Introduction by Chuck Hines: In June of 2012, Janice Krauser received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Southeastern Zone of USAWP for her many, many contributions to the sport, dating back to the 1960s. Her long-time involvement at every level – local, national, international -- resulted in her induction into the USAWP Hall of Fame in 1998, about which you can read by going to www.usawaterpolo.org/InsideUSAWaterPolo/HallofFame/98JaniceKrauser.aspx. Professionally, Janice, with a Masters degree in Education, spent 35 years in Exceptional Student Education, working with those needing special attention. Nowadays she’s serving as Director of Operations for Functioneer Travel. She continues to assist with water polo activities from time to time. Following is her report on the first two decades of water polo in South Florida, 1960-1979, when the sport was governed nationally by the Amateur Athletic Union.
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- In 1960 a young coach, Cav Cavanaugh, brought his family to South Florida and began coaching swimming at Coral Park High School in Miami. As a part of the team’s training, they did water polo drills, thus beginning the introduction of Water Polo into the area.
Other swimming coaches in the Miami area – Al Sheeler, Sheeler-Winston Swim Club; Archie Chesneau, Coral Gables Swim Club; Larry Holley, North Miami Beach Swim Club; and Mike Burdges, Hialeah Swim Club – to name a few – saw the benefits of water polo as a component of their swimming club programs and began to incorporate it. Games between these clubs started in the early ‘60s.
At about the same time another young man immigrated to the United States from Holland and settled in Ft. Lauderdale. Rob de Vust was a Dutch National Team player and began a water polo club at the Swimming Hall of Fame pool.
At this time the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) was the National governing body for ALL sports. Each sport had their own committees, but they were all under the AAU’s umbrella. One of the benefits of this was that once an athlete paid to participate in a sport, for just $1 more, you could add another sport and so on. In this way, many boys and girls who were swimmers could, for $1.00, participate in water polo. It was a very good deal.
My family has 8mm movies of the first South Florida Water Polo Clinic, held at Victory Pool in North Miami Beach, where my brother Larry Krauser and I were introduced to the sport of water polo. There were at least 50 kids, and we were taught the egg beater kick, how to swim with a ball, how to pass, and how to shoot. It was an all-day affair, and we LOVED it. Playing water polo was a break from swimming laps, it was hard work, and it kept us in the pool. My mother saw it as a win-win situation.
As the ‘60s continued, the pace of water polo in South Florida exploded. There were high schools playing as well as club teams. Many of the top swimmers in the area were enjoying water polo as a conditioner for swimming as well as the fun of playing a team sport. As the sport started taking off, a number of the local swimming coaches saw it as a THREAT to their programs. Led by Jack Nelson at Ft. Lauderdale Swim Association, these coaches started to bad mouth water polo and tried to keep their swimmers from playing. With the initial group of athletes, this didn’t work, but with the younger swimmers and their parents, the local swim coaches ingrained in them that water polo was a detriment to swimming. However, many of those swimmers did play water polo on the sly, and it never seemed to hurt their swimming.
In 1967, a couple of events put Florida Water Polo on the map. The first State High School Water Polo Championships were held. This competition featured teams from Dade County including Coral Park, coached by Cav Cavanaugh; Palmetto, Errol Seegars and later Vince Santostefano; North Miami, Terri Greene; Miami, George Duggan; Carol City, Henry Adams; Coral Gables, Cullen Bullock; and Miami Springs, Bill Diaz. Broward County teams were Nova, Glenn Kaye; and South Broward, Hal Boylan. Palm Beach County had St. Andrews, Terry Carlisle. The winners of this inaugural event were Ransom Everglades in the Girls and Palmetto for the Boys. If I’m not mistaken, Florida was the first state to play girls’ high school water polo.
Also in 1967, the Women’s Senior National Championships were held in Miami at the Young Women’s Hebrew Association pool and were run by Cav Cavanaugh. I happened to play in this championship and remember that our team came in 5th. The winner was Northern Virginia Aquatic Club, with Cav Cavanaugh’s Coral Park team placing 2nd.
In 1968, Terry Carlisle’s team from St. Andrews beat Coral Park in the Boys’ State Champion-ships held at Tamiami Park pool. I’m not sure who won the Girls’ crown.
Our girls’ team at Ft. Lauderdale was an interesting group. As I mentioned earlier, Rob de Vust was the coach of the team. However, he refused to coach girls. His only interest was in the boys. We trained in the diving well of the Swimming Hall of Fame pool. My female teammates and I would sit on the side and watch the boys do a drill, and then we would get in the other end of the pool and do it ourselves. Basically, we learned to play the game by watching the boys and then trying to duplicate it.
All of us, girls and boys, were the top swimmers in Ft. Lauderdale. Most of us were National age group swimming champions, both individually and on relays. So we had the swimming part down. I remember my best friend, Barb Law, was a terrific breaststroker who had legs “up to her armpits” and arms “down to her knees.” She also had a mean egg-beater kick and was our goalie. Some of the younger girls were pretty fast so they played offense. Me, I defended “hole.” At this time we, the girls, played a half-court game where there were forwards (3) and defenders (3). I was able to steal the ball from most of the opposing girls playing “hole,” but then I had to throw it. It wasn’t that I couldn’t throw a ball; it was that I wore glasses before they made soft contact lenses. Thus I was never quite certain if I was throwing it to the right color cap!
Our boys group in Ft. Lauderdale fared much better than the girls did. Over the Christmas holidays in 1968, they went to a tournament in Puerto Rico, which started their International competition. In 1969, Rob de Vust took them to The Netherlands for training and games, where they were very successful. Also in 1969, the first National Junior Olympics were held in Des Moines, Iowa, organized by Bob Helmick. Our 15U boys’ team, including my brother and some of the parents, my mom included, drove to the tournament. Ft. Lauderdale became the first Boys Junior Olympic Champions, with Des Moines placing 2nd and Chicago 3rd. Two of the boys from that FL team, Larry Krauser and Buddy Orland, continue to play and are currently on the 55+ KAOS team that placed 2nd at the recent World Masters Championships in Sweden. They’ve been passing the ball to each other for over 40 years.
While the players and coaches were improving, we were also developing referees. My father, who played football in high school, wasn’t a swimmer. In fact, he walked on the bottom of the pool. It didn’t matter how deep the pool was, he was walking on the bottom. He never really got “into” our swimming careers, but when we started playing water polo, a team sport, he got involved with refereeing along with some of the other fathers. The mothers would work the table, and it was quite a family affair for many of us.
The highlight of my father’s refereeing was at the Men’s Senior National Outdoor Championships in 1971. This event was held at the Swimming Hall of Fame pool in Ft. Lauderdale right after the Pan-American Games in Cali, Columbia. My family hosted the two neutral referees from those games, Abe Fuchs from Belgium and Mateo Mangeot from Spain. They refereed our Nationals along with my dad and Mr. O’Laughlin, another parent from our team. The most exciting team at the Nationals was Ft. Lauderdale. With mostly high school age players, they placed 2nd to the New York Athletic Club. NYAC was a team of older players who played “old style” with each player having a “spot” in the pool. They passed the ball from one to the other with “a little bit of swimming.” The Ft. Lauderdale team swam up and down the pool, all 6 players, and almost pulled out what would have been the biggest upset in water polo.
This group of players from Ft. Lauderdale continued playing together for many years, competing at local, national, and international events. One in particular occurred in 1975 when they went down to Caracas, Venezuela, and placed 2nd to the local team in another International event.
The 1970s saw the emergence of Women’s Water Polo in South Florida as the best in the nation at that time. Being able to use girls who were strong swimmers was a big help to the teams.
In 1971, Cullen Bullock took the Coral Gables girls’ and boys’ 15U teams to Albuquerque for the Junior Olympic Championships. The girls placed 1st, beating Chuck Hines’ Asheville YMCA team from North Carolina 8-6 for the gold. CG’s Kathy Horne was the tournament MVP. The CG boys placed third. At the Women’s Junior Nationals that year, the team from Hialeah, coached by Mike Burdges, upset Coral Gables 10-9 to win the championship. The big event in ’71 was the Women’s Senior Nationals, held at the Univ. of Miami pool. The Palmetto Barracudas, coached by Vince Santostefano, won over a 9-team field that included entries from Coral Gables, Coral Park, Hialeah, Sheridan Swim Club of Illinois, Northern Virginia, Cincinnati, and Asheville. Lead-ing Palmetto were All-Americans Diane Irwin, Jackie Kayser, Robin Matley and Marcia Pope.
By 1972, the team from Palmetto had disbanded, and at the Women’s Senior Outdoor National Championships hosted by Asheville, Coral Gables placed 1st with Hialeah taking 2nd. At the Women’s Senior Indoor Nationals held at Cincinnati, Coral Gables again was the winner.
In 1973, the Junior Olympics were held at Ransom School in Coconut Grove with North Dade Y taking 3rd in the Girls’ division, behind Northern Virginia and Asheville. Ken McGartlin, director at North Dade, had recruited Mike Burdges from Hialeah to coach the Y girls and build a potent program there, which he did.
The 1973 Women’s Senior Outdoors was again held in Asheville, and Coral Gables, now being coached by Billy Burrell, continued their winning streak. Fresno from Calif. took the runner-up spot, followed in order by North Dade, Asheville, Northern Virginia, and Cincinnati. At the Senior Indoors, again held in Cincinnati, Coral Gables won their fourth Women’s Senior National Championship in a row! Cincinnati was 2nd, Asheville 3rd, and Anaheim, Calif., 4th, with other entries including Ann Arbor, Lexington from Kentucky, Northern Virginia, and the Cincinnati ‘B’ team. Leading Coral Gables to their four straight national titles were All-Americans Kathy Horne, Karen Bruce, Jenny Thompson, and Sallie Thomas, aided by Shawn Doyle, Dorothy Swanko, and goalies Sue Thompson and Sue Winston.
In 1974, at the Women’s Senior Outdoor Championships held in Fresno, Calif., the North Dade Y, coached by Mike Burdges, upset the field and won the championship. Anaheim was 2nd, Coral Gables 3rd, Asheville 4th, Fresno 5th, and Modesto 6th. Members of the victorious North Dade squad were Cathy Burch, goalie Heather Cairns, Connie Eakins, Nancy Jana, Judy Johnson, Debbie Meekins, and MVP Lynn Pringle.
In 1975, the Coral Gables, North Dade, and North Miami women’s teams combined forces and competed together as a unit representing North Miami Beach. Coached by Jeff Smith and with eight All-Americans on their roster, they were a powerhouse. The local newspaper reported that “the team, ranging in ages from 16 to 21, won five games in the Senior Nationals at Ashe-ville, scoring a total of 90 goals. The only close game for North Miami Beach was against Ashe-ville in the finals, which NMB won 10-8. Coach Smith said the score was running 1-1 at the end of the first quarter, 3-3 at halftime, then 6-5 at the conclusion of the third period before the NMB team took over. ‘We were a bit more experienced,’ he said, ‘and maybe in better shape.’”
There was also a separate Miami team that played in the Women’s Senior Nationals at Ashe-ville, coached by Larry Holley, with the top players being young Tina Holley, who was just 12, and Rose Castillo, Bunny Muscara, Robin Wingate, and Bonnie Hudson.
Also in 1975, the North Miami 15U girls’ water polo team, coached by Gary Besbris, took a trip to the Junior Olympics in Toledo, Ohio, where they placed 3rd behind Tucson, Arizona, and Asheville. All-Americans from that team were Julie Singleton, Laura Park, and Cheryl Shippee. The North Miami Beach 15U boys’ team also competed in the Junior Olympics at Toledo, with a young Mike Greenwald competing. Coaches Larry Holley and Skip Hallquist were instrumental in the successes of NMB at that time. In 1976, they qualified for and attended the Junior Olym-pics at Albuquerque. Their boys’ and girls’ teams traveled in a chartered Greyhound bus from Miami to New Mexico.
There was more traveling to compete in 1976. The Ft. Lauderdale women’s water polo team, which now had a coach of their own, Larry Krauser, traveled to Quebec, where they stayed with the local team members and spent time sightseeing and playing water polo. Some of the top players for Ft. Lauderdale were Lil Hermes, Beth Wotton, Nancy Wright, Kathi Karageorges, and Chris Bloese, who continues to compete at the Masters level.
Also in 1976, the NMB women’s team journeyed out to Honolulu for the Women’s Senior Out-door Championships. This was their final appearance on the national scene.
In 1977, a team from GO Water Polo, started and coached by Lee Childs in Cooper City, played in the Junior Olympic Championships held at Victory Pool in North Miami Beach. The girls placed 3rd. The NMB boys’ teams competed in both the 15U and 17U age groups, with the 17U team placing 3rd. In the 15U age group, GO Water Polo also had a boys’ team that placed high.
Right after this tournament, the Women’s Senior Nationals were contested at the Swimming Hall of Fame Pool and GO again competed as did Ft. Lauderdale. In the same year, the Girls’ Junior Nationals were held in Asheville, with a team representing North Miami, coached by Shawn O’Rourke, placing 1st and GO 2nd. There was an additional International division con-tested during this event which was won by Ste-Foy from Quebec, with Asheville 2nd, North Miami 3rd, GO 4th, and Houston 5th.
In 1978, the GO girls traveled to The Woodlands, Texas, for the Junior Nationals, where they placed 2nd to Commerce, Calif. The NMB boys’ 15U and 17U teams again qualified and attended the Junior Olympics held in Berkeley, Calif., where the 17U’s came in 4th. An all-star women’s team from South Florida coached by Shawn O’Rourke and Larry Krauser competed in the Senior Nationals in 1978 at Pittsburgh and in 1979 at Long Beach.
Also in 1979, Larry Krauser was the first player from Florida selected by Coach Monte Nitzkow-ski to our United States Men’s National Team. Larry and his wife moved to the Irvine, Calif. area, and he played at the highest level until the Government decided not to field a team in the 1980 Olympics.
Meanwhile, at the 1979 Junior Olympics, held at the Commerce Aquatic Center in Calif., there was quite a bit of controversy. The controversy was over National team members competing in the JOs without being properly registered. Also, the team from Hawaii was disqualified by the tournament committee after the event. The outcome of the tournament saw the North Miami girls, coached by Gary Besbris, placing 3rd in both the 15U and 18U divisions. The North Miami boys’ 18U team qualified for this tournament and placed 2nd, beating teams from Commerce and Newport Beach, Calif., and Texas, and elsewhere. They were leading the title game with Concord, Calif., at the half, but lost in the end.
During the late 70s, Florida had a number of women players who were members of the Na-tional Teams. Kathy Horne, Lil Hermes, and Nancy Wright were on the Senior Women’s Team and Barbara Meisenholder, Lee Ann Bounds, and Beth Wotton were on the Junior National team. These players represented the United States in International competitions that turned out to be the beginning of women’s water polo worldwide.
Many of our men who grew up and played during the ‘60s and ‘70s in Florida went on to play water polo in college – Bill Burrell Jr. at Foothill Community College; Randy Wilkins at Stanford; Larry Krauser at Purdue; Buddy Orland at Yale; Mike Greenwald, Tony Korvick, and Robert Sparks at Loyola University of Chicago; Lonnie Finkel and Jim Oppenborn at UCLA; Ed Hirsh at USC; Rick Solomon at Cal- Berkeley; Peter Kaufman at Brown; Mark Holley at Texas A&M; Ted Bresnahan and Bobby Arnold at Kentucky; Doug Malcolm at Ohio State; Dirk Jordan and Joe Wotton at Air Force; and Mark Shulman and Brian Saul at Slippery Rock.
Looking back on those days has been quite a journey. My thanks to Cav Cavanaugh, Gary Besbris, Mike Greenwald, Jeff Smith, Larry Krauser, Chuck Hines, Ted Bresnahan and Nancy Horton for their help with names/dates/events. I’m sure there are many more stories from this era, and I welcome any additions/changes to this article.