A few years ago, Park Hill High School senior Alex Lowery randomly played water polo after finishing his club swimming competition.
That experience — and the help of a few local coaches — has led to a water polo resurgence on the Kansas City-area high school sports scene.
Park Hill, Raytown and Lee’s Summit all have high school club teams this spring. Park Hill coach Greg Lane and Raytown coach Jim Aziere are working to get the sport ignited in the Kansas City area and they eventually want to create a state championship contest against St. Louis-area schools.
“There’s 22 high school teams in St. Louis,” Aziere said. “They have a city championship. They have full schedule. We just don’t have that in Kansas City — yet.”
If the sport can take off like it did at Park Hill, Kansas City won’t lack for teams very long.
After his introduction to the sport, Lowery wanted to bring it to life at Park Hill. He knew Lane, his brother-in-law, played for the Trojans 12 years ago.
So a handful of enthusiasts worked to revive it.
“We got into it,” Lowery said. “I did all the research and I decided that’s what I was going to be passionate about. It took off.”
Finding a coach was the first obstacle. Lowery approached Lane, who had recently moved back to the Kansas City area. Lane agreed to help out, and he knew the next step.
“There were a bunch of guys who were willing to get a team together,” Lane said. “I took that interest and gave Jim Aziere a call.”
If there’s a face of Kansas City-area water polo, it’s Aziere. He’s coached the sport at Raytown since the 1970s.
“What’s great about the sport is the kids absolutely love it,” Aziere said. “It’s really helped our swimming program a lot because, as kids come out for water polo, they want to get better, and go out for swimming. The sport only makes sense. If you have a pool, why would you not want to use it in the spring time?”
Water polo returned to Park Hill under Lane last year for the first time since he played in 2004. Now, in his second season as coach, Lane said the sport is getting wildly popular.
“Our players are always wanting to play,” he said. “Our numbers keep growing and growing. We have varsity and junior varsity squads this season.”
Lowery said the sport is the ultimate combination of smarts and physicality.
“I like the passive-aggression in it, the strategy in it,” Lowery said. “You have to work for every inch you get in the pool.”
Lane noted that North Kansas City and Blue Springs high schools are talking about starting teams, and that eventually he’d like to see it made into a additional high school sport.
“I know when I played under Doug Earnhart, his dream was to have it get sanctioned (by the Missouri State High School Activities Association), and then have a state championship against St. Louis,” Lane said. “That’s the goal.”
Aziere echoed Lane’s sentiments.
“If you could get the coaches involved, this sport would grow,” Aziere said. “You won’t have trouble getting the kids out.”