Passages: Terry Sayring Passes From Battle With Cancer at Age 81

Terry (left) with Bill Frady with Hairston display on exhibit at the 2019 USA Water Polo Júnior Olympics in Irvine California last August. Photo Courtesy: Bruce Wigo

ISHOF is sad to announce that Terry Sayring, the 2017 Paragon Award recipient for water polo, passed away on March 16, 2020, after a courageous battle against cancer. Terry was 81 years old.

Sayring first became involved in water polo when, upon being discharged from the Marine Corp in California, he moved in with two Olympic water polo players from El Segundo. They eventually introduced him to water polo innovator and Olympic Coach, Uhro Saari, who got Terry involved in officiating in 1963. The rest, as they say is water polo history.


Terry Sayring at the 1996 Olympic Games. Photo Courtesy: International Swimming Hall of Fame

Terry was involved in water polo at almost every level. He has officiated events including the FINA World Championships, the FINA World Cup, FINA Jr. World Championships, Pan American Games, NCAA Championships and the AAU Championships. In 1969, he founded the Southern California Aquatics Federation which became the US water polo referee association. He was the manager of the 1980 and 1984 USA Olympic teams, as well as two Pan American teams, and served as the competition manager for the 1995 FINA World Cup and 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta. He also served as the tournament director for the Women’s FINA Cup, Men’s Junior FINA Worlds in Long Beach, and was a member of the ASUA Technical Committee for 12 years. In 1995, he was presented the FINA Silver Pin.

In addition to water polo, Sayring’s other passion was been genealogy. Over the past 30 years, he has been able to trace his ancestors back to 2700 BC, including the Mayflower, the Revolutionary War and the Civil War. This helped with his next project: The American Water Polo Foundation, a non-profit 401C, that collects memorabilia and researches the history of USA Water Polo back to its earliest origins. The foundation has collected information on the Men’s Olympic Teams from 1904 to the present and the Women’s Olympic Team from the 2000 Olympics to the present.

Terry Sayring was a Life Member of United States Water Polo since 1978, and secretary of the USA Water Polo Hall of Fame for 25 years. He was elected into the USA Water Polo Hall of Fame in 1986 and received the USA Water Polo Award in 1988, the organization’s highest honor.

In 2015, he founded American Water Polo Collections, Inc., a California non-profit dedicated to preserving the history of water polo in America. Up to his final months he also served as supervisor of water polo officials for the Big West Conference and a member of the National Referee Evaluators Committee. He was been married for 56 years with three daughters, three grandchildren and three great grandchildren.

Terry Sayring will always be remembered as one of the great volunteers to have served the aquatic sports selflessly and passionately during his lifetime.


  1. avatar
    Judy McGowan

    This is a wonderful article on Terry. I have such fond memories of working with him at ACOG. He will be missed by many of us in the USA Aquatics family.

    May he rest in peace.

  2. avatar
    David Hart

    Very sorry to hear this news. Best wishes to Terry’s family from a Canadian water polo personality who knew and admired Terry over many years. David Hart

  3. avatar
    Roy Gunell

    So sorry to hear it. To me, Terry was always calm person, thoughtful in the complex world of international sport. I’m grateful to Terry and U.S. Water Polo for allowing me as a recently retired FINA official to be accepted at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta. All the best to Terry’s family.

  4. avatar
    Tracy Sayring Granoff

    My dad loved Water Polo! He loved every aspect of the sport…the competition, reffing, managing the national team and representing the USA. He also loved the friendships that have lasted for decades. The men on the 80’/84′ Olympic Teams were like sons to him, he wanted them to succeed as a team, but also as individuals in their life choices. My dad gave his time, treasure and talent to do what he could to further this great sport. He has been a wonderful example to many. He was a great man and is terribly missed!

  5. avatar
    David Bathurst UK

    I have only just learned that my dear friend Terry has sadly departed this world. I had the immense pleasure of meeting him on many occasions, and of refereeing with him at a variety of tournaments. He also acted as my guide during my visit to the USA in 1991, as a result of which we developed a great friendship. Terry was a gentle man and a very honest referee, and will not be forgotten.