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Editor's note: Chris Fetterman is the boys' water polo coach at Hoffman Estates High School and a journalism major at Roosevelt University. He will be contributing articles and assisting in the running of for the 2009 season.

ENTRY #6 - "From One Win To State Qualifier"

by Chris Fetterman



In a recent interview, I had the pleasure of sitting down with Schaumburg boys' head coach Tom Gallagher to try and gain a little perspective from one of my closest rivals. The Schaumburg boys' team has gone from winning one game in their first season four years ago to winning a sectional title and advancing to the state tournament in 2008. As a fellow coach, I would love to give all the credit to Tom, but there is something to be said about a group of guys willing to put the time and effort in to become one of the top teams in the state. After all, us coaches are really nothing without our players.


I have been around this sport for 14 years and have seen coaches that have the charisma to change the flow of a game...make a great adjustment at halftime...make a key substitution...but Tom really sticks out for his passion to make the game what it should be. He excels at teaching his players solid fundamentals and showing them what it means to win with respect. His roster shows what you can achieve given the right leadership and the desire to become the best.


Seniors Aaron Johnson, Pat Kraulis, Mike Kehoe, Ed Walsh, Chris Corbett and goalie Neal Salemi have all wanted to become the best and have put in countless hours in the weight room and the pool. They have started off the season 13-1, with their only loss coming in their tournament's final game against St Louis University High School from Missouri. Alas, the interview...


Tom, you have been around forever, tell us a little about where you began, and how long you've been around.

I was on the first water polo team at St. Viator High School, then at NIU for four years. I was there in the preseason with the team, which consisted of Chicago guys from Brother Rice, St. Patrick, Mt. Carmel and Fenwick. We played about 15 games per year, including games against Loyola, Northwestern, and Northeastern. I went on to coach at St. Viator for one year and we made the ISA Final 8 in the ’76-77 school year. After that, I took a job at Schaumburg High School, where I started a boys & girls program in the fall of ’77. We played a full schedule of 25 games. In our second season, we finished second to St. Charles in the State Novice Tournament.

The next year we made the ISA Final 8 with John Ulibarri and Mike Llerandi leading the way. That same year, the girls won the first “girls state tourney” by beating Morgan Park in the finals. Now, I am in my fourth season here with the boys' team, so the short answer is about 18-19 years.

Sounds like you have had quite the experience as a coach, how about as a player? Any funny memories?

Well, as a shallow-end goalie, jumping on a fake by a wide open player (Mark Killion, Northwestern) to the upper right corner, having him shoot low and hitting me right where you hope they never do. I thought I would pass out, but getting up from under the water and making the save…in front of 30 laughing co-eds…not funny.

It's a little funny, Tom. Your team looks to be highly competitive. How can you keep them focused
after winning sectionals last year? To make a run at another title?

As I am sure you remember, the last two defending Sectional Champions were defeated in the sectional finals
by underdogs… with that knowledge, we used that to motivate the team to not be “outworked” in the offseason…That, along with the fact that three starters, (all returning) did not get to play because of team rule
violations should inspire them to want to be better then ever. This team truly loves this game and it hasn’t taken much to inspire them.

I'm sure that has lingered with those guys. I'm going to ask a toughie, how does it feel to be the most hated team around the Northwest suburbs?

I am sure hated is a friendly term! But, we will use that question to motivate them since we never really felt hated...since our team's first year, we have always talked about playing each and every game as if we were facing Fenwick. To play with respect for the game and honor your opponent…we will respect every team we play this year and we hope to earn the respect of the teams we play through hard, quick, physical (but, clean and legal) water polo.

All of the projected starters played at the varsity level in our 1-16 season three years ago. We were humiliated
on several occasions. Scores were run up, cheap over-physical play was common, teams laughed at our mistakes and made comments during the handshakes.


Opponents used their games against us to pad their statistics, leaving in All-Conference players the entire game when they had double-digit goal leads. We vowed never to become that and to model our program after the best...Fenwick. We upped the level of our schedule this year, but intentionally scheduled first year program Maine South (with all due respect) so the team could remember how far they have come in three seasons and to be able to treat a first year team with respect and dignity.

Do you have a favorite player that you remember? Maybe the best you have had the chance to coach?

Boys: John Ulibarri, SHS ’81. ISA 2nd team All-State (was a three-time D-1 All-American Swimmer at Arkansas (:54.2 in breaststroke), 5’7", 39 inch vertical jump…always put defense first… and had the heart of a lion… Kept an All-American at Br. Rice to one goal in a playoff game that we lost 9-7.


Girls: Cheryl Juris, SHS ’81. 6’3, 185lbs, 170 lbs bench press; She averaged 9.6 goals, 3 steals, 2.0 blocks and 3.0 assists per game and was gifited...had the throwing arm of an MLB pitcher! Cheryl scored in the boys Varsity games regularly….In college she was the starting center on the North Central College Division III National Championship Basketball team. Once, in a boys' game, a male varsity player intentionally hit her across the head and told her to “go play with girls you (expletive)….” Let’s just say, she honest-to-god made him cry and leave the game; her reply to him as he was crying… “maybe you should play with the girls in my place….” She was as tough as they came, and to this day, still is.

I definitely recall those two names. I just have one more question for you. Since you have been around for so long, what do you see that has changed that maybe you don't like about water polo?

First and foremost, that when we have two officials, the back official watches and eliminates the off-the-ball garbage that takes place and prevents teams from executing the basics of the game.


This is high school, not international…I am sick of hearing “well, in international play...” that is like telling a high school basketball coach, “well, in the NBA…”


That the people at the top realize that the reason they are good is because there are teams that are not good…does that make sense? I am not talking about Fenwick…if Illinois is going to rise to a new level in water polo, those in charge and at the upper level need to respect the opinion of newcomers (or at least act as though they do). It is up to them to help younger teams and players learn how to play the game correctly… and as you know… I wish the garbage play… more specifically DIRTY PLAY and DIRTY PLAYERS be eliminated and not be rewarded with post- season honors.


Thanks Tom. I'll see you and everyone else 'Poolside' this week!




Find out the latest info >


2006 State Tournament

St Ignatius Wins Semifinal

Latin vs Lyons Semifinal

State Consolation Games

Fenwick Boys Win State

Fenwick Girls Win State


Other 2006 Videos

Boys Quarterfinal Recaps

Girls Quarterfinal Recaps


The Goalies: Volume I

The Goalies: Volume II


< Complete Video Index > 

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