September 27, 2005 > Polo, wet and wild
Polo, wet and wild
Ohlone College builds a dynasty
There are no horses on this field of play. Competitors are powered only by their own muscles and determination as they move back and forth on a 25 meter field. This is water polo and at Ohlone College in Fremont, the Renegades men's team is building to become a powerhouse of the Collegiate Conference. Men's Water Polo Coach Gene Kendall, an Ohlone Alumnus, is currently in his 12th season at Ohlone and recruits heavily from the Tri-Cities of Fremont, Newark and Union City building this young program to a position of prominence. High school water polo is relatively new in the Tri-Cities, starting in 1997. Other parts of California have had programs for up to 40 years, so development of the sport for local athletes is working to "catch up."
Players for Coach Kendall's teams have come from all the local high schools. "It varies," he says, "although Washington High School has been pretty consistent year to year." Ohlone competes in the Coast Conference of the Community College League of California which includes Ohlone, West Valley, DeAnza, and Cabrillo. The schedule includes several non-conference matches during the year as well. Conference play ends with the conference championship in November.
This season looks promising to Coach Kendall. "We look really good this year; we should end up in the top couple of spots in our conference." From the conference championships, the NorCal playoffs determine who travels to the State championship pitting Northern California against Southern California. Asked if the Renegades have a chance, Kendall says, "We're hoping. We have a shot. We are starting to jell right now and playing good polo." Ohlone College Water Polo is a family affair for Coach Kendall; his son Gene is the college assistant coach and daughter Ashley currently plays for the women's team.
"A good polo player has good fundamental skills and speed," says Kendall. For those who are serious about playing the game, the coach encourages participation in the local water polo club, coached by his son, Gene, also an water polo alumnus of Ohlone. Playing with the Renegades Water Polo Club can train and sharpen skills for male and female players of all ages - from 6 years old to people in their 20's and even older - during winter and summer sessions. These teams train and play at Ohlone under the auspices of USA Water Polo.
Coach Kendall believes that this is excellent training for pre-high school players who want to enter school programs ready to excel. "If they are looking at water polo as something they want to do in high school, it's a good idea to get involved with our summer and winter polo programs as early as ten or eleven years of age. That way, by the time they get to high school, they have a good understanding of the game, water polo skills and understand the strategy of the game. They will have the skills and speed to become a good player."
Ohlone water polo programs are beginning to pay off; the girl's 16 and under team qualified for Junior Olympics. "We are becoming good enough to compete at the national level," says Gene. A team of men's age 20 and under went to nationals last summer and did well. Renegades water polo players have successfully transferred to play at 4-year schools. One alumnus, Mark Lawrence, subsequently played at Queens College (NY) and just signed with a professional team in Australia.
For those interested in watching this exciting sport, entrance to games is free at the Ohlone pool. To find the Renegades schedule of games, visit http://www.ohlone.edu/org/athletics/msports/mwaterpolo.html. For more information about Ohlone Water Polo or the Renegade Water Polo Club contact Gene Kendall, Head Coach, Ohlone Renegades Water Polo or Gene Kendall, IV, Assistant Coach and Head Coach Ohlone Renegades Water Polo Club (510) 659-6085, firstname.lastname@example.org (510) 659-6085.