Water polo is considered one of the fastest-growing high school sports in the western suburbs, and Naperville North girls water polo coach Andy McWhirter is one of those most responsible for that growth.
For his devotion to the sport and his leadership in high school, club and youth water polo in recent decades, McWhirter has been named to the Water Polo Hall of Fame by the Illinois Water Polo Association.
“It is a great honor to be recognized by my peers in the coaching profession,” said McWhirter, who also coaches the Huskies boys swimming and diving team. “It’s been rewarding and it’s been fun to be part of the overall growth of high school water polo from when it was just a club sport until as recently as 2002. Now the Naperville-area schools regularly produce some of the top teams in Illinois in boy boys and girls water polo.
“It’s gratifying to see how many schools in this area are now playing the sport,” said McWhirter. “And there will be more in the near future. It wasn’t too long ago that we had to travel to Chicago or Mundelein for a varsity game.”
McWhirter, who swam for Waubonsie Valley and for Western Illinois, has coached Huskies teams to 245 victories in club and varsity matches combined. The Huskies girls team under McWhirter’s tutelage won sectionals and went on to finish fourth at state in 2004.
In nominating McWhirter for the Hall of Fame, Naperville Central girls coach Jeff Plackett, who played for the new Hall of Famer as a high school student at Naperville North, said:
“Andy has been instrumental in the success of all the high school programs in the Naperville area. He was also primarily responsible for the growth of the summer feeder program. There isn’t one high school water polo program that would be as successful without Andy’s tireless work in the youth program.
Plackett continued, “And everyone has the highest respect for Andy as a coach. He epitomizes the ideas of good sportsmanship and fair play while building strong teams. I’m also happy to count him as one of my very best friends.”
McWhirter also serves as President of the Naperville Summer Suburban Water Polo League that annually counts 450 kids as members, and he is one of those responsible for the establishment of the West Suburban Water Polo Club, which annually sends local girls and boys standouts to national tournaments
McWhirter’s son Michael, a senior at Waubonsie Valley, is an all-state water polo player and swimmer.
In acknowledging the award McWhirter cited the work done by Plackett and the other coaches who work with the youth water polo programs year-round.
He included Adam Hoffer, Lucy Tiffin, Ryan Stanley, Bill Salentine, John Blumthal and Martin Bell among the major contributors to the sport in both high school and club, as well as youth development.
He also praised George Horn, who is now serving as a volunteer coach at Naperville North.
Horn, who played his college water polo at Loyola, was also named to the IWPA Hall of Fame.
McWhirter and Horn will officially enter the Hall of Fame at a banquet in May.