Breaking: Northwood to Add Elite Water Polo Club to Athletic Offerings

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The Grey Stone Water Polo Club believes in developing players with good character and strong values. Beyond the pool, players are committed to excellence in the classroom and throughout their school communities. Over the years, team members have consistently earned some of the highest leadership positions and honors at their respective schools.

April 1, 2019 — High-level water polo will join ice hockey, soccer, and ski racing as signature athletic programs at Northwood School for the 2019-20 school year, according to school officials.

Elite scholastic water polo is found mostly in Southern California and Florida, but Northwood Athletic Director Mr. Gino Riffle believes the Adirondacks will soon be known as one of the sport’s hot spots.

Northwood plans to partner with the well-respected Grey Stone Water Polo Club, based in the Berkshire Mountains of Massachusetts. Jim Fickle is the head coach and program director at GSWC.

With the abundant lakes and rivers of the Adirondack region, water activities have been featured at Northwood School throughout its history, and the school has well-respected spring offerings in whitewater kayaking and fly fishing, but it offers no aquatic sports at the competitive level equivalent to hockey, skiing, and soccer. Until now.

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Coach Jim Fickle will bring his elite Grey Stone Water Polo Club to Northwood School in the fall of 2019 (Photo provided)

“The idea of building signature academic and athletic programs at Northwood has been here since [Head of School] Mr. Maher came to campus,” said Mr. Riffle. According to Riffle, with water polo, and before that soccer, Northwood is doing more than adding sports; it is building what he called Centers of Excellence. “Athletically, we feel we have Centers of Excellence today in skiing, soccer, and in hockey, and academically, with robotics and innovation and design programs. Water polo will be at that level.”

When news of the water polo program spread on campus, questions emerged, including “Where are they going to get players from?” and “What will their travel be like?”

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Water polo, which will be new to Northwood School in 2019-20, is an exciting and fast-paced sport.

Mr. Riffle had answers. Coach Fickle has already started recruiting players. “He spent a week in California and another in Florida this winter, and I think 800 teams were in Florida for the event,” said Mr. Riffle, who noted the travel for the new water polo athletes will be similar to those of the soccer team. “They will play weekends in the fall against other prep schools. They will travel to four showcase events in the winter and spring months. The schedule will be similar to our current soccer travel.”

Another question was, “How are these athletes going to be able to train in the rough winters of Lake Placid?” Again, Mr. Riffle was able to clear that up. “We are looking into the possibility of an indoor pool facility on campus for training sessions during the winter months. It looks like we can convert our squash court into an indoor pool. In the spring and fall, we will rope off a section of Mirror Lake for training sessions and meets, if that’s what they call water polo games,” said Mr. Riffle.

Student and faculty response to the news was mixed. “I’m not thrilled about sharing our lakefront space with a bunch of ball-throwers,” said crew coach Mr. Howard C. Runyon, “but at least water polo doesn’t smell like hockey.” Fran Castillo ‘19, a soccer player from the Dominican Republic, was incredulous when he learned of the plans. “Water polo? At Northwood? It doesn’t make sense. We are a school known for soccer, and also ice hockey and skiing. I don’t see how anyone will come to Northwood for water polo.”

The team’s first game is tentatively scheduled for September 14, 2019 against Harvard-Westlake School in Los Angeles, which is a national water polo power.

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