Water polo team splashes into late night practice


Chico State men’s water polo attempts to score. Orion Stock Photo

The sound of a whistle pierces the night air and reverberates through the streets as the men’s water polo team trains at the Wildcat Recreation Center late at night.

While most people are packing up to go home for the day at 8 p.m. head coach Clifford Kunkel is preparing his swimmers with a pep talk and intense conditioning.

“It’s all mental, you have to prove to yourself you can do this,” Kunkel shouts.

The team practices late to ensure they don’t interfere with other students who want. to use the pool at the WREC.

Senior Matt Buckingham has been on the team for four years and said it was a struggle making it to the late night practices.

“It’s all about self-motivation,” Buckingham said. “We have to work hard and train so that we have fun and win.”

The team does not have its own facilities, but had access the 17-meter swimming pool in Acker Gym. The pool fell eight meters short of the requirement for a water polo court and was filled with sand after leaking lead pipes contaminated the water.

While finding a place to practice has been difficult for the team, so has maintaining the professional atmosphere. The team has undergone several changes since Kunkel took over as coach in 2007.

Kunkel played water polo for Chico State for three years and during his time he found the team to be unorganized and disrespectful.

“We used to be more fun and less structure,” Kunkel said. “Now we want to have both and we know it’s fun when we’re winning.”

The professional environment of the team has boosted their camaraderie and the team’s success in their league, the Sierra Pacific, as they finished 3rd last year.

Sophomore Jacob Faulkender has been on the team for two years and stated that he felt the success of the team was because of the fun-centered environment, but also the seriousness they uphold each other to.

“All the guys here train alongside each other, so we get to know one another really well,” Faulkender said. “We’re able to push each other to keep being better.”

The season consists of only nine weeks, with five of them dedicated to practice. Coach Kunkel explained the difficulty of having a quick season and the impact it can have on their recruitment process.

“We have all our tournaments by the end of October. We need guys who can get in shape and do it fast. That’s the reason we have to condition so hard,” Kunkel said.

The team’s first tournament has yet to be announced, but they’ve already begun the season as they train away into the late hours of the night.

Kenta McAfee can be reached at [email protected], or on Twitter @KentaMcAfee