Sharks boys water polo undergoes ‘Hell Week’ to prepare for season

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The Malibu High School Sharks Boys water polo team endured three-hour practices each morning last week during which the squad focuses on swimming, shooting, and stamina. Photo by Devon Myers.

The Sharks travel north to scrimmage the Santa Barbara High Dons on Aug. 22

Members of Malibu High Sharks boys water polo team probably swam more yards than they can count this week at the pool at Malibu High. 

The Sharks also went through plenty of shooting drills and practiced their offensive sets, but the annual five days of twice-a-day preseason practices, which began on Monday and ends on Friday, isn’t known as “Hell Week” because it’s a relaxing dip in the pool. 

Instead, it’s a week of intense training meant to get Malibu’s players conditioned for the season, Sharks head coach Hayden Goldberg said last week.

“I’m sure everyone has been doing what they needed to do over the summer, but we are going to get into water polo shape,” he said. “That is completely different from lifeguard shape or swim shape. It’s a different mentality.”

“This is an endurance sport in the water,” added Goldberg, who is entering his seventh season as head coach. “It’s like running if you play soccer or football.”

The week features three-hour practices each morning, during which the squad focuses on swimming, shooting, and stamina. The squad’s two-and-a-half-hour practices in the afternoon feature team bonding and intrasquad scrimmages. 

The training, Goldberg noted, can reveal the spirit of a squad.

“Every year is a different team,” he said. “We had three seniors graduate last year, and this year I have eight seniors, so it’s a different swing to have a senior-heavy team compared to years past when we had majority younger guys.” 

The squad was set to celebrate the end of “Hell Week” and the start of the season with a team dinner with the players’ families on Friday. 

The Sharks enter their 2023 campaign as two-time defending champions of the Tri-Valley League. The team won the league title outright in 2022 and advanced to the second round of the CIF playoffs. Malibu beat Fountain Valley 11-9 in the first round, but was downed 10-4 by Crean Lutheran in the second round. Two seasons ago, Malibu shared the league crown with Foothill Tech. 

Goldberg believes Malibu can claim the league championship again thanks to key returning players that are skilled on offense and defense. 

“I think the boys are going to find themselves as a unit and there are going to be at least six guys other teams will have to worry about,” he said. 

The Sharks travel to Santa Barbara to scrimmage the Santa Barbara High Dons on Aug. 22. Malibu scrimmages the Dons, traditionally a water polo powerhouse, each season to gauge where they are at as a team. 

“For years, Santa Barbara has been tops in their division,” Goldberg said. “To go up there and either get our butts kicked, play with the team, or just see if we can throw things out against a great program is something I look forward to.”

Malibu will participate in an Aug. 25-26 tournament in Thousand Oaks to start the regular season. They will play at Camarillo on Aug. 29 and at Agoura on Aug. 31. The squad will play in a Sept. 1-2 tournament at Ventura, and host Beverly Hills on Sept. 5. The Sharks will hold the Malibu Tournament Sept. 7-9. 

Goldberg expects a grueling, but successful “Hell Week” for the team to kickstart a great season.

“It’s good to see the boys at the end of the week or toward the end of the first couple of days, say ‘Hey, I can do this,’” Goldberg explained. “It’s a great team-bonding thing. We spend like 28 hours together during the entire week. This is a family.”