Kellson Tucker excels at water polo

Senior SwimCat Kellson Tucker was recently named to the American Water Polo Association Scholar Athlete team in recognition of his excellence in both academics and water polo.  An Olympic sport, water polo is still relatively unknown in the United States, though the sport is gaining momentum in Georgia because of the efforts of the Georgia High School Water Polo Association. Although Westminster does not have a team, Tucker competes for the APS Knights, a competitive travel team which includes players from several local schools and practices at the nearby Pace Academy pool.

Tucker’s interest in water polo was sparked through an email sent to all Westminster swimmers.  Tucker thought that water polo could be fun and decided to give the sport a try. Water polo is a team sport played in a deep pool of eight to 12 feet in which the two teams attempt to score by throwing a volleyball-like ball into their opponent’s goal. There are four quarters and the team with the most goals at the end wins.  Each team has one goalkeeper and six swimmers competing at a time.  The sport requires both strategy and stamina as the team works together to move the ball down pool to score. The players must swim and tread water the entire time and are only permitted to touch the ball with one hand.  The teams wear uniform swim caps to identify themselves in the fast moving game.

“I don’t just like water polo, I love it,” said Tucker. “The team is the nicest group of people I have ever had the pleasure of competing with. The coaches never yell in practice, but some how always convey to you what your doing wrong and help you fix it to get better. This allowed me to become the MVP of my team last year and team captain this year and last year.”

Compared to other sports, Tucker finds the style of competition to be significantly better organized.

“I used to hate tournaments because they were all day competitions in which I might have done something for a couple of minutes and just wasted my time for the other hours,” said Tucker. “In water polo, we usually play two to four games in one day depending on how we do. And for the rest of the time, I love to hang out with my friends on the team and oftentimes get pointers from pros that show up at the tournaments just to watch local teams.”

For Tucker, the best part of water polo is how much fun it is to compete. This sport combines the personal commitment to fitness and endurance that all swimmers understand with the thrill of team competition and contact similar to soccer, basketball and lacrosse.

“Our practices are ridiculously fun,” said Tucker.

His team typically meets for practice a couple nights a week with tournaments on the weekends.  The practice sessions afford time for player and team development.

“A typical practice usually consists of basic lap swimming to warm up, and then drills to get techniques down and a scrimmage for the later part of practice,” said Tucker. “The scrimmages are the key things about our practice because they really help us fine tune our cooperative tactics and improve the team as a whole.”

At the collegiate level, water polo continues to be dominated by California powerhouse teams such as UCLA, Southern California and Stanford.  While the sport is undoubtedly gaining in popularity throughout the nation, no team based outside of California has appeared in the NCAA championship game, which dates back to 1969.

“In the future, I don’t think I will be playing competitive water polo for the college that I attend, but I will certainly try to start up a club team or intramural team wherever I go,” said Tucker. “And like all other water polo players that I know, I look forward to giving back to the community in any way I can and possibly helping to coach a team one day.”

Tucker encourages anyone looking for an added element of fun in the water to check out this exciting, growing sport. Water polo can give students another opportunity for a sport outside of Westminster.

“Interested Westminster students are welcome to join the APS Knights water polo team,” said  APS water polo coach Stuart Sheldon. “Our season runs from early July through mid-October.  We also have spring activities.”