Smith sisters guiding young Langley Otters

Suffice to say, water polo has been good to the Smith sisters.

The Maple Ridge siblings both secured full-ride university athletic scholarships through the sport, and have excelled over the years with the Fraser Valley Water Polo Club.

Now, they’re giving back to a sport that has given so much to them.

Victoria – a 22-year-old recent graduate of San Jose State University – has taken on the role of head coach of the Langley Otters water polo club, with her kid sister Virginia helping out as her assistant.

Nineteen-year-old Virginia, meanwhile, completed her first year at Long Beach State University.

The club they’re coaching is based at the Walnut Grove Community Centre, a handy commute over the Golden Ears Bridge from their hometown.

Victoria started with FVWP when the club was created by Justin Mitchell before playing with the national team starting at 14.

Like her former coach did years before, Victoria is hoping to lay a foundation for water polo in Walnut Grove.

“This is a brand new club and we’re excited to help develop these new players,” she said. “[FVWP coach] Kevin Mitchell approached us and said, ‘Hey, I have this team, would you like to coach it, it’s brand new.’”

The sisters jumped at the opportunity to promote and grow water polo south of the Fraser River.

“The [Maple Ridge-based] Haney Neptunes, a lot of the kids are already super developed in water polo,” Victoria said.

Cupping her hand down and holding it up to her shoulder, Victoria noted, “We want to bring the Langley Otters up to here.”

Virginia hopes to pass along her passion for water polo.

“I love the team aspect of it,” she said. “If your team sticks together for a long enough time, you all start to click. I played with Valley and started with my age group and as I developed, our whole team was one big, synchronized family.”

Water
Sisters Victoria and Virginia Smith (pictured at the Youth Cup in Montreal) are coaching the Langley Otters Water Polo Club. – Troy Landreville

An element of water polo that attracts players is the challenge that it brings.

“I have my ‘eight-and-unders’ where some kids will try it out and after five minutes they’re like, ‘This is so hard!’ But it’s amazing to see the huge difference that even three weeks does for them,” Victoria said. “They go from being barely able to swim to where they can multi-task by picking up the ball and moving around, where before they were scared about not being able to touch the bottom [of the pool].”

The Otters consist of roughly 40 members and the goal of the sisters, and the club, is to expand on those numbers in Langley.

“This is a big developmental club,” Victoria said. “Our biggest goal is to get the kids into water polo and for them to love it.”

Victoria, who like her sister is a Garibaldi Secondary grad, started playing water polo to complement her soccer.

“It was like a crossover and then we ended up loving it, and all the benefit from it,” she said.

Helping hands

Another member of FVWP, Grant Phillips-Hing, was part of the 17U squad that finished third at the Western National Championships in Calgary in May.

Phillips-Hing is helping coach the younger Otters and says his appeal to the sport is the “strategy about it.”

“You’re constantly swimming and you’re always moving,” he added.

“I’d say it’s getting more popular in Langley especially, because five years ago we didn’t even have a team here,” he said.

Also helping out is 15-year-old Deena Charles, who helped the FVWP 16U girls squad capture gold at the nationals in Calgary last month.

“It helps me improve my play by being able to tell the other kids how to do the different movements and exercises in the water,” said Charles, who started playing water polo when she was 10.

The club’s website is www.langleywaterpolo.com and its general email address is langleywaterpolo@gmail.com. 

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