The Santa Barbara Premier and Gold Coast water polo clubs have formed a new strategic alliance.
The alliance, which was announced last week, will mean collaboration in areas such as coaching and player/team development. And the alliance plans to look for opportunities to field joint teams with the intent of competing at the highest levels of the sport.
Each club will continue to use its respective brand names in their local markets and when competing separately, but will compete on a combined basis for major tournaments and national competitions.
After a successful trial period involving 10U, 12U Boys, 14U Girls and 14U Boys teams, the clubs will expand their efforts to other age groups. Santa Barbara Premier and Gold Coast, which is based in Ventura, are currently committed to sending joint teams to the Coastal Zone Junior Olympics Qualification Tournament and the Junior Olympics National Championship Tournament.
“When the pools were shut down in Santa Barbara, people were really feeling COVID fatigue,” Stephen Loomis, club director of Santa Barbara Premier, told the News-Press in an email.
“While starting a new year is usually a refreshing time, we felt like we were back to more of the same,” Loomis said. “Then Tom (Davis) and Gold Coast offered to include us in some of their practices, giving us a real lifeline. During these practices, I was able to interact with Tom and coach alongside him, and I was very impressed by the style and intensity with which he coached, and his players played.”
Tom Davis, technical director of the Boys High School Club for Gold Coast, talked about the benefits of the alliance.
“We think that there are benefits on multiple levels,” he said. “We did common training back in January when the pools were shut down in Santa Barbara. They came down and trained with us.
“We have a good group of high level players, but also players at the developmental level. One of the benefits is that. We will each have access to each other’s training staff.
“It also allows us to have access to a deeper player pool, as well as access to more high level players,” Davis said. “This will allow higher level players to compete in higher level tournaments.”
He added that the collaboration will allow developmental players to compete at their level.
“There will be many, many benefits that I see long term for an alliance of this nature,” Loomis said. “Having our players train together is already showing to foster an intense, entertaining learning environment. Collaboration with Tom and his staff, together with our staff, puts more minds at the table when discussing how we can best teach our sport.
“The increase in number of players allows for athletes who are newer, or still developing to be put on a team where they will be able to play more minutes in the games they play, against competition appropriate for their development level.”
“One of the most challenging things is creating an understanding amongst parents about what it looks like to collaborate with another club,” Mr. Davis told the News-Press. “In any alliance or partnership there has to be compromise. They are things that are definitely going to be worked through. It’s shifting the paradigm, but the overall experience will be better for everyone involved.”
Loomis said there will be challenges with the addition of players or efforts to combine the teams in certain events. “As long as expectations are set and met appropriately, and things are well communicated, I believe we’ll be able to navigate our way through effectively.”
Both Davis and Loomis talked about the vision they have for the alliance and the long-term goals they hope to achieve.
“Team by team, we expect to see better results in the tournaments we enter,” Davis said. “Far beyond that, we expect to see faster player development as we host common training sessions.
“The learning timeframe will be compressed, having more high level players at each practice,” Davis said. “Additionally, the growth will happen quicker because developmental players will now have a team that is more at their level, giving them more water time. We will be able to develop players at a faster rate than if each team was doing things on its own.”
“If you look at the main reason we did this, both clubs are focused on the development of water polo as a sport and attracting players that we wouldn’t be able to attract if we were individual clubs,” said Mr. Davis.
Loomis shares Davis’ enthusiasm.
“We hope to compete at the highest level while maintaining a strong focus on athlete development,” Loomis said. “We’d love to see the bar raised for water polo in our part of California and ultimately growth in the sport! There is a lot of work to be done and we can’t wait to get started!”