In one of the first direct moves to affect a high school fall sports season, the Ohio Water Polo Association on Sunday voted to postpone its season until the Spring of 2021.
Water polo, in which Napoleon competes as a varsity sport, is not sanctioned by the Ohio High School Athletic Association. Last season there were 12 girls teams and 18 boys teams that participated in varsity water polo in Ohio.
“While the board and coaches understand that there will still be hardships in rescheduling the season to the spring of 2021 for all those involved in water polo, the option to move to provide a safer season was one that all of the coaches felt was in the best interest of all involved,” said Nicholas Hellwig, secretary of the Ohio Water Polo Association, in a letter to players, coaches and athletics directors. “The move to the spring of 2021 is currently a temporary move, but we are excited about the possibility of having a season for our players to practice and compete more safely.”
Napoleon water polo coach Mike Nye said while the sport is not sanctioned by the OHSAA, the decision to move the season to the spring was based on the guidelines established by the OHSAA.
“We looked to those guidelines,” Nye said. “Like in volleyball we switch benches (between periods). We do it because many of the pools have a deep end and shallow end, which changes the way teams play. To change benches, they would have to be disinfected each time.”
Nye added there were going to be issues with transportation, locker room availability and spectator seating.
Water polo, which was scheduled to begin its season Aug. 14-15 with the Courtney Fisher Kick-Off Classic in Napoleon, was going to be one of the first sports to begin competition this fall.
“We would have been the test pilot,” said Nye. “We were bringing in teams from Columbus and Cincinnati and some of those teams haven’t even had the chance to have intra-squad scrimmages yet.
“It would have been hard,” he added. “Now we get to see how the guidelines work and put in place what we need to have a safe season.”
The association was also worried about having the decision about whether to have a season or not being made for them by the governor or the OHSAA.
“The other big thing is we did not want to start the season and have it ripped out from under us,” Nye added. No formal decision from either Gov. Mike DeWine or the OHSAA has been announced as of Tuesday’s press time.
With the move to the spring, Nye acknowledged there are several water polo athletes who play other spring sports normally.
“We had a team Zoom meeting and I told those that play spring sports they can do what they want to do,” Nye said. “They already missed one spring sports season. I have started talking to the spring sports coaches and there might be a way for those who want to to play both sports.”
Nye said he also told his team to play other fall sports this season, if they felt inclined. He said two or three have asked for a coach’s information for fall sports teams.
“I want them to do what’s right for them,” said Nye. “If they want to do a fall sport, do it. Take advantage of getting a chance to be a Wildcat athlete and hopefully the fall season gets to play out.”
As for the spring season, Nye said the initial idea is to just take the existing schedule and move it back to March, April and May. One big issue would be the state tournament falling on Memorial Day weekend, which is normally when Napoleon High School has graduation.
“It is something I will be bringing up,” said Nye.
The Napoleon coach did say playing in the spring could potentially open up games with the girls teams, as Michigan currently plays girls water polo in the spring. There has also been talk of moving boys water polo to the spring this season in Michigan as well.
“This is the best opportunity for them to have a season,” said Napoleon Athletics Director Andy Ham. “Other states are doing the same thing. With the transition, we could pick up some games with teams in Michigan. In that way it is a positive.”
“In the end, we wanted to figure out the best way for us to play a complete season and that was not going to happen in the fall,” said Nye.