Going for gold: junior makes Olympic Development Program regional water polo team

Going for gold: junior makes Olympic Development Program regional water polo team

photo via Steve Sickman

Junior Jake Foughty made the Olympic Development Program (ODP) water polo training team, a feeder program of the national Olympic team that provides Olympic-level training. Jake will be competing as part of the Southwest regional team at the West Regional Championships in Salt Lake City Jan. 7-9.

Jake has played water polo on a club team, Mavericks Water Polo, for three years, and he has been playing on the Hebron water polo team for two years, since it began. He currently plays as a utility player. 

The ODP had three possible tryout dates throughout September and October, and Jake attended all three for maximum exposure.

“I didn’t feel that confident [going into tryouts],” Jake said. “I played with a few of [the guys there] in the past, but not a lot of them. [I was] just kind of nervous because [I] usually don’t play with these guys. They’re older than [me and] more experienced.”

Jake found out he made the team of 25 on Nov. 5. Across the state, 360 players made the ODP in Development, Cadet and Youth age groups.

“I felt great [when I heard I made the team,]” Jake said. “I was kind of shocked because this is my first time trying out, and I didn’t think I’d make it, but I just gave my 110% effort.”

Jake said a few people initially recommended him to try out for the team, one being Hebron water polo coach, Donzie Lilly. Jake is the first Hebron water polo athlete to make the ODP. Jake said Lilly has helped him improve at water polo and that he’s one of his biggest role models and supporters.

“Youth is by far the most elite and the hardest age group to get selected in,” Lilly said. “It’s especially hard for people that haven’t gone through the Development, the Cadets and the Youth [before]. For Jake to break through that barrier of being selected [while] not [being] in the ODP before speaks volumes [about] how well he did.”

Jake said his ODP team might not have a second practice before competing in Salt Lake City, but he thinks they will do well in the championship based on the strength of the roster. He primarily hopes to get to know the guys on the team better, especially since a lot of them are seniors.

“[The first practice] went pretty good,” Jake said. “I learned a lot of new things and built up confidence from that. I believe [that] is our only practice. Our second practice got canceled because it’s on a holiday and no other pools are open.”

Jake said he likely will not end up competing at the Olympics, but he would consider it if he had the chance. He hopes to continue playing water polo in college at a Division 1 school. Jake’s mom, Julie Foughty, said she believes the ODP will benefit Jake in the short and long term, and the family was excited about Jake’s accomplishment.

“[Making the ODP] shows that [Jake is] a hard worker and a team player,” Julie said. “He’s great at scoring goals, but when you watch Jake play, he doesn’t always have to be the person in the water scoring goals: he’s happy to be the guy making the assist. He has a variety of skill sets that make him a well-rounded player and a good teammate.”

The program is solely centered around the regional championships and the national championships for those who progress. After that, the team dissipates and there are tryouts again the next fall. Jake plans to try out in the fall of his senior year as well. Lilly said he is excited for Jake’s participation in the ODP.

“It’s tough in water polo,” Lilly said. “Sometimes you might be the best player on your team or you might have two or three other players of your caliber, so when you have people on the bench who are just as good as you, the game is a lot more fun. It’s a lot more fast-paced, it’s a lot more competitive. And I thought that would be a great opportunity for Jake.”