NAVAL SUPPORT ACTIVITY BAHRAIN
– Two teams from the Avenger-class minesweeper USS Devastator (MCM 6) took first and second place in a water polo tournament held at Naval Support Activity (NSA) Bahrain, Aug. 24.
Navy Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) held the competition in the training pool for 20 participants including the forward-deployed minesweeper, Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit (EODMU) 11 and NSA Bahrain’s security force.
“We had great participation; water polo is a fantastic sport and a great work out,” said Damian Fernandes, MWR Aquatics Coordinator. “We love to see our patrons happy as they keep themselves healthy, taking advantage of the facilities and the service we provide.”
Devastator boasted five alumni water polo players from the U.S. Naval Academy, but the overall tenor of play was inclusive to novice players. Each of the four teams also included members who had never touched a water polo ball before the tournament.
“We want new players to come out and learn the sport,” said Lt. j.g. Chris Vahey, Devastator’s communications officer. “I bring guys from the ship who have never played the game before. Once they experience the spirit of the game and the open style of play here, they are hooked.”
Ensign Darren McKay, Devastator’s electrical officer, led the ship’s first-place squad over Vahey’s second-place team.
“Everyone had a great time, lots of smiles, even in the final game which was pretty close,” said McKay. “I grew up with Chris in Florida and we’ve played together for 10 years – it is still fun to play with him, and even more fun when I win.”
Water polo is an Olympic sport that has gained popularity in many schools and universities in the last decade.
“I have been playing water polo for more than 30 years,” said Cmdr. Jason Salata. “The sport thrives in places where there is plenty of sun and water; I think Bahrain certainly qualifies as a great place for this game.”
“I want to continue to explore opportunities for people to try this sport and enjoy it as much as I do,” Salata said. “The MWR staff supports the sport; all we need is demand for more water polo opportunities.”
Salata, McKay, Vahey and other experienced players have begun a five-week youth clinic through MWR at the Family pool in an effort to grow interest in the sport at an early age.
All three players were recruited to play water polo at the Naval Academy out of high school and each attribute water polo as the impetus for current careers in the Navy.
“Older, experienced players took interest in us as kids and taught us the game of water polo,” said Vahey. “I owe where I am today to those players, so whether I am playing or coaching, this is my way to give back to a sport that gave me so much.”