Luna coach gains insight training Junior Olympic water polo team
LAHAINA — Growing up in Southern California as a swimmer and surfer, Lahainaluna High School history teacher Will Hutchison naturally gravitated toward the sport of water polo. As a teenager, he played the game in high school and continued his interest as he earned his education degree at the University of California at Santa Barbara.
Shortly after coming to Maui in 1998, Hutchison found himself in the pool at Lahaina Aquatic Center assisting highly successful Luna swim coach Tom Popdan. Soon thereafter, he started up the Lahainaluna girls water polo program.
After a runner-up finish in the inaugural season of Maui Interscholastic League girls water polo, Coach Will has guided the Lady Lunas to five consecutive MIL championships and four top-five finishes at the state tournament.
Not one to rest on past laurels, the effervescent and energetic Hutchison traveled to Southern California this summer to further fuel his coaching insights as a mentor for the North San Diego Stars, a Junior Olympic training team in Southern California. Accompanying him was MIL All-Star goalie Gina Bela Mataafa.
“I had been informed of this program by Shawn Donohue, who is a water polo official here on Maui,” explained Hutchison last week. “He got me involved with this program and I became a goalie coach for the 16- and 18-and-under teams.”
“I gained a whole new appreciation for how these age group athletes work — they are really dedicated to the sport. I think Gina Bela got that as well. She got a lot of good work in the new style of playing — more aggressive and out of the goal. She also got a lot of exposure, because college coaches from Stanford, UCLA, Indiana and Harvard were there. They’re in the pool every day, about five-and-a-half hours a day. She pushed really hard and learned from… teams and coaches from Australia, Canada and Europe,” he continued.
“These five weeks will really help Gina Bela, myself and the team to get better. It was amazing to see how tall and strong the players were, and I was able to see what better ability can do. I learned the newest strategies, some creative coaching techniques and plenty of new things. Sometimes I would watch ten games a day — I’d become a water polo vampire! I want to go back again if I can. It was so much fun,” he concluded.