Sunday, May 16, 2010

A Long Journey


After 15 years, they finally won it. Congratulations to Coach Miguel Figueres, Coach Doug Meitz and the DeSmet water polo team. You still don't have your own pool, but your hard work and determination have created a strong water polo program.

We came to St. Louis 15 years ago when I got into PT school at Wash U. Kevin left his position as assistant professor, physical education instructor and men's & women's swimming coach at the University of Chicago. By some fortuitous connections and luck, Kevin got an interview at DeSmet for a teaching job. During the interview, they asked him if he would coach swimming and re-start the water polo program (it had apparently been disbanded in the 1970s).

So in September of 1995, Kevin coached his first water polo game without ever having seen or played in one. The Spartans lost to the Marquette JV 24-6. Oh boy. But he was graciously mentored by Dan and Don Casey, icons of St. Louis water polo his first two years. Both coaches let him sit in on their high school practices and would even stop practice occasionally to explain to Kevin why they were doing what they were doing.

For 8 long years--felt like 20, he says--he coached both JV and Varsity water polo and swimming. Because DeSmet doesn't have a pool, his teams had to practice after Chaminade was finished. That meant starting practice at 6 pm and getting home around 10 pm every night after teaching all day and sometimes having morning practice for extra swimming conditioning.
I rarely saw him in the fall or winter. It was hard on both of us.

Finally, he found Miguel. Miguel took over varsity water polo in 2004 and Kevin coached JV for one more year, turning it over to Doug Meitz in 2005. Both men are teachers by day and very enthusiastic about St. Louis water polo.

As athletic director, Kevin has continued to be very supportive of water polo, starting and running the DeSmet Invite tournament at the Rec Plex, as well as traveling with the guys to Chicago for spring break tournaments when Miguel could not be there. Last night, he hustled back from running a district track meet (all day in the rain) to get out to St. Peters for the championship game, because he felt it was his duty to help supervise the crowd and be there for the coaches.

As we left the game, we ran into the mother of a former swimmer/water polo player who wouldn't let us leave the pool--even though we were trying to get home as Kevin still had to unload coolers and tents from school van and count the money from the district track gate. She said her son and other former DeSmet athletes at Truman State University felt that Kevin and Miguel had been a wonderful, positive influences on them. She thanked Kevin over and over for being a good role model for her son and making his high school experience a good one.

Congratulations to my husband for building the foundations of the water polo program at DeSmet and contributing to the DeSmet and St. Louis water polo communities in so many ways. It makes me proud to know he is appreciated by students, parents and colleagues--not just for winning, but for being a good teacher and person.



1 comment:

Jane said...

Tracy, Thank you for a wonderful article! Some of the parents were trying to remember when the w.polo program began. Since we've had three sons playing this sport, we have been waiting a very long time for this! We were initially just thrilled to beat SLUH for the first time. Now, State Champs!! I remember when Kevin told our son Paul that he was stepping down from coaching, we didn't know what to expect, and I loved having your husband coach. He found a real gem in Miguel. Everyone, I do mean everyone, loves and respects this man. He is a great coach and mentor for the boys. So, Kudos to Kevin and Miguel. Sincerely, Jane Shrewsbury (Paul, J.D., and Patricks mom)