Villa Notes          Vol. 69, No. 2      Villa Maria Academy       2403 West 8th St.,  Erie, PA 16505       October 2002 Pleading to be heard:  the Water Polo club           Jenn Tucker Staff Writer           At 6:15 each morning, their alarm clocks sound, and they drag themselves from bed, exhausted.  Fifteen minutes later, they slowly begin to congregate at the Villa Center.  By 6:30, twenty-odd girls plunge into frigid water to begin a day that often will not end for another seventeen hours.   They are the girls of the Water Polo club, and they want to be a team.           The Water Polo club was born in 1998, in response to an interest expressed by many Villa swimmers.  In the club’s infancy, victories were few, and disappointments abundant, but over the past years, the club has slowly evolved into a fierce competitor on the Pennsylvania water polo scene.           Now, well into its fourth season, the club boasts a membership of twenty-three dedicated girls, many of who are graduating seniors.  For those girls who have been with the club since its establishment, water polo is not merely an activity to pass the time, but rather a passion, and a way of life.   From the beginning of August until late October, these girls live, breathe, eat, and sleep a sport they love.   Water polo demands extreme amounts of time, energy, perseverance, and commitment. The girls estimate that they devote about forty hours a week to the sport, between practices and tournaments.           A typical day in the life of a water polo players includes a before school ball- handling and treading practice.  Following a full day of school, the girls head to the weight room (but only in the early part of the season) to train.  Then, after a little homework and perhaps even a snack, it’s back to the pool for another two-hour practice, which consists of forty-five minutes of challenging lap swimming, ten minutes of treading drills, forty-five minutes of passing and shooting drills, and twenty minutes of all-out scrimmaging.          Not only is water polo a physically demanding commitment, but one that also requires an unusual amount of parent participation.  Since there is only one other girls’ water polo team in the Erie area, the club must travel a minimum of two hours to play teams in surrounding areas.   In fact, most of their tournaments are at least six hours away.  Parent volunteers give of their time, and often their money, to transport the players from Erie to their weekly tournaments.           During the eight-week competitive season, only one tournament is held in town, so organization undoubtedly plays an essential role in the club’s success.  In order to arrive promptly at tournaments across the state, multiple vans usually depart from the Villa parking lot around noon on Fridays.   After trekking hundreds of miles, the girls play a game that night, catch about seven hours of sleep in a motel, and rise a seven o’clock in the morning to begin another long day.  In a typical tournament, the girls play four games throughout the day on Saturday, and begin their homeward voyage at six in the evening.  They roll into Erie at about one in the morning on Sunday, and collapse into their beds, where they find peace at last.           It should be noted that each member of the water polo club is expected to pay many of her own expenses, which amount to a sizeable sum of money.  Tournament expenses alone include meals, gas, tolls, lodging, referees, tournament fees and pool time.  In addition to these expenditures member must purchase bathing suits and clothing.  In order to reduce the price expected of each girl, the club holds car washes and clothing sales, the proceeds of which are still insufficient to cover all costs.  The school does contribute some money, but again, that is not enough to cover all costs.           If water polo were to be recognized as a sport, Villa would cover expendi- tures of the team, but realistically speaking, water polo is an incredibly expensive sport.  In light of the numerous costs incurred throughout the season, it is not surprising that water polo has maintained club status for the past four years.  That is why, says captain Adrienne Fischer, the club would be content to simply obtain the classification of hybrid sport, in which member are still expected to cover their own expenses.           After speaking with senior members of the club, I learned that the monetary issues concerned with remaining a club carry far less importance for members than their general lack of recognition by the school.   For example, at pep rallies, the Villa community energetically encourages and applauds the efforts of athletes.  Yet water polo players are not among those recognized because technically, what they do is not considered a “sport.”           Perhaps I am biased, having played polo for the first two years of my high school career, but I admittedly feel that the girls of the water polo club deserve to be seen, heard, and supported.  If, after reading of the rigorous demands imposed on members of the club, you too are not of the same opinion, I urge you to attend just one water polo game.  My words may prove insufficient persuasions, but the twenty- four minutes of battle waged in the water speak loudly for my appeal, and similarly the petitions of twenty-three other girls.  If water polo is not a sport, then I shall be forced to consult Webster on the proper definition of the word