we get the go-ahead to return to contact, we'll throw a tournament together just to get the kids some game action, but that's as much as we would be able to do on short notice. (It's) not really possible to play a full schedule.
"Who knows what we're going to see if sports get cleared. We're ready and hoping we can get these kids training and, hopefully, they have an actual season in the fall. That's the most optimistic thing is hoping they don't have to miss the next high school season as well. There's no predicting anything lately, though."
It's hard for student-athletes to remain attentive with their training program when they're at home, and none of it compares to actually being in the pool and scrimmaging with one another. Even the workouts they will be allowed to do once they return to the water will look far different than what they might be used to.
The focus is on the fall, but Kinne hopes this summer isn't completely lost.
"They were probably doing better when school was going on and they were busier — now they're just bored," Kinne said with a laugh. "They're like, 'oh, this last week was so boring, we didn't do anything.' So it's been interesting. They can only train by themselves at home so many times before they start to lose interest, especially as a young person."
One major bright spot for Kinne, Blanchard and boys high school coach Jim McMaster was watching a handful of seniors graduate earlier this month. One of the girls from Newberg High School stood out among the pack in the pool and will play water polo at the next level as well.
Stella Byles, who led the Newberg girls team to a state title in her final high school campaign, will attend Villanova University in Pennsylvania in the fall. She is part of a class of high school athletes across the country who are unsure if they will even be taking in-person classes in the fall, let alone participating in their respective sports.
"Seniors don't get to play this summer and train, but hopefully college sports will resume at some point," Kinne said. "What a bummer if they missed out on the college experience at the very start. These kids are so resilient that no matter what happens, they'll get through it."
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