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DALLAS -- Water polo is one of the few sports athletes can't play until they've learn another sport. You have to know how to swim first.

Players can't touch the bottom, so they're constantly swimming or treading water.

It's a natural sport for swimmers to play. Southlake Carroll sophomore Zach Lowery was on his high school's swim team, but decided to get involved in water polo after seeing it during one of his practices.

'I was swimming, and when I was swimming, I saw people playing water polo in a pool beside us,' Lowery said. 'I thought it looked awesome.'

The high school water polo season used to be in the fall, which conflicted with the swimming season. A few years ago, water polo became a spring sport.

'So it limited the conflicts with swimming, which really just grew it,' said Joe Linehan, the head coach of the North Texas Underwater Polo Club. 'It went from having - statewide - 40 to 45 schools, to having 100-plus.'

Water polo in Texas has been around at the high school level since the mid-1970s, but in the last five years, it's seen a major growth spurt.

'I have done swimming all my life and never known a team sport,' said Megan Seeman, a senior at Flower Mound High School, 'so I tried it, and I really liked the team aspect and everything. It was fun.'

When Joe Linehan came to Dallas in 2009, there were three high school water polo teams in the area. Now there are more than 30. And the effort is underway to make it a UIL sport.

'It would give a lot of legitimacy to the sport in terms of, some schools may not even consider trying it unless it's a UIL sport,' said Chris Cullen, aquatics director for Denton ISD.

We asked the University Scholastic League about the viability of water polo becoming a UIL activity.

'Potential fiscal impact is always the number-one thing,' said Deputy Director of the UIL Jamey Harrison.

The UIL is currently surveying high schools across the state to learn how many of them would add water polo if it became a UIL sport. If the sport continues to grow, that will happen sooner rather than later.

E-mail tmadden@wfaa.com

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