The Oakwood Water Polo Club begins its season June 13 in hopes of changing that trend. Club water polo has existed in East County for only two years, a fact that Oakwood’s Co-founder, President, and Technical Director Nick Araujo believes greatly contributes to this area’s lack of success in the sport.
“What was lacking was a structure in the water polo community, or lifestyle,” said Araujo. “Those kids have had programs since fourth or fifth grade and have been together for a number of years when they get to high school.”
The name Oakwood is a combination of Oakley and Brentwood, but the program is open to all kids in East County. The competitive program will start with kids in fourth grade and up, and offer a splashball league to the younger age levels.
The program uses Deer Valley High School’s pool, hopes to branch out to Heritage and Freedom, and looks to get help from the more successful programs throughout the Bay Area. One of those programs is Lamorinda, whose director, Boyd Lachance, works as a program consultant for Oakwood. Lachance is also the associate head coach of the men’s water polo team at UC Berkeley.
“The East Bay is strong in aquatics,” said Lachance, who has been involved in water polo since 1979. “Oakley, Brentwood and Antioch are kind of on the fringe. It would be great to add (Oakwood) to these communities. There’s a need for it. There will be a benefit in both the short and long term.”
Oakwood’s long-term goal is to recruit elementary and middle-school players into the program so that by the time they reach high school, they’ll have achieved a level of teamwork equal to their opponents. Additionally, Oakwood has instructors who have contacts with college coaches throughout the country.
One of the older kids who could benefit from Oakwood is Ty Elder, who recently finished his junior year at Heritage. Elder has played water polo since falling in love with the sport as a freshman. He has participated in some of the Bay Area’s club programs and is participating in the Oakwood program as an instructor and student.
“In my eyes, it’s such a different sport than others,” said Elder. “It’s something different and it’s fun. It’s a great group of people. It’s just a different mindset.
“Water polo in this area has been new; it’s starting to boom. It’s getting better and more competitive.”