How The Site Started As An Undercover Operation
By Aaron Brown
IL -- I always wanted to tell
a few tales about how illpolo.com made a transformation from a small water
polo web site to one that provides the in-depth coverage you see today. These
stories always makes me laugh, but it also describes how the site took on a
bigger role after the first year of its’ existence.
After coaching at the high school level for two years and
running the site for one year, I decided I was going to start going to as
many games as possible and report on the action. The first game I would
attend was a Tuesday night fixture in Lincolnshire between Stevenson and
Saint Viator in 2004. I sat in the stands with a laptop and a notebook,
recorded every play and statistic I could write down, then rushed home to
type an in-depth report on the game. You can actually read the article
The Illpolo.com site was only a year old at the time, so the
coverage was nowhere near what it is like today. I clearly remember how
surprised Stevenson head coach Jeff Wimer was when he got home that night
to send in score and short game recap only to find that there was a 6-7
paragraph story written about the game already posted on the site.
I had worked with Jeff in previous years when I started a club
team that participated in summer tournaments and the Speedo Cup Age Group
League, so he knew me and immediately sent an e-mail asking how I could
have gotten that information. He specifically asked “How did you know all
of these details…it was almost like you were there?” I definitely was
there, but I simply sat in the Stevenson High School bleachers for no
other reason than to get a really good view of the pool to analyze the
game. Of course, I never stopped downstairs to say hello or say what I was
doing, since I was aiming to incorporate the element of surprise and I
wasn't even sure if everything would go as planned. It made for a good
laugh, however, when I got to e-mail Jeff a response telling him that I
was secretly in attendance that night.
I would continue covering the sport in this fashion for the
rest of the season, which allowed me to attend games and write about them
without interruption for as long as possible.
That method of reporting would inevitably lead to a problem or
two, as I would experience at Fenwick High School a few weeks later. The
girls’ tournament at Fenwick was taking place on Friday night and a
Saturday, so I decided to cover as many games over the weekend as
possible. I started introducing myself to coaches and others that I did
not know and was able to use the game scoresheets to jot down statistics
for each team. As I was near the scorer’s table writing down information,
Fenwick head coach Jack Wagner walked over after speaking to his team
after their early-morning game. Jack is an intimidating fellow, so when he
saw me taking down notes about his game and I probably looked like a scout
for another team, he made eye contact with me and was heading in my
direction. And there I was, an anonymous 23-year old who looked not a
shade older than 19 writing down information from his latest game.
Naturally, he wasted no time in asking “WHO ARE YOU AND WHAT
ARE YOU DOING HERE?” and naturally I responded with a
deer-in-the-headlights look and a few “Uhh’s….” and “Umm’s…” before I
could say anything else. The funniest part was that when I said “My name
is Aaron Brown from Illpolo.com” his eyes lit up as he recognized my name. And I guess that was a good thing. I ended up fixing his computer and
being invited into the hospitality room and so on…but it made for a few
nervous moments for me in my rookie season of covering the sport.
There's probably a handful of other classic stories I could recall from
when the site was just getting underway, but these two stories involving
two of the legends in Illinois water polo really sum up everything that
was happening when Illpolo.com was just getting off the ground.