MHS Water Polo Teams Play to Prepare for Season

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Water polo coaches Mike Mulligan (left) and Hayden Goldberg

The Malibu High School (MHS) boys water polo season does not begin until August, but several players have returned to the pool to perfect their skills in summer leagues.

Both junior varsity and varsity players have the option to participate in summer polo, which involves practices on Monday and Tuesday mornings, and games on Wednesday nights.

“It’s good competition for our guys and keeps them fresh for our season,” Coach Hayden Goldberg said. “We encourage it because it keeps the kids together and keeps them practicing as much as they can.”

Goldberg said that, this year, the coaches are focusing on letting everyone play and experiment with positions instead of focusing mainly on senior players.

“Every year it’s a new team and we have always had a senior group of guys,” he explained. “It’s kind of like a cycle and we’re focusing on breaking out of that cycle. We’re seeing that we can play on both sides of the pool and we have a lot of guys who are playing different positions.”

He added that water polo is growing as a sport as well, which affects the coaching mentality.

“You can’t just be basic —you have to be better than the next player, and that’s what we’re looking for too,” he said. “We’re doing that now, in our summer practice, so that when season comes around we already know what we’re going to do and how we’re going to do it. Right now we’re playing to have fun.”

The junior varsity and varsity squads both began summer play on Wednesday, June 15. The varsity team played three games in a row at home, first losing to Royal High School, then picking up a win against Agoura High School and finally falling to Westside Water Polo Club. The junior varsity team tied its first game at Agoura High School.

A squad of seven incoming freshmen also joined returning players for summer league to prepare for their upcoming freshman seasons.

“I really enjoy the new eighth graders that are coming up,” Goldberg said. “I’ve been very fortunate to have them through youth [water polo] for a few years. I drill them hard, but at heart I just like seeing the kids develop.”

Several MHS players also attend water polo camps in the summer months. Pepperdine University’s Malibu Water Polo Camp is a popular option, and four players will travel to attend a camp at Stanford University.

Goldberg said he has seen that camps have a positive effect on his players.

“I always encourage it,”  he said. “We definitely see an increase in the love of the game more than just the physical part of it. They come back stoked to play.”

Some of the MHS players and alumni also return to the pool deck in their free time to help Goldberg coach the City of Malibu’s youth water polo program.

“They come to help out on their free time, not even being asked,” he said. “That’s really cool as well. Some of them are 25 and just coming back. Water polo is definitely one of those sports that is family-based.”

Goldberg is also head coach of the MHS girls water polo team, which starts its season in November. He said that, while the girls team does not have official practice during the summer, several of the players are very involved in outside club teams.

“I have three girls who are training with the Bruins at Pepperdine,” Goldberg said. “They’re getting ready to play for the junior Olympics, which will be July 22-24. In the long run, it’s really good for me because I know these three girls who are playing up will come back and help us out.”

With the boys’ season fast approaching, Goldberg says he hopes to see this year’s team continue the tradition of winning the league title and excelling in the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF). 

“We have the players, but they’re young right now so we really have to develop them,” he said. “They have to be able to play up for a year.”

The girls squad made it to CIF semifinals last year, and Goldberg plans to bring back his entire starting lineup.

“I just can’t wait for [girls] season,” Goldberg said. “They want to come back and they want to win.”