Malibu Youth Water Polo program squads dived into competitive waters for the first time in two years on Sept. 24.
The two teams — one composed of boys ages 14 and under and the other filled with boys ages 12 and under — played in the Ventura County Water Polo League at Oxnard Aquatic Center in Oxnard.
The 12u team went 1-1 during the event, and the 14u team went 2-0.
Hayden Goldberg, one of the program’s coaches, said the teams played well.
“I had no expectations of really winning or losing,” said Goldberg, who also coaches the Malibu High boys water polo team. “I just wanted them to go out and learn. That’s the mindset. Every game, the teams showed improvement in chemistry. It was very positive overall.”
The teams competed against squads from the Gold Coast Water Polo Club and South Coast Water Polo Club.
The 12u and 14u teams practiced and had team scrimmages last year but had not played a game against another club in two years because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Goldberg said the Malibu players were excited to compete against unfamiliar faces.
“You really can’t learn until you play against an opponent that doesn’t know who you are, that wants to win for their own team,” he said. “Everyone was looking forward to this.”
The Malibu Youth Water Polo program has been around for several years. Most often, the young athletes in the program go on to play water polo for Malibu High.
Sixteen kids are on the 12u team and 21 kids are in the 14u group. Former Malibu High players Alana Gutierrez and Stevie Sturges also serve as coaches of the teams.
The Malibu squads each have two games on Oct. 1, and will play every other weekend until Nov. 5.
Goldberg wants the youths to get better at water polo each time they hop in the pool.
“I want everyone to learn the rules of the game and be able to make mistakes,” he said. “We want to get all of the rust off so by the time they feed into a high school program they will be alright.”