Water Polo Team Keeps Their Heads Above Water

A New Coach Keeps up the Winning Culture


Coach Graper instructs the water polo team at Santa Barbara High School. (Photo courtesy of John Sun)

Soon before the start of the water polo season, Coach Pat O’Brien resigned, leaving a new coach, Zach Graper, in charge of leading the boys team towards their anticipated successes.

After coaching water polo for several years, Coach O’Brien decided to leave his role at Palos Verdes High School due to his move to Northern California.

Athletes on the team express it was a sudden departure they were not quite expecting.

“It was really surprising,” said senior and co-captain Jonathan Ross. “We didn’t really have any warning of it and we all really liked the coach. It was a little bit sad.

Although beloved, O’Brien moving away left the team a bit disheartened, the athletes are liking their new leader.

Junior water polo player Kieran Kearns feels that Coach Graper is doing a remarkable job at bringing the team into shape.

“He’s really nice,” said Kearns. “He’s really trying to build a good culture for our team.”

While Coach Graper has been a positive addition to the team, they admit they’ve had to make some adjustments to the change.

“He didn’t get officially hired until like right before the season started,” said Kearns. “Our first couple of games were a big learning curve on kind of playing with a new coach and playing really competitive teams, so it was really tough.

These obstacles do not discourage the team from their goals.

The team placed fifth at the Santa Barbara Invitational tournament and eighth at the South Coast Invite tournament.

Currently, the team is ranked ninth in Division I CIF-SS water polo polls.

After already beating league opponents Santa Monica and Culver City, Kearns says he thinks they are really getting into the groove of things now and a win over Bay League is foreseeable.

“I would say our number one goal is to win the Bay League,” said Kearns. “Recently, we’ve split Bay League with Mira Costa. But this year we really think we have the best team in the league.”