Boys water polo will be coming to Gig Harbor High School this year.
The team will be recognized as a club, as Title IX restrictions prevent it from being a varsity sport. It will be affiliated with the school, but it won’t receive the same financial support.
Harrison Oak, a 24-year-old who played water polo at Peninsula High School and also at Central Washington University, will coach the Tides. Oak previously worked as a coach at the Narrows Aquatics Association in Gig Harbor.
“They decided to start a boys team, a U-18 team,” Oak said. “They needed a coach for that, so they offered me that, and so I’ve been doing that since December.
“I really enjoyed it,” he said. “Their season just got over with last month. Then they were able to get this water polo going at Gig Harbor, so I put my name in and applied, and got the job.”
The team will compete against schools such as Bainbridge Island, Stadium and Wilson. It is allowed to have up to 20 regular-season games, and Oak has been trying to fill the schedule.
“I think there’s only like eight to 10 league games, so last night (Aug. 22) we had our water polo meeting, and all the teams from all the different leagues were there,” Oak said. “I was able to set up — I think we have like 19 games now and a couple tournaments, a JV tournament and a varsity tournament.”
Oak said he would like to have 20 to 22 players try out in order to field both a varsity and JV team. Since the program is new, he’s not sure what the turnout will be, but he said he has a feel for how many kids will try out.
“I’ve gotten verbal commitments from at least 20 guys that were in NAA, so hopefully they’ll keep with their commitment and try out,” Oak said. “I’m hoping that I don’t even have to hold tryouts, that everyone can just join the team, but if it comes to the point where I have 25 or 30 guys, I’ll have to make cuts somewhere.”
Oak said his expectations are more about development than wins, since the program is new.
“I’m honestly just kind of excited to see what the other teams are all about, ’cause I honestly don’t know their skill level, I don’t know how good they are compared to us,” Oak said. “I’m expecting to do pretty well. I would like to make it to state — they take the top two teams from the league, and then they also have the two wildcards. If we make the wildcard seed, I’d be happy. But honestly, it’s not all about wins, it’s all about growth.”
Oak said they’ve gained experience as they’ve scrimmaged against the Gig Harbor girls water polo team, which has won several state championships.
“I’m just excited to get in and see what my boys can do,” he said. “They did decent against them. They tied them (the girls) in one of the games and actually beat them in the JV game. I’m just excited to see what they can do.”
The team’s first game will be Sept. 12, and its first league game will be Sept. 18.