Del Mar Water Polo Club thriving, coaches encourage more young athletes to try the sport

Del Mar Water Polo Club Founder and Head Coach Brett Ormsby. Photo/Jon Clark
Del Mar Water Polo Club Founder and Head Coach Brett Ormsby. Photo/Jon Clark

By Karen Billing

Staff Writer

Del Mar Water Polo Club coaches are hoping to get more young athletes to take a dip into the sport of water polo. Now with programs for players ages 5 to 18, the club offers plenty of opportunities for kids to soak up a new sport, develop their skills with Olympic-level instruction and compete on a team.

“For kids that like water sports, they are going to love water polo if they try it,” said founder and head coach Brett Ormsby. “It’s a fun, dynamic sport.”

Based out of the Cathedral Catholic High School pool, Del Mar Water Polo Club was founded by Del Mar resident and Olympic water polo player Ormsby in 2008. His wife, Thalia Ormsby, also a water polo Olympian, is one of the coaches on a very talented roster.

Ormsby started the club at age 25, after accepting a position at Cathedral Catholic as water polo coach, and algebra and U.S. history teacher.

Initially, Ormsby started the club to keep his high school athletes in training year-round but he couldn’t block the club level from growing.

“Within the last year, we’ve just exploded,” Ormsby said.

Last year Del Mar Water Polo Club sent its first two teams to the Junior Olympics—this year they are sending five.

New for the club this year is the addition of girls’ teams. Another new feature of the club is its younger age group teams for 12 and unders, and 10 and unders.

“That’s huge for us as a growing club to start developing athletes young,” Ormsby said.

Ormsby knows the value of starting young. As a child he was always around the sport as his dad Greg Ormsby is a longtime San Diego water polo player and coach. Greg Ormsby coached at Hilltop and Poway high schools, in addition to becoming an assistant coach for the U.S. Cadet and Junior National teams.

“I was introduced to the sport at birth, but I really started playing at 10 years old, ” Ormsby said

Water polo wasn’t always his sport— he also played a lot of soccer as a young athlete and, uniquely, did not come to water polo from a swimming background.

“By the time I was a freshman in high school I realized that water polo was where my future was, it was my strongest sport and I was getting better and better at it,” Ormsby said.

He excelled at Valhalla High School and went on to star on UCLA’s team, racking up 240 career goals, second all-time in UCLA’s history. While still at UCLA he became a member of the U.S. Olympic Water Polo team and competed in the 2004 Athens games as a 19-year-old.

“For water polo players, there’s no professional league so the Olympics are what you dream about,” Ormsby said. “It was great, a lot of fun and we had a really young team at the time so it was a very neat experience for all of us.”

After college Ormsby continued to play, but was slowed by injuries, eventually turning to coaching. Before returning to San Diego he was an assistant coach at UCLA, coached at Harvard-Westlake School in North Hollywood, and found great success with the Los Angeles Water Polo Club, leading his girls team to the 2007 National Junior Olympics.

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