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Loporchio Seeks Younger Athletes to Help Develop Area Water Polo

July 20, 1989|GARY KLEIN | Special to The Times

Pete Loporchio tried, but the conversation was going nowhere.

Interruptions, at approximately 20-second intervals, repeatedly foiled Loporchio's response to a visitor's request for an evaluation of the current state of water polo in the Glendale area.

"Glendale A," Loporchio said to a flat-topped 13 year old who stuck his head into the small office at the Glendale High swimming pool.

"Glendale B," he piped seconds later, addressing only a glance from another young would-be questioner wanting to know his team assignment for the evening.

It continued that way for 10 minutes. Loporchio formulating a thought only to have his concentration broken--"Frosh-soph . . . Varsity . . . Don't miss your ride to the game . . . "--by one of the dozens of youths filtering into the pool area.

"I think Glendale as a whole has come a long way in terms of interest in water polo," Loporchio said finally. "I think we're going to see the benefits in the immediate future--not just here but at Hoover and Crescenta Valley as well."

About 60 teen-agers and preteens are participating this summer in Loporchio's developmental water polo program, which operates under the Verdugo Hills Aquatics Club charter.

The club, one of the largest in Los Angeles County, plays high school and age-group matches at Glendale, South Pasadena, and Harvard high schools and also at Cal State Los Angeles--a schedule that has the 28-year-old Loporchio sprinting from one pool to another almost every night of the week.

The goal, Loporchio said, is to help make Glendale-area schools competitive with the best programs in the San Fernando Valley and--eventually--Orange County.

"For us to be competitive in the water polo arena in general, we need to start at a younger level," said Loporchio, who has been head coach at Glendale for five years. "Getting kids into the sport in the ninth and 10th grade isn't cutting it when Orange County schools like El Toro, San Clemente and Mission Viejo are starting at 9, 10 and 11 years old.

"We want to get kids in and give them some exposure to the game so when they get to high school, they can make a rational decision about what sport is best for them."

Loporchio's philosophy appears to be working.

Each year, a growing number of Glendale freshmen already proficient at treading water via the egg-beater kick are beating a path to the pool to play water polo for the Dynamiters.

Although they have fallen short of winning the Pacific League title--losing three times in the league final to four-time defending champion Muir--the Dynamiters have made the Southern Section 3-A playoffs three times.

The key to their success, say those who have watched and coached against the Dynamiters, is Loporchio, who graduated from Glendale in 1979 and played water polo at Cal State L. A.

"Pete's manner as a coach on the deck is very impressive," said Bob Svonkin, a water polo official who has refereed at the high school, college and club levels for 12 years. "He motivates his kids without being harsh and coaches his players instead of dealing with other issues he can't control."

Walt Culbertson, who has been coaching water polo at Muir since 1963, said he expects the Glendale program to continue improving. He picked the Dynamiters and Hoover as the teams to beat in the Pacific League this fall.

"Part of the problem with a lot of programs is that there are so many coaching changes, there's no stability," Culbertson said. "Pete's shown consistency, that he's going to be there for those kids every year.

"I think his strength is still to come because he has the younger kids in the program now."

Next month, Loporchio will take a team of 16 year olds to Hawaii to compete in the Hawaiian Invitational--the nation's largest water polo tournament, which features competition in age-group and open divisions.

This will be the third time in five years that Loporchio has trekked to the islands with a Glendale-area team in tow.

"It's a great experience for the kids because they play four to six games in big pools," Loporchio said. "The best teams from Southern California are usually there along with teams from Northern California, New Zealand and Hawaii, so we see better quality."

With the improving quality of water polo in the Glendale area, Loporchio says balance with the perennial powers at the high school level is nearing reality.

"It would be nice to say we're going to get there in a certain amount of time, but that's not possible," Loporchio said. "Right now, it's just nice to see interest in the area growing.

"That's the first, and most important, step."

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