Giving the game a shot |

Giving the game a shot

Ashlee Harbour has only been playing water polo for about one year now, but that hasn’t stopped the Nevada Union High School junior from diving into the sport with full force.

Harbour enjoyed her first dip into the sport last fall so much that she decided to join the American River Water Polo Club in the offseason.

And now it appears there’s no longer such a thing as an “offseason” for the 16 year old, as she’s pretty much dedicated herself to the sport on a year-round basis.

Harbour and her teammates on the American River 16-and-under team depart this week for Junior Olympics competition in Irvine. Her team is one of 14 that American River Water Polo Club qualified for the JOs this year.

“It’s definitely going to be different from everything I’ve done so far,” she said.

Not only will Harbour and her ‘mates be exposed to some of the top talent in their age group at the tournament, they’ll also get their first brush with college scouting. Athletes are encouraged to put together a resume of their playing experience, which also will only grow longer with the competition they’ll face this week.

For Harbour and her teammates, most who play for high school teams such as Granite Bay, McClatchy, Roseville and Oakmont, the goal has become a college scholarship after ramping up their individual dedication to the sport.

After Nevada Union’s season came to an end last fall, Harbour spent the winter months with the American River Club’s academy. She then competed for the Nevada Union swim team in the spring, which was followed by her competitive club season with American River this summer.

Once the Junior Olympics end – and she shows her pigs at the Nevada County Fair next week – she’ll have about a full week off until she pulls the water polo cap back on for Nevada Union’s preseason practices.

And she’s excited to put her newfound skills to work for the Miners.

“I think I’ve personally gotten a lot better,” she said. “I’ve learned the fundamentals a lot better. I’m just a lot better player.

“(Confidence) is probably most of it, because you know and see the improvements and the different things you’re doing and it boosts your confidence.”

Her father, Brian Harbour, who said his knowledge of water polo was next to nothing before his daughter tried it out last fall, likes what he’s seen so far. And he’s enjoying learning a new sport alongside his girl.

“Defense has been her strength since she started, because there wasn’t any question about what to do. The person has the ball, go take it away from them,” he said. “Now, though, she’s getting it.”

As far as the commitment Ashlee’s made, in dedicating herself to the sport on a year-round basis, Brian said he’s a firm believer in what sports can provide to young athletes.

“It keeps them busy,” he said. “I think there’s just something about it. They tend to have more discipline. And from my experience, they tend to be out doing more productive things than just having extra time.”

And, as far as the financial commitment he’s making to make sure his daughter can make the three training sessions per week, in addition to the actual competitions, down the hill?

“Well,” he said, with a laugh, “it’s cheaper than bail.

“I just feel that it’s something she wants to do. And she has two years left to enjoy high school.”

In addition to pursuing an opportunity to play in college, Ashlee said she also hopes to study marine biology. Although, with two years until she actually gets there, she said she’s not firm on her course of study. She’s also kicked around the idea of becoming a veterinarian and joining the Air Force.

But up first is an opportunity to learn more about her newfound favorite sport this week.

“It’s pretty much all I want to do,” she said.

To contact Sports Editor Brian Hamilton, e-mail or call 477-4240.

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