Interest in Water Polo Grows in North Texas

Five-time Olympian Tony Azevedo and fellow silver medalist Adam Wright shared wisdom about water polo at the Westside Aquatics Center in Lewisville Saturday.

"For our sport, this is almost like having Michael Jordan and Phil Jackson here hanging out with our kids," said North Texas Thunder Water Polo administrator Brandon Dion.

"One of the first things we teach is the fundamentals," Azevedo said. "If you have that foundation you can grow into a great player."

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This is the second year for Azevedo's polo pointers and he said he noticed a difference in the pool -- both in terms of quality and quantity. Texas is now the third largest state in the country when it comes to the number of people playing water polo.

"I've always liked swimming and all that," said North Texas Water Polo Club member JoJo Walter. "But it just got boring swimming back and forth laps and laps, so it got interesting catching the ball and shooting and all that in the water."

"Water polo's kind of like soccer, but you just used your hands like you're going around passing it to your other players trying to get it into the goal," teammate Eric Winkler said.

If it seems like the swimming never stops, that's because it doesn't.

"It gets pretty tiring after a little bit," Alyana Ickert said. "But we just have to fight through it a lot."

That's the attitude these kids will take to the Junior Olympics in July -- a place where they expect to make a big splash.

"We used to be known as just that Texas team," Winkler said. "Now we're known as the good Texas team that you got to watch out for."

Their competition may not like to hear that, but Azevedo does.

"That really gives me goosebumps," Azevedo said. "When I come to a place and I see a kid that I worked with and that he's improved like that to me means he has dedication, his coaches and they're in the right situation."

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