Long Beach water polo legend Tony Azevedo retired from playing, but continues to revolutionize the sport.
The five-time U.S. Olympian and silver medalist turned his attention to the future generation when he introduced the Aquatic Games last year, an international event bringing teams together from across the globe. This year’s Aquatic Games will be held at Long Beach State’s Ken Lindgren Aquatics Center from June 29 to July 3.
“We want to inspire the next generation of great water polo players and swimmers,” Azevedo said. “The Olympics will be [in Long Beach] in 10 years and these kids could be playing the sport they love right in their hometown on the biggest stage.”
The Games offer an opportunity for elite top-level play and competition, but go beyond other youth tournaments. It features a festive atmosphere with Opening Ceremonies and a two-hour elite clinic.
“We want to put more emphasis on individual training,” Azevedo said. “We have former Olympians catering to the athletes and helping develop skills in particular areas.”
Boys and girls ages 13 and under, along with boys, girls, and co-ed ages 11 and under, have the opportunity to learn from the best water polo minds in the world. Azevedo, legendary coach Ricardo Azevedo, and U.S. Olympians Ryan Bailey and Kami Craig are some of the former athletes and coaches leading the Games.
Swimming, for boys and girls age 11 to 16, has also been added to this year’s schedule led by U.S. Olympic gold medalists Jessica Hardy and Jason Lezak. Legendary USC and Olympic swim coach David Salo will also put the athletes through intense workouts and drills.
Azevedo emphasized that the Games will not only focus on “in the water” activities, but also an “out of the pool,” four-hour educational series to further strengthen the mental and physical aspect of the sport.
Physical trainer Kenny Schroeder, who served as the official trainer for four different Olympic teams, will discuss the importance of strength and conditioning while emphasizing cardiovascular endurance during a physical therapy course. Cardinal Education will present a college preparation course, which emphasizes the importance of academics in the athletic world. Lisa Mitzel, a mental training expert, will share the skill of believing and teach effective tools to build confidence during a sports psychology course. And Dr. Karen Bloch and Dr. Erika Figge will offer ways to prevent injury and recover from injury quickly in order to improve performance.
“The Aquatic Games gives the athlete every aspect of the sport from mental to physical,” Azevedo said. “We want to give them as much opportunity to develop and succeed.
This year’s Games also offer a package for coaches and athletes to stay overnight in the LBSU dorms where meals will be provided. Food and other snack options will be in the vendor village during tournament play including a snack shack, food trucks, and a frozen lemonade stand. A VIP option is also available, which includes a fully-catered tent where games can be viewed in the shade.
“This could be the premier aquatic event in the world,” Azevedo said. “And where better to host it than the city that has produced more Olympians than anywhere else in the country.”
For more information on the 2018 Aquatic Games visit theaquaticgames.com.