“It’s for Everybody”: UIL to add Water Polo in 2021
HOUSTON – This was for everybody.
It was for anyone who has ever played water polo since the 1970s. It was for Lamar coach Steve McDonald. It was for 10-year-old Baylor Slay.
For all of them the wait is over. Water polo will officially start its pilot program in Fall 2021 as a sanctioned UIL sport.
"It was scary because you don't know what to expect in that vote, it can go anyway," Foster water polo coach Chris Slay said.
Adding water polo to the sports lists marks the first sport to be added to the UIL since wrestling was added for the 1998-1999 season.
On Sunday, Slay was the one to give a speech, which he was allotted a maximum of five minutes to give, to the UIL Legislative Committee. Slay admitted it was a little scary facing a board of superintendents with his "nerves going about a million miles per hour".
The nerves carried over into Monday morning up until the vote was complete, which also included 205 schools saying they would play water polo when it starts in fall of 2021.
A school counted in that number is Foster, whose boys water polo team finished as TISCA State Runnerups in 2019 and the girls water polo team, which won a TISCA State Championship in May for the first in program history.
"I hope so or something has gone horribly wrong," Slay said about Foster being considered a contender when the sport starts in 2021. "I think we have infrastructure in place. There are good youth aquatic sports in the area where we are. We're trying to build a tradition and people are taking note and it's growing."
Leading up to that fall, Slay knows they will have to continue to grow.
"We're going to build," Slay said. "We have a pretty good group of young kids that are freshmen right now. We've got a lot coming into the program in the future. It's pretty exciting.
"My freshmen right now will get to see this happen, my sophomores as well," "It's going to be very exciting for them. My son is 10 years old and plays this sport, so I'm really excited for him by the time they're playing where we're going to be."
Getting the sport approved by the UIL was only step one of probably 1,000 before the inaugural season opens in 2021.
Slay knows what they must do in the under two-year window they have to get ready.
"We have to put out a good product," Slay said. "Every sport has referee challenges today, so we're no different. So, we're going to have to recruit and grow and use referees from sports like soccer and basketball. We will have to teach them, will have to teach coaches. It's going to be a lot of education components to it."