Water polo club fights to be recognized by the IHSA


Photo Courtsey to Michelle Koehler

The DGS water polo club warming up before a scrimmage.

By Natalia Ruiz, Downers Grove South High School

Water polo has been a club at DGS for six years. The numbers have grown tremendously, and this year the club is hoping to be recognized by the administration and the IHSA.

Pool manager and swim coach Frank Kuchta started the club when he first arrived at DGS. Everyone is welcome, and there are no requirements to join. The club runs like a spring sport, meeting Monday-Friday from 3:30-5:15 p.m.

Last year was the first year five students from DGN  joined the water polo club at DGS. The numbers have grown as there are now 18 athletes from DGN that have joined the club.

“When I came here, some of the students recognized me and heard that I was a water polo coach when I was a teacher, so they asked me if I could start the club. Since then we have pretty much had boys and girls from Downers Grove South participate in the club. We run the club like a team during the season,” Kuchta said.

Kuchta talked about the steps that will be needed to take in order to be approved as an IHSA team in the district.

“The first one is that we have to have numbers. Once you get numbers, then you get parent support. Second thing is that there has to be gender equity … . The next step will be showing that we have enough interest to run a co-op, and we can run a co-op if the district will allow it,” Kuchta said.

I think that it is great, especially cross town having North swimmers come over to us, I think that it has been spectacular with building our teamwork.”

— Jillian Scott

First-year water polo coach and English teacher Michelle Koehler has taught at both DGN and DGS. She also played water polo during high school and through some of her time in college. She shared her philosophy on her coaching strategy.

“I think that IHSA recognition is a huge goal of ours but also just getting students to be curious about water polo outside of gym class … It goes so much more beyond than that; just want to educate students on how fun and engaging the sport actually is, and how many things you can learn from playing it. My other goal is to get more students involved at that level rather than gym class,” Koehler said.

Junior and varsity swimmer Jillian Scott shares how Koehler has impacted the team just from her first year of coaching.

“She is great. Kuchta has been definitely a great coach throughout the past three years, so this year with more help she brings a different perspective. I think that she really benefits the team’s self-esteem and how we see each other,” Scott said.

Kuchta talked about how devoted students are to the sport of water polo.

“North kids have to find their own ride to get here. They get out at the same time we get out and they pretty much get here at the 3:40, so to me that’s dedication. There’s no bus that brings them here; they carpool and their parents pick them up afterward,” Kuchta said.

Senior and varsity swimmer Blake Cassani shared how the sport has impacted him as an individual.

“It has made me a better athlete, it has also made me a better leader because I am one of the older ones of the team, and there’s a lot of new players that have come. It has made me a better leader, a better athlete,” Cassani said.

Scott shared how close-knit the club is and how it has affected her not just in the pool but also out of it. The bond has become closer than just teammates.

“I think that it is great, especially cross town having North swimmers come over to us, I think that it has been spectacular with building our teamwork and after practice on Friday we go and hang out at Portillo’s or something. Honestly, it is like a family, and it is weird because with high school sports it is normally they are not co-ed, and it doesn’t even matter; it’s just a great environment to play in and to be with,” Scott said.

This story was originally published on Blueprint on March 21, 2019.