If You Can’t Play Nice, Play Water Polo


Aleisha Paulick, Staff Writer

Boom! Just like that, Lamar’s water polo team has, at last, balled its way into becoming an HISD UIL sport for the 2022-2023 season and for seasons to come.

Although some knew about the water polo team, they were officially recognized as a UIL sport at the pep rally on Friday, Sept. 2 alongside football.

“It’s so well deserved for water polo,” junior Avery Williams said. “I’m a little biased considering I play, however in my opinion it is one of the hardest sports. You have to tread water for 3 to 5 minutes, the whole time you’re sprinting to balls, you can only use one hand and it is recognized and our team being recognized as State ranked is just really validating.”

For those that don’t know, UIL or University Interscholastic League is a league here in Texas that was established to promote educational competition.

“As a simple summary, UIL is the governing body for our official varsity sports,” Head water polo Coach Sally Woolweaver said. “One of the big things is now that we are UIL we do get extra funding. At Lamar, we’re very blessed here already, however, there are a bunch of smaller schools, especially in HISD, that don’t have equipment- such as balls and nets.”

Water polo is an hour-long game, with four, five to seven-minute quarters. During the game, players are treading water for the whole hour and are only allowed to throw the ball with one hand. Most of the players would describe the sport as a mixture of other sports in the water.

“The setup looks a little bit like basketball,” Woolweaver said. “You have a semicircle perimeter with one person in the middle, for basketball, it is a post player, for us, we call it our set player. There are a couple of rules that are a bit like hockey like you can be excluded from the game for an over-aggressive foul. If you get too many of those, you’re out of the game.”

Following Woolweaver is a letterman (a status symbol for varsity athletes that they earn and are chosen by coaches) in both swimming and water polo. As well as taking several teams to the National Junior Olympics.

“Water polo was always my first love,” Woolweaver said. “I played water polo in high school and club water polo. I’ve gone to and coached in the Junior Olympics. I played on both the men’s and the women’s teams at Baylor. One of the biggest reasons I got interested in water polo is because it was so much like soccer and it’s more fun than swimming. It’s fun and I know there’s a lot of swimmers that that’s their goal. Swimming for two hours looking at a black line to me is just not exciting.”

Everyone’s goal is to make it to state, however many of the players have other goals such as improving in endurance and/or improving in skills such as shooting.

“I would like to get more shots in,” Angie Rodriguez said. “I want to improve my leg work and work on using my left hand, there have been multiple occasions where I get the ball on my left side, and I can’t grab it.”

Other than going into their first districts, building up the team for years to come is what excites many of the players.

“I’m excited to build up this team for next year and win a lot of our district games,” Williams said. “We struggled a little bit in our pre-season, however, our district games are where we’re going to show out so I’m excited for that.”

As for the seniors, they’re happy knowing that when they graduate, there’ll still be people to continue the program.

“I feel lucky to be able to have a team with some amazing people who have lots of potentials.” senior and captain Connally Leach said.

Just like any other sports team, it feels like home. Surrounded by people who you lose with, win with, and celebrate with.

“With water polo, I feel like you’re just so much more of a team,” Williams said. “Your teammates become your family, y’all get hurt together and come out of a game with scratches and practice hard on each other. I love our team. The girls are so amazing and we’re all learning. We all treat each other like equals and it’s a very family-like team.”

Many of the players are swimmers at heart and couldn’t have imagined they’d be playing water polo. Just remember if you can’t play nice, join water polo.

“Join sports that you don’t think that you’re going to play,” Williams said. “Join anything that you don’t think you’re going to do because you have no idea how it’s going to impact you in the future. I loved it last year and I hate that I didn’t join my freshman year.”