Former Olympian offers up some help

by: JEFF WILSON/THE PIONEER - Former U.S. National Water Polo team goalie Genai Kerr, right, works with a member of the Central Oregon Polo Squad Sunday at the Madras Aquatic Center. Kerr held an all-day clinic for both the boys and girls 18U teams.It didn't take long for Aurora Gerhardt to get hooked on water polo.

And Bobby DeRoest is hoping to find more just like her.

As the Central Oregon Polo Squad head coach, DeRoest is always looking for ways to grow the sport. And Sunday afternoon, Gerhardt and dozens of other players from the area got a lesson they will long remember as former Olympian goalie Genai Kerr conducted a clinic at the Madras Aquatic Center.

Kerr, who played on the U. S. National team in the Summer Games of 2004 in Athens, Greece, worked with both the COPS' boys and girls 18U teams, running drills on fundmentals to teaching them components of the game.

Many of the players, like Gerhardt, took what he had to show to heart.

"He is an amazing player," Gerhardt said of Kerr. "The little tidbits he can give you on the game. He would take you out and tell you if you were doing something wrong or something right. He tells you what you should do and what you shouldn't do."

Gerhardt, like many others on the team, was a swimmer first, but once she played her first water polo game, was hooked. She is now a junior looking to see just how far the sport can take her.

"I was real nervous at first; I'm not really an aggressive person," Gerhardt said. "But I really got into it."

That is just the kind of stuff DeRoest likes to hear.

While COPS has had different degrees of success over the first seven years of the program, DeRoest is always looking for more.

He not only wants to grow the popularity of the sport, but increase the number of kids that play in Madras and in turn, increase the number of Madras kids that move on and play the game on a higher level.

"We have some really talented players right now that I think have some aspirations to play beyond the high school level," DeRoest said. "So we are creating some opportunities to get them some exposure outside of the state and get them some more time in the water.

"Bringing in Genai Kerr to talk about colleges, talking about what they can do with the sport of water polo and teach them the ins and outs of how to be an amazing player, we're all for that," DeRoest said.

DeRoest has a couple of different ways to gauge the success of the program. There are the wins and losses during the season and the state placing, but this year Madras will send 10 individuals to California in the summer to be a part of the Junior Olympics.

That may be the biggest accomplishment yet.

Those who have qualified so far include Brady Tucker, Cade Boston, Keaton Hartman, Kyle Hartman and Vance Schierling from the Madras 18U team and Gerhardt, Cirelle Frank, Sophie Gemelas, Mikayla Weinke and Melissa Field from the girls 18U squad.

They will travel to Stanford University in July to join some of the nation's best water polo players for one of the biggest tournaments of the year.

"I'm real proud of them for that," DeRoest said.

DeRoest said this is the first year that he has attempted to do water polo beyond the high school fall season level. While not an OSAA-sanctioned varsity sport, water polo is considered a club sport, DeRoest wants to give his kids every opportunity to move past high school and into college.

That's where bringing in someone like Kerr will help.

Although he has known Kerr for 10 years, this was the first time DeRoest asked him to come to Madras for a clinic. Kerr jumped at the opportunity, saying he will go anywhere to help grow the sport.

He was just in Texas last week, a state that has seen water polo explode in popularity over the last decade, and will be heading back down there next month.

With more than 20 kids involved in the program this year, the sport has grown each of the six years it has been offered in Madras. A high school only sport in the fall, the spring and summer teams are open to anyone at least 10 years old who has strong swimming skills.

DeRoest said anyone interested can contact him through the MAC.

Season off and running

Off the heels of the Kerr clinic, Madras faced off against the Bend Waves Sunday evening at the MAC.

The Madras coed 14U team won its game 15-5 while the boys 18U team suffered a 10-7 loss. The Madras girls 18U squad posted a 12-6 win over the Waves.

Madras will host another round of games Saturday at the MAC.

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