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Martin Gallegos
Staff Writer

LPC’s sports department made a splash as it has decided to add a new sport to the campus.

After pushing for it for years, swim and dive head coach Jason Craighead is finally seeing his desire to have a water polo team at the school realized.

“I went through six different committees to bring the idea forward,” Craighead said. “A lot of people asked, ‘who is gonna coach?’ ‘How is it gonna work?’ I said, I will coach and do whatever is necessary to make things work.”

Despite his previous experience as a women’s water polo coach at Sacramento City College, Craighead will take on the role of head coach of the men’s water polo squad here at LPC. The college is currently still conducting interviews for the women’s head coaching job. Both teams will be competing in the Coast Conference.

While the season does not begin until Fall 2015, Craighead is already hard at work recruiting student-athletes from the various talented high schools in the tri-valley area.

“The 680 corridor is probably one of the highest recruited areas in California, probably no. 2 behind Orange County,” Craighead said. “It’s a huge hotbed for water polo.”

High schools around the area consistently produce successful water polo teams year in and year out. After they finish their high school playing career, many of the student-athletes continue to play on at colleges like Diablo Valley and Ohlone. Those schools have now become northern California powerhouses. Craighead is hoping to establish a winning program at LPC by getting those high schools’ students from the area to come here instead.

“We’re trying to keep our local students local. We were losing out on students who are going over to Delta, Modesto, DVC or Ohlone. Those are kind of the ‘big four’ for water polo. It’s a good opportunity for our people to stay here,” Craighead said. “Two years ago, Ohlone’s starting women’s team had six of its seven starters from either Amador or Foothill high school. They were going down to Fremont to play instead of coming here.”

Swimming and water polo are similar in that they both take place in a pool, but Craighead says the similarities stop there. While some of his athletes from the swim team intend to join the water polo team, coaching the two sports are two completely different entities.

“It’s a team sport, a lot of similarities to basketball,” Craighead said. “A lot of conditioning, setting up offensive and defensive scenarios. It is one of the most physically demanding sports out there because there’s just no rest.”

When it comes to fan support, it’s no secret that LPC lacks school spirit. The low attendance numbers at Hawks basketball and soccer games tell the story. While those sports struggle to get people to come watch, Craighead thinks the water polo teams will have a full house for their home games.

“I watched the Livermore High women’s water polo team on the road to take on the no. 1 team, San Ramon. There were just as many Livermore parents as there were San Ramon parents,” Craighead said. “It’s just amazing how much people come out to watch water polo. It’s got its own population and they are very die-hard. We love the community support.”

He believes that support, along with already having the necessary amenities available, was ultimately a big factor when the college decided to add the sport.

“We looked at a lot of different sports to add and this one just made the most amount of sense. It has huge support, it’s everywhere in the tri-valley community and it has the least impact financially on the college,” Craighead said. “The pool’s already here so let’s just get as busy as we can.”

For those hoping to see a lacrosse, baseball or even football team added to the school, Craighead says it could happen in the future.

“There are a lot of sports that everyone would like us to have so we’re gonna be making a push for more sports in the next couple of years,” Craighead said.

As for being a part of a new team on campus, this isn’t Craighead’s first rodeo. He was also a part of the first ever swim and dive team at LPC. Still, as special as it was to be a part of that, he says it will be just as special to make history as the first head coach of the men’s water polo team at LPC.

“It’s just huge that we’re adding another inter-collegiate sport, it’s a big deal across campus,” Craighead said. “It’s gonna be really cool to be a part of the first (water polo) team ever on campus.”

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