Imagine what it would be like learning your craft directly from a world-renowned, award-winning expert. Davis County water polo players know.
On Feb. 17 and 18, six Olympic water polo players were the headline instructors at youth water polo clinic, held at the South Davis Recreation Center. The athletes taught a group of 120 youngsters fundamentals and skills of the grueling sport. Most of the participants were made up of Viewmont players and others from the area, but there were also youth from throughout the state and even as far away as California.
Participants ranged in age from seventh-graders through seniors in high school. Those who took advantage of this unique opportunity had various skills and experience. Never before has such an impressive collection of Olympians taught at a local clinic.
“The athletes responded with enthusiasm to learn and unending effort toward the Olympians instruction,” Viewmont assistant coach Dawn Buzbee said. “They watched with great respect while gaining invaluable knowledge.”
All of the Olympic athletes who taught at the event have participated in the Summer Olympic Games in the past 13 years, and three of them—Kelly Rulon (2012), Courtney Mathewson (2012, 2016) and Tumua Tavana (2012)—were gold medalists. The other three Olympic water polo players were Ryan Bailey (2012), Josh Samuels (2016) and Genai Kerr (2004).
Viewmont water polo communication specialist Amy Hughes said the young athletes were “star-struck” by the Olympians’ presence.
There was also an out-of-the-pool event. The first day of the camp featured a dinner and a question-and-answer session with the participants and the athletes. The Olympians barely had a chance to eat, as they spent considerable time happily posing for photos and signing autographs. Utah High School Water Polo executive board president Shawn Stringham and Bountiful Mayor Randy Lewis were at the dinner. Stringham expressed appreciation for the opportunity the clinic gave to the young athletes.
“It was a great honor for our local athletes to be taught and work directly with this volume of athletes in Utah,” Stringham said. “It gave our kids the opportunity to learn at the highest level possible, to create new habits and break the old ones. Being in the water with the Olympians was a once-in-a-lifetime experience."
From a team perspective, another Viewmont assistant coach, James Keddington, said the clinic helped the players and coaches learn some top-level tactics that the Vikings can use in competition.
“Another benefit of this clinic is that we received training on the latest game strategies and practice regiments being used by our Olympic teams, including the two-time gold medalist girls team, which continues to dominate international play,” Keddington said.
Viewmont’s Kiersten Buzbee agreed with Keddington. She is excited to expand her game by implementing some of skills she learned at the clinic.
“I thought the Olympian clinic was really beneficial and hit on a lot of good points and techniques that we needed and would otherwise bypass because they were ‘basics,’ but we all really benefited from them by reviewing them and fine-tuning them,” she said. “We were able to learn how to grow those skills into more complicated moves and techniques.”
Viewmont water polo head coach Mike Rose was grateful for the Olympians’ willingness to share their vast talents with the youth.
“I felt that the Olympians showed a genuine humble attitude to sharing the knowledge to our club players to help grow the sport,” he said. “They were generous with their time. This opportunity has sparked a new excitement within the club."