LEANDER (KXAN) — Last fall marked the first full season of water polo as a UIL sport throughout the Lone Star State.
Within the Leander Independent School District, three schools — Cedar Park, Vandegrift and Vista Ridge High School — had both boys and girls teams, who hopped in the pool for a successful start.
In January, the district decided to discontinue its water polo programs.
This decision devastated students, such as Cedar Park sophomore Kaydence Wilkinson, who says a family was forged in the water during her first full season.
“We might not have had the best equipment or the largest numbers, but this season was so much fun,” she said.
Leander ISD cited staffing issues and a lack of facilities as the reasons behind suspending water polo.
“It was devastating really,” Vandegrift sophomore Ava Chamas said. “Water polo is my passion, I love it.”
“Going into my senior year, it’s going to be my last chance,” Cedar Park junior Noah Luttrell added. “If we don’t have a season, then I don’t get to play anymore for high school teams, so I was really upset about it.”
Now, students from these three schools have come together in an effort to bring back their beloved sport.
“Thousands of people helped by sending emails, talking to school board members and trying to do anything we can,” Luttrell explained.
The group of teens has even spoken at a few LISD school board meetings.
“We’ve also been writing petitions, trying to get people to support us,” Chamas said.
Chamas created a ‘Save Water Polo’ petition, which has collected over 1,200 signatures thus far.
KXAN reached out to LISD to ask about how this effort could help bring back water polo districtwide.
Athletic director Jonathan Lamb sent the following statement:
During the pilot season of water polo UIL competition, the athletic administration along with the swim coaches, monitored and had many conversations around the availability of facilities and properly staffing the sport. Over the past several weeks, we have had vibrant conversations with our parents, students and water polo community. We are continuing this dialogue to help collaborate and engage with our families in hopes that solutions may arise to lead us to offer water polo as a UIL competitive sport in the future.Jonathan Lamb
The students say they’re working with their respective cities and local Homeowners Associations to schedule practice in pools.
“For the coaching problem, we can run our own practices,” Luttrell said. “Our captains know what we’re doing. We just need a district official there for legal reasons.”
For these teens, the possibility of a fall without water polo would be devastating.
“This is basically their ticket into college, some of us want to go to college for water polo and high school water polo is a big part of that,” Chamas concluded.
Next Monday, representatives from all three high schools will meet with LISD’s athletic department to brainstorm potential solutions for bringing back water polo.