Despite Rising COVID Numbers, Tony Azevedo Water Polo Clinic This Weekend in Connecticut

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Tony Azevedo (left) and his 6/8 Sports crew will come to Chelsea Piers CT this weekend for water polo. Photo Courtesy: Minette Rubin

Increased COVID-19 infection rates in the Tri-State region will not affect a water polo clinic with five-time Olympian Tony Azevedo at Chelsea Piers Field House in Stanford, Connecticut, scheduled for this weekend.

ct_premier_logoScott Schulte, who last August assumed leadership of the age group polo club that for a decade had competed under the CPCT banner, confirmed that all is a go for The Olympians Series beginning on Friday, October 23. It features Azevedo in his first visit to the Northeast since a series of clinics held in June 2019 at Horace Mann School in New York City. Horace Mann reopened earlier this week after a two-week closure due to a coronavirus outbreak in early October.

Connecticut has been in the forefront of the region in opening up facilities to athletic activities, and polo has been a prime beneficiary of this relaxed approach to coronavirus distancing. Since mid-June, Greenwich Aquatics has been drilling its players multiple days a week. Connecticut Premier Water Polo Club, the parent-run entity spawned when Chelsea Piers cut ties with its long-time polo program, has been holding trainings in the CPCT pool since late July.

[Chelsea Piers Cuts Youth Water Polo due to COVID]

Key to Connecticut Premier’s COVID strategy has been rigorous health screening—mostly voluntary—to ensure no COVID-compromised athletes get in the water. A consistent core of athletes has trained as much as three-times a week for the past three months in CPCT Field House’s spacious confines.

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Photo Courtesy: Chelsea Piers Connecticut

An opportunity for Azevedo and his staff to implement training techniques meant to identify polo strengths and weaknesses will likely prove too tempting to pass up for athletes in a region that from March through July was pummeled by the virus. In Connecticut, New Jersey and New York a total of 54,000 people was reported to have died due to COVID-19, fully 25% of the total deaths recorded in the United States. This total includes almost 33,000 deaths in New York.

Due to elevated infections rates the NYS Department of Health has issued warnings for Connecticut and New Jersey but has not put either state on a travel advisory.

Through his company 6-8 Sports—Azevedo wore number eight during his playing days at Stanford, professionally, with the U.S. men’s senior national team and through stops in Croatia, Italy, Montenegro and his native Brazil, while his business partner Maggie Steffens still sports six as a member of the U.S. women’s team—the peripatetic polo player hopes to transform the sport in the U.S.

[When Tony Comes to Town: Azevedo in Connecticut, Talks Polo with TWp]

Clinics for ages 10 and up will include techniques related to performance in the 6-8 Challenge skill assessment and a bevy of online tracking apps, including 6-8 Game Desk, which provide analytic snapshots of team and individuals performance, allowing an identifiable path to future development.

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6-8 Game Desk. Photo Courtesy: 6/8 Sports

“Going forward, if I’m an athlete from Connecticut and I can go through the same 6-8 Challenge testing that kids across the country are and realize that I’m just as good as other kids in some areas and way weaker in others,” Azevedo said earlier this week.

“I’m going to be motivated to get my leg strength to shoot the ball harder and to swim faster. I’ll work on all these things so I can get myself physically and fundamentally equal to [other] kids,” he added.

The arrangement with Connecticut Premier represents both a long-distance—6-8 Sports is located in Long Beach, California—as well as familiar partnership. Schulte, a one-time collegiate star at Bucknell, has been the long-time head coach for the New York Athletic Club’s men’s polo team, which Azevedo competed with for two decades beginning as a teenager.

By traveling to Stamford, Azevedo is not only feeding the hopes of multiple age group athletes who have languished with limited competition since February, he’s ideally setting in motion a dynamic of coaching and data analysis which promises to send ripples throughout the Northeast. Greenwich has dominated regional play for almost a decade, and are poised to rise far above the zone when regular competition resumes. Connecticut Premier, along with some other clubs, seeks to level the playing field locally at a time when competition across the country—with the exception of Texas and Utah—has completely stalled.

The Olympian Series with Tony Azevedo: this Friday, Saturday and Sunday at Chelsea Piers Field House, One Blachley Road, Stamford, CT. For information about the clinic or to register, please go to ctpremierwpc.com or email admin@ctpremierwpc.com