A pair of teachers is pointing dozens of students in the direction of a relatively unique sport here in the Tampa Bay area – water polo.
“We really don’t have one person that we are targeting,” said Zak Kappos, head coach and co-director of Next Level Water Polo. “It is really everybody.”
His words compliment the free clinic the club held on Thursday evening at Cuscaden Pool in Tampa.
“We were happy we had so many kids in the pool,” said Daniela Screnci, the other co-director. “And that was our biggest goal – just to get kids comfortable, get them happy and get them playing!”
When Kappos and Screnci moved from Long Beach, California to Tampa, Florida about one year ago, they brought their passion for the sport with them. They both played water polo in college at Long Beach State University.
“After we graduated, our biggest goal was giving back to the communities that are not as fortunate as the communities in California,” Screnci said. “So over the last couple of months, all we have been doing is growing programs.”
The name of their game is “growth” and they aim to share the sport with the local community.
“I had fun. I get to jump in the water and swim under the water,” said Jolene Haggins, one of the participants in the clinic.
Adarius Norton showed us his skills.
“You have to throw the ball,” he explained. “And then you have to jump in and get it and make it in the goal.”
Kappos and Screnci bought a single club team and they are constantly adding to it. The sport of water polo currently does not exist within Hillsborough County Public Schools.
“We now have three clubs teams, one that is based out of Clearwater, another in South Tampa and another out of Berkeley Prep,” Kappos said. “We have upwards of 35 kids that are participating in club water polo consistently.”
They are forming a foundation to push water polo to the next level.
“I had the privilege of playing for the Canadian National Team. I got to travel. I got to meet some of my best friends in the world and I got to build relationships with people that I will have for the rest of my life,” said Kappos. “And those are things beyond the life lessons of organization, time management, showing up on time and putting your effort into everything you do. Those are things we try to translate into our program and they are things that are starting to happen pretty quickly out here.”
If you would like to see the Next Level Water Polo club teams in action, you can visit the Clearwater Community Sailing Center on either Saturday, May 18 from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. or Sunday, May 19 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. The Clearwater Beach Challenge will showcase the athletes and their skills.