Burnaby Water Polo Club History

By Randy McCluskie

In the summer of 1977, when I was 19 years old, I was working as a coach for the Barracudas, working for the Municipality of Burnaby as a Lifeguard/Instructor and playing water polo for the Coquitlam Lions (then coached by John Stockdale). I heard through the grapevine that a group of lifeguards from Burnaby and some of my older swimmers were trying to form a water polo team and that they had practices at Bonsor Pool. I had also heard they had played an exhibition game against the Surrey team and had their butts kicked. Out of curiosity I went out to one of the practices and watched them play. There were eight players, all young men, and they had no clue about how to play the game, so I began to show them. That was the moment that the Burnaby Water Polo Club was born.

We played in our first Junior Tournament about a month later and won several games. We were so short of players that the tournament organizers let me play goal for my team even though I was a year too old to play junior. We entered our team in the "Senior Men's B" division of the B.C. Open Water Polo Championships in December of that year, picking up a couple of players from Surrey's Jr. Men's team to fill up our roster. We again did very well, winning several games against established Clubs such as Coquitlam and Killarney. For me, this would be the last tournament that I would play in for Coquitlam. From then on I was a playing coach with Burnaby.

I became the head coach of the Barracudas the next year and began convincing all of my best swimmers, ( and we had a lot of great swimmers), that they should come and play water polo. Our club, (which only operated in the winter months), began to grow by leaps and bounds. When I left in 1988 we had 5 teams, about 70 players and were the dominant team in B.C.. We had won 8 Junior(boys and girls under 18 years of age) championships in a row, sometimes placing first and second. We had placed five players on the Senior National Men's National Team including the team captain, Gord Vantol, at the L. A. Olympics. Of the 13 Players I carried on my Provincial Jr. Men's team 11 were from Burnaby when we won the Prairie Cup and the Western Canadian Championships in 1984. Also in 1984, our club was named the Community Team of the Year and I was named Coach of the Year by the Burnaby Chamber of Commerce, an honour I shared with Mr. Mike Jones, Head Coach of the Simon Fraser University Wrestling Team and Canada's National Wrestling Team's Head Coach.

For the first 9 years of our existence our club had only one person on its executive, me. I was the Registrar, Accountant, Head Coach, Trip planner, etc...... In 1986 our club elected our first executive so that all I had to do was coach the players and develop young coaches so that when I left there would be qualified coaches, from within our club, to take my place.

I retired from the Burnaby Water Polo Club in 1988 because of my new job with the Burnaby Fire Department and because my wife and I had just had our first child. To my delight the club has flourished and continues to do well to this day.