Southern California, and indeed the aquatics world in more general terms, lost a titan on Wednesday. Scott Hinman, the long-time swimming and water polo coach at Irvine High School, passed away at a local hospital after collapsing on deck during Irvine’s swim meet at Northwood High School.
Hinman was a giant in the aquatics world. He was the high school coach of Olympic gold medalist Amanda Beard, CIF standout Courtney Cashion, and a host of other swimming talents. He led the Irvine Vaqueros to eight consecutive CIF-SS Division I girls’ swimming titles, from 1997 to 2004. Most of his renown, however, came from his role in helping to develop women’s water polo in the United States.
Hinman attended UC Santa Barbara, where he played water polo 1975 to 1978. While there, he was asked to coach the UCSB Women’s Club Team, which he later referred to as “the turning point in my life.” Subsequently, he developed and coached women’s water polo teams for UCSB, Industry Hills, Hackers, and Irvine High School. He was an assistant coach of the U.S. National Women’s Senior Team from 1982 to 1988.
About those early days of women’s club water polo at UCSB, competing against Arizona, Arizona State, San Diego State, UC Berkeley, Chico State, UC Davis and Stanford, Hinman said, “We were all Collegiate Club programs with no budget and no rules. We played for the love of the game, conditioning, camaraderie and the feeling of worth. Let there be no illusion. These programs were highly competitive and played to win. Play was fierce, officials were evil, but at the end of the day there was always a beer, smiles and a social network that still lives on. There were no scholarships, few overzealous coaches, equal respect for all levels and no prima donnas. Practices were a combination of tough swimming and skills.
“But everywhere we went; there was a common bond and a common goal. How can we get to the Olympic Games? Will there ever be NCAA recognition?”
U.S. women’s water polo has come a long way since the mid-1970s. The NCAA did indeed recognize the sport and held its first national women’s championship in 2001. Meanwhile, the U.S. Olympic Women’s Water Polo Team has dominated worldwide competition for two Olympic cycles and most recently won gold in Rio last summer.
Much of the success of the sport can be traced back to the dedication of the pioneers such as Scott Hinman.
“For those fortunate enough to play high school, collegiate and international water polo now, I ask you to look to your sport’s history. And when things get a little tough, remember that there were those that did so much so you could have your opportunity. Remember that the growth was based on mutual respect between coaches and players, players and players, schools and schools, countries and countries. Keep the respect as well as the fun these opportunities have a chance to give you.” -Scott Hinman
RIP Scott Hinman. Words can't explain how you made people feel. Always made me smile. Forever a member of the USA Women's National Team.
— Adam Krikorian (@WaterPoloCoachK) March 30, 2017
Please take a moment to remember Gaucho and Water Polo Icon Scott Hinman https://t.co/LXUpVTrg2G. Touching tributes today at Wollett AC pic.twitter.com/XR3uTdPPMe
— Gauchos Water Polo (@SBPoloParents) March 30, 2017