Since its inception in fall of 2006, the Anchorage Water Polo Club has sprouted to well over 100 members, an impressive increase from the four or five friends who founded the club.
The original group put together a flyer and spread it around Anchorage, hoping to increase awareness of the sport. However, this group only loosely understood the game and rules of water polo; that was until Scott Geuss saw the flyer and attended the next practice.
Geuss, a financial officer for a local Native Corporation, brought the team together using his water polo experience. From 1991-94, Geuss was a member of the high school boys’ varsity water polo team at Cate Boarding School in Carpinteria, California.
During 1994, he also made the All-California Interscholastic Federation First-Team selection and was the leading scorer that season. He then moved on to play club polo at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute for two years until picking the sport back up in 2006.
“[In the beginning], we were at West High and playing with small plastic soccer goals that had to be reset each time you shot because they’d get knocked over. I taught everyone the rules and started setting up drills so that we could actually play the game,” Geuss said.
West High didn’t exactly cut it for their team practices, so once the club started gaining members and experience, Geuss was able to make some changes. After being put in touch with UAA Assistant Director of Programs Alan Piccard, the team got a contract set up for the Wells Fargo Sports Complex pool and have been playing there every year from September through April.
After several years of practice and organization, the club had what they thought would be an official first tournament in Fairbanks.
“In April of 2010, we played our first tournament against the UAF intramural club. Anyhow, it turned out they didn’t have a lot of experience and after a blowout game, we mixed the teams up to make for fairer play,” Geuss said.
It took another six years before getting the ball rolling with USA Water Polo with a tournament in February of 2016.
Since officially being affiliated with USAWP, the team has expanded their horizons and gained considerable attention, including having 143 members on their Facebook group.
Of those 143 members, the group has become very diversified: several school teachers, some students, a urologist and other users ranging from 18 to 73 years old. There was at least one person on the club who went on to Navy Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training and used the polo workouts to prepare. A former special forces commander played for several years, and former Olympian Dr. George Stransky participated as well.
Stransky, the Anchorage team’s goalie, now 73 years old, also played goalie for the USA Olympic Water Polo Team in 1964. Stransky boasts an impressive athletic history, having played on the USA All-American water polo team for three years, completed 31 marathons, and competed in the FINA Masters World Championships for water polo in 2008 and 2014.
“Water polo is a team sport. That means you work with fellow athletes toward a goal of doing your best. Your teammates motivate you to be a better person and they add quality and friendship to your life,” Stransky said.
Stransky stays busy as the WWAMI/University of Washington Medical School professor of OB/GYN, as well as working at Alaska Women’s Cancer Care.
Another notable team member is Dr. James Brant Darby, a pediatric dental oral surgeon, who started playing water polo 30 years ago.
He played as a goalie for four years at Monache High School in Porterville, California and then in 1990 was selected as the East Yosemite League First-Team goalie, and for the CIF All-Star team. He played several years in college but didn’t compete again until 2012 when he joined the Anchorage team.
Darby’s dedication to the sport is proven by his impressive experience, including participation in thirteen separate masters tournaments spanning from Seattle to Croatia.
“I play water polo for the following reasons: it is a fun experience, you’re able to make good friendships and meet interesting people, it is motivation to stay fit, as well as challenging. We need challenges in our lives to stay sharp,” Darby said.
With a consistent trend of doctors and dentists taking participation on the team, the diversity continues with Chris Seipp, a South African local.
Seipp began his water polo career in high school during the years of 1992-93 at Durban High School in Durban, South Africa. During that time he boasts the recognition of being a First-Team Water Polo athlete.
For six years, Seipp was a referee in Western Province, RSA and even won Wester Province Referee of the Year in that time frame. Seipp has also worked as a Provincial referee trainer and coordinator for five years.
With all the diversity and connections on the team, it is no surprise that Anchorage Water Polo Club is able to bring up a former Team USA Player, Greg Enloe.
Enloe used to also play professionally in Europe and has coached over six different clubs and school teams. He will be in Anchorage to host a water polo clinic targeting former players and those who have strong swimming skills to come learn some valuable water polo skills.
The clinic will take place on Oct. 7 and 8 in the UAA pool from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. For more information on the club or the clinic, visit their Facebook group, Anchorage Water Polo Club, or contact club manager Scott Geuss at email@example.com.