Peninsula High School girls water polo head coach Chelsea Laning will return for her second season at the helm, and she’s trying to change the culture of the program.
Laning, who has been successful with the Peninsula boys water polo program for several years, brings expertise to the girls side, even though participation was down. As of last week, the Seahawks had just nine players in the pool.
For the numbers to increase, there needs to be more cooperation between the sports of swimming and water polo, Laning said.
“Swimming doesn’t always feed into water polo, and vice versa, and I think that’s something that I’d like to change here at Peninsula,” she said. “(We need to) have both aquatics programs support each other, like the other sports between running and sports that feed into that.
“Soccer players, they run,” she said. “Water polo players, we swim. So there should be a relationship between the two teams that I’m hoping to start closing the gap, so we can get both numbers up and help feed into our program.”
Peninsula does return some experience with senior Jessica Clayton and junior Tara Price.
“Last year was a pretty good year for us,” Clayton said. “Unfortunately, we didn’t make it to state, but we were very close. We had a really good team last year. We lost quite a few seniors.”
The primary goal this year is to build the program back up, Price said.
“We don’t have very many people,” she said. “We’re just recruiting, trying to get more people to try it. I think our main goal is just being unified as group, just because we’re so small.”
Laning said there are several girls who had quit the sport before she arrived, and now they’re giving it a second shot.
“That’s exciting to be able to bring those players back to our team,” Laning said. “We’re a small group, but I think we have some quality girls in here that are gonna make it a great season.”
Clayton said the team’s numbers aren’t concerning.
“Quality over quantity is what our mindset is,” she said.
After all, it likely will mean more opportunities for one-on-one instruction, Price said.
“We just get to work together, and since there’s so few of us, I guess the returners get to teach the new people, and we just work together,” she said.
Laning said winning games wouldn’t be the primary emphasis even if the team had a greater turnout.
“I think sports is about the journey, the commitment, the teamwork, the camaraderie between the girls on the team or the boys on the team,” Laning said. “I don’t emphasize win, win, winning. I want them to learn the game. I want them to be water polo players. I want them to be able to come out of the pool — win or lose — and know that they did their best, and that put all they could into it, and that there’s always room for improvement and to learn more.”
Laning likes the group she has and is optimistic about their chances.
“It’s a small team, but I think every one of these girls is a quality player, and I think they’re going to bring a lot to the team,” she said.Sports reporter Jon Manley can be reached at 253-358-4151 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter, @gateway_jon.