When Scott Frederick moved from Seattle to Georgia in 1995, one of the biggest differences between life on the West coast and the South was the absence of his favorite sport—water polo.
So Frederick joined up with Whitney Foster, a California native who played the sport during summers in college, and helped form a club team they could play on. They called it Dynamo. But life came at both of them fast, especially Frederick, who had to put down the sport in 2002 to focus on parenting.
Fourteen years passed, but now the duo is back together and involved in the sport; this time they’re coaching a successful high school team in Forsyth County.
Forsyth County Water Polo is in its first season and already winning games at will. After dropping its first two games to some elite competition, they bounced back to win nine of their next 11 matches, with a tie as well. They currently rank second in the eastern division of Division III in the Georgia High School Water Polo Association, and they hosted the state championship Saturday at the Cumming Aquatic Center.
The venture has brought swimmers from across the county together. At practice on Thursday at the Cumming Aquatic Center, four captains from three different local high schools arrived extra early and mingled by the pool, cracking jokes and reciting moments from previous matches.
Josh Marshall, a sophomore at West Forsyth, is in the same boat as all but two of his 13 teammates—he’s playing water polo for the first time.
“I was a really slow swimmer as a freshman, so I joined this to bring down my time. I wanted to be a much more competitive swimmer,” Marshall said. “But I’m realizing now I really enjoy [water polo] too. The entire time you’re either treading water or sprinting from one side of the pool to the other, so you’re really building up a lot of muscle and endurance.”
The three other captains on the team are Justin Bailey and Liz Leagen from South Forsyth and Megg Hurley from North Forsyth. Bailey is the only captain with experience in the sport.
“Well, I came from Florida where the sport was a lot more common,” Bailey said. “When I moved up here I was looking for a way to continue playing, so it’s exciting that this has come up.”
Hurley and Leagan joined the teams after hearing about the sport from their varsity swim coaches.
“It’s weird because I’m trying something new my senior year, but I’ve really enjoyed it so far,” Hurley said. “At first it’s kind of difficult, but once you’re there practicing every single week it becomes muscle memory, it becomes fun and you get more competitive after that.”
The sport is essentially a combination of swimming, basketball and soccer. The teams, which include seven swimmers at a time, compete to throw a ball into a small, soccer-style net at each end of the pool. The GHSWPA fields co-ed teams, as well as female and male-only teams at lower levels. The league also requires athletes to compete for teams in their areas, which prevents the most elite players from teaming up on specific teams.
There’s currently 10 teams in Division III of the league, including Norcross, Collins Hill, Greater Atlanta Christian, Cambridge, Calhoun, St. Pius, Atlanta Public Schools and Lakeside. Forsyth County will also host the combined state championships next Saturday at the Cumming Aquatic Center.
The current team captains think the future of the club is bright.
“I’m hoping by the time I’m a senior there will be more people, to the point where we can do what the other schools do and split up into A teams, B teams,” Marshall said.
“After the first couple of weeks, we realized we were capable of beating some good teams that have been playing for a while, so we have a lot of confidence,” Leagan said.