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Water polo players hindered by pool closure

By Simone Willcox

The sign outside of the AHS pool sends disappointed swimmers away Photo by Simone Willcox
The sign outside of the AHS pool sends disappointed swimmers away
Photo by Simone Willcox

The Alameda High School (AHS) swimming pool, known as the Emma Hood Swim Center, has been nonfunctional for more than seven weeks and the Alameda County Board of Education has decided to spend $160,000 to buy new, working equipment.

The heaters in the pool are broken and they will not be fixed for another six to eight weeks. However, during the period in which the pool was inoperative, the school’s and the city’s water polo teams could not avoid some serious setbacks.

With the water polo high school season coming to a close, the teams needed the pool more than ever and the water polo coaches and AHS athletic director Brad Thomas were searching for pools to rent out for the teams. The AHS women’s water polo team practiced at Laney College Aquatic Center towards the end of the season.

The specific cause for this malfunction is unknown, though sophomore water polo player Jacob Thompson thinks it is pretty straightforward. He blames the broken heaters on “old age” and describes the pool as being, “a little old and a little broken.”

According to Maintenance, Operations and Facilities (MOF) director Robbie Lyng, thousands of dollars have been invested in the pool the last couple of years for quick repairs, but now the district has decided to invest in a new heater and a filtration system.

Lyng says that due to the age of the equipment, the problem could not have been avoided.

Senior Morgan Hashimoto thinks that this whole situation could have been prevented if “water polo was more appreciated” as a sport.

The Emma Hood pool does not meet the measurements of a regulation water polo pool, but compared to the other swim centers in Alameda, it is the closest local water polo teams have to the real thing. When the problems first manifested, even with the broken heaters, the school teams had no other convenient option.

Thompson says they originally tried to “tough it out” and wore wetsuits to practice even though most players, including Hashimoto, hate wearing them.  “The worst part is getting the wetsuit on and dreading that first jump in the pool,” she says. “I get really mad, partially because I’m so cold…and because I’m a senior; it’s my last year and we can’t really practice.”

Along with the AHS water polo team, junior Marco Cazares plays on a club team and says that they were forced to practice at a regulation pool in San Leandro. “Everyone’s pretty annoyed,” Cazares says about the commute, “because we have to travel farther…it limits practice time.”

Once the pool temperature dropped, it did not take long for the AHS water polo teams to experience similar problems. “We die every day at practice, we can’t stay in thepool as long,” Hashimoto says and jokingly adds, “We cry.”

But in all seriousness, pool time is crucial for the performance of water polo players.

Hashimoto says the overall productiveness of practices plummeted when the heater broke. During the first few days, the water polo teams had “rest days.” Days later, the heaters were still broken, which forced the water polo coaches to supplement practices with conditioning outside the pool known as “dry land practices.”

After warming up, the players would suit up and spend as much practice time as they could bear in the pools – usually no more than thirty minutes. “After a while, our arms get really cold and we can’t pass or shoot as well,” Hashimoto says.

When asked how the loss of practice time would affect the teams’ chances at league games, Thompson shrugs, “We’ll come though, we always come through.”

 

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