No Mo’ Polo

Water Polo Players Respond To Controversial District Decision

Katie Whitmarsh

Caleb Taylor and Katie Whitmarsh

After the recent district decision to demote water polo’s status from an official UIL sport to an unsponsored club, many students have taken to social media, the Wolfcast and even district school board meetings to share their outrage and make their opinions heard. 

“It was [announced to us] two days before submitting UIL sports to compete in district,” junior water polo player Trevor von Wupperfeld said. “It was really out of the blue. We had a meeting with [Athletic Director] Coach Q and [Assistant Athletic Director] Coach Jenschke, and they said going forward that we would not participate as a UIL sport and that we would [only] be allowed to compete as a high school club sport.”

The team, however, is willing to do whatever it takes to keep their sport alive.

“We’ll take whatever facilities, we’ll run our own practices – we’ve already been running our own practices for the last seven years for the most part – we just want our sport back,” Wupperfeld said. “We just need the district to give us the go-ahead, and we’ll figure it out.”

The district, however, disagrees. Leander ISD’s Chief of Communications Crestina Hardie, said that water polo was established in 2019 as a “pilot program,” or a sort of test run, and it was decided that it wasn’t in the district’s best interests to keep it as a competitive-level UIL sport.

“In 2019 and throughout COVID, there really wasn’t a good basis for [the sport] because of those transition years through the pandemic,” Hardie said. “From the district’s perspective, they felt [this demotion of water polo was necessary] because of the lack of resources, the availability of facilities, and [in]consistency in staffing.”

Coaches were expected to inform their teams of the district’s decision once it had been finalized, but some coaches may have done so sooner than others, leading to confusion among players. 

“We realized that this situation was escalating to the point where there were a lot of rumors that were not necessarily true, or just a lot of confusion around the decision and the sport in general,” Hardie said. “I think that we were relying on the person-to-person communication [rather than] feeling like we needed to come out with an official statement.”

Following these updates, students went to the Jan. 26 LISD School Board meeting to give their side of the story and plead their case.

“Many of us are considering playing water polo at the collegiate level,” Wupperfeld said. “But the fact of the matter is that colleges do not value our club membership as much as they do our high school careers. I worry that Leander ISD’s decision to cease its support of UIL Water Polo will lessen my chances of being able to play at the collegiate level.”

In addition to Wupperfeld’s comments, water polo player sophomore Kaydence Wilkinson said her experience with the sport has been a powerful one.

“We fought hard as a team this year, and we found success despite our small team and lack of experience,” Wilkinson said. “I love getting closer to my team through difficult games and getting to know and being with my teammates. So, please do not get rid of water polo. Don’t get rid of the moment when our newer player scores their first goal. The moment when we play our rival and win in the last second. The moments when we spend more time lifting up our teammates than judging ourselves. And the moment I truly knew what it meant to be a part of a team that needs me.”

Because the district has already confirmed the budgets and class lists for the 2023-2024 school year, the sport has been confirmed by Hardie to remain as a club opportunity for the foreseeable future. To learn more, visit the Wolfcast’s interview with Crestina Hardie as well as our coverage of the school board meeting.