The pool at Kennedy and everything else needed for the season was fully funded
ATASCADERO — In 2022, the Atascadero Middle School (AMS) water polo team was started by Jon Conrad. Conrad is known for also being the head water polo coach at Atascadero High School (AHS) and running the A-Town Water Polo Club.
“We also have our A-Town Water Polo Club. Which is what we do for High School during the summer and for the youth program,” stated Lauri Conrad, Jon’s wife, who is on the board of A-Town Water Polo Club. “For the last couple of years, we’ve actually been offering youth water polo year round.”
This year’s 2023 AMS water polo season was in limbo, and the Conrads knew the school district would not have a pool available to any of their water sports as the pool at the high school is still under construction.
“It was going to be our second year of the middle school program, but due to the lack of a pool, the district wasn’t able to find a location for us to train or pay for a coach or anything,” Jon Conrad said. “My wife (Lauri) was motivated and said, ‘No, we’ve gotta still have this program.’ So we pursued Kenedy Club Fitness, and they were very gracious and amazing to work with us. I talked to the school district, and they allowed us to run it (the middle school team) as a club team, even though we represented the middle school.”
To make this year’s season happen, the Conrads started reaching out to the local community donors to ask for help, and together, private families, large local corporations, Kennedy Club Fitness of Atascadero, and the A-Town Water Polo Club made sure that a season happened.
“Middle school sports,” Lauri Conrad said. “No one has to pay for those; the school usually covers it, and so we really, my heart was to be able to offer a middle school water polo team where anybody could try out, and finances were not an obstacle. It was just the same as any other middle school sport.”
The donors were Z Villages, Kiwanis Club of Atascadero, The North County Restaurant Group, and The Jones Family, whose children participated in the club team and AHS water polo. All four groups and individuals were the reason AMS had a season this year.
“The whole season for middle school was fully supported by some of our great supporters in the community, and so we did get the green light from the school district to run a water polo program, but it was through our club. So we ran it through our club, but we treated it like a middle school team,” added Lauri. “We technically weren’t Atascadero Middle School because we weren’t under the school, but the school gave us permission to represent them, so to speak, through our club.”
The practices took place at Kennedy, and the season lasted the last five weeks of the 22-23 school year. The girls team landed first place, with the boys team taking second.
“The first year we did it, there were several boys who did not make the team who came out the second year and made it, which is super cool because I love those kinds of stories. And now one of those kids is playing for our high school team,” said Lauri.
She also commented that the other boys who made the team are still in middle school and that, for many middle school students, this is a sport they can participate in while representing their school.
Jon says he’s excited for the AHS pool to be done so that they will no longer need to restrict registrations for the club program. Since A-Town Water Polo Club represented AMS this year, everyone who participated was required to have a USA Water Polo membership, but a district-run pool will make it so all middle school athletes can participate.
“I’m so impressed with how the people and the businesses and the private families of Atascadero have embraced water polo,” Jon concluded. “For still somewhat of a more obscure sport in this area to grow as fast as it has in recent years, it’s all because of the commitment of the amazing families and the financial commitment from businesses around us that allow us to stay afloat. Even though we don’t even have a pool.”