By Amanda Wolkin
Measuring success in North Springs Charter High School’s inaugural water polo season can’t be determined by wins and losses.
Sure, the Spartans lost all 13 games, but they were competitive and built a foundation for future growth. And, by the way, the team managed to score more goals than the football team has scored touchdowns and has rallied perhaps an even larger fan base.
“No one on the team had so much as witnessed a water polo game before,” said senior Erin Horn, one of the founders of the team. “To start out with no experience whatsoever and then make it to the point that we did, whether we won or not, is an accomplishment.”
The formation of the water polo team began when North Springs swimming coach Julia Ferris mentioned the sport to her swimmers as a way to keep in shape during the off-season. As interest began to rise, what at first seemed like a joke soon turned into an actual possibility. The freestyle and breaststroke were replaced by “egg-beating” — water polo’s stroke — and swimming relay teams evolved into a co-ed water polo team of 20.
However, playing the sport has proven to be anything but a joke.
“We competed against very tough teams who had been playing before,” said Ferris, a teacher at Autrey Mill Middle School. “The other teams are from Gwinnett and Cobb, where they have aquatic centers for the teams to practice, or they are private schools who have pools or access to pools daily … We practiced in a neighborhood pool until they closed on Labor Day.”
Despite the setbacks, the season was certainly not a wash out. The team scored 21 goals, about half of which were made by senior Harry Baker, more than tripled the number of their original six players and somehow made an arts and science school care about a sport many did not even know existed two months ago.
“We might never have won, but the school really rallied behind us,” Horn said. “North Springs is all about being unique from other schools, and ‘wapo’ [short for water polo] was just one more way to prove that.”
Though leaders Horn and Baker, along with five other seniors, will be leaving North Springs, the team does not intend to let this past season be its first and last. Rather, the players hope to keep expanding the size of the team, improving their skills in the water and, perhaps most importantly, finding a pool to practice in.
“We will have a team next year,” Ferris said. “ I know that the remaining 13 will be back, and we have had over 20 students express interest in joining the team next year. I anticipate having more [members] than we did this year.”