Jake Davies and Jonathan Borte have revitalized their former high school water polo program at Kentridge High School. Both coaches played for the Chargers water polo program for four years and wanted to give back to the community that had given them so much.
“Realistically, these boys will only play water polo for three to four years, but we are hoping the teamwork and punctuality, all these skills we can teach them will help them become better young men for the community,” Borte said.
Borte played Division 1 water polo at Wagner College in Staten Island, NY, and Davies swam at Whitworth University in Spokane. They have been friends since they were 8 years old.
“Another reason I started was also to reconnect with this guy. We have played on a lot of local teams at a bunch of different levels. I wouldn’t have wanted to do it with anyone else. It’s been incredible,” Borte said of Davies.
There are 18 sports sanctioned by the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association (WIAA) — but water polo is not one of them.
One troubling aspect of the program that Borte and Davies have started is they are not officially recognized by Kentridge High School. Therefore the coaches have to rely on parents and older teammates for transportation to things like pool time, for which they go to another school district.
“We rent out time from Lindbergh, which they are awesome to us. We have a really good relationship with the Renton School District and appreciate the leadership there,” Davies said.
Ever since the two coaches were in the pool, they have battled the same circumstances. With those challenges, the team powers forward. Some teams in the area are supported by their respective schools. But as one who isn’t, Davies sees this as a badge of honor.
“Because there were schools who were funded, and we were like ‘Oh look what we can do with this.’ I can’t say that about all of our athletes, but I think it is impressive to do so much with less,” he said.
The beginning of the season was quite difficult for the brand new coaches.
“It is trying to learn from square one. Neither of us have any substantial coaching experience. It isn’t something that people haven’t done before, but it’s new to us,” Davies said.
They were also uncertain if they would even have enough players to start the season.
“We had five guys we knew we had for sure. We were worried when we had our first initial meeting at a park up in Fairwood and four players showed up. We were thinking, that’s half a team. We weren’t going to have the numbers to compete,” Borte said.
But now at the end of the season, the Chargers have 15 players and nearly enough to field a JV team.
Most of the players who joined the team were swimmers. Only one player had experience playing prior to this season — sophomore Ryan Lloyd, who is also the goaltender for the Chargers.
“I definitely try to share my knowledge as much as I can with the defense,” Lloyd said.
Junior Anders Erickson is in his first year as a water polo player. He has swam for as long as he could remember. His brother played water polo for Kentridge for three years, but he joined for other reasons.
“At first I just joined for the conditioning. I thought it would help me prepare for the swim season in the winter. But I just fell in love with the sport. It’s awesome,” Erickson said.
Both players echoed each other’s frustration at not being called an official sport.
“We are trying to build it to be more than just a club,” Erickson said.
Kentridge competed in the Auburn School District Spookfest Tournament where they finished sixth out of eight teams. Davies, similar to his assistant coach, sees value in playing tough opponents.
“The real wins haven’t even really been counted as W’s. Maybe it is playing the 9-0 team and showing that you can hang with the best…The significance comes from playing at a higher level. Some of these kids have really stepped up,” he said.
The goal for both coaches is to expand interest in the state, and they believe they can do it.
“You know, in a dream I want it to be a sport that is seen much frequently at the high school level,” Davies said. “The exciting thing is we have some serious plans here to help not only our program, but also help create opportunities for an underserved region.”