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Druley: Water polo Harrington’s latest calling

Kevin Harrington does not tote a water polo glossary to St. Charles North practices.

From the start, he brought honesty, and found that sufficed.

“If you’re humble enough – and I like to think I am – I think I can walk in there and say, ‘I don’t know everything about water polo, but we will figure it out together,’ ” Harrington said.

For the past few days, North’s new JV boys water polo coach has done just that, all without committing many dead-time fouls.

Harrington is assisting North coach Chris Cloy this spring after electing to leave the boys track program after a 12-year stint. Married during cross country season – during which he serves as North boys coach – Harrington faced “an amazingly difficult” decision on which longtime sport to dismiss from his schedule, basketball or track.

He had overlapped between freshman boys basketball and indoor track for roughly six weeks each winter for the past dozen years.

“Basketball in the afternoon and track in the evening. Or vice versa,” Harrington said. “You know what, with the ring around my finger, that just wasn’t the thing to do.”

When Cloy approached Harrington about the opening, Harrington consulted his wife, Maria, who did not object.

While Harrington concedes, “I’m not there to babysit; the kids will figure that out,” he and his spouse might be happy to hear this testimony from North senior Kyle Gannon, who’s also a standout swimmer:

“Not that we don’t take [water polo] seriously, but it’s just your head’s above the water, it’s an easier thing to relate to your teammates and talk to your teammates. It’s a little bit more laid-back,” Gannon said. “The weather is getting nicer. It’s the end of the year.”

Those last two attributes appealed to Harrington in the mid-1990s, when then- St. Charles High coach Tom Roderick needed a throws coach in Harrington’s second year of teaching at his alma mater.

Harrington did not bring track experience – the former Saints big man played basketball – but felt a passion for working with kids was the next best thing. By the time St. Charles split into East and North high schools a few years later, Harrington had accumulated enough acumen to become the first boys track coach in North Stars history.

He maintained that role for 10 seasons, but recently yielded to Don Spencer. Harrington, who remained as a track assistant in 2011-12, plans to attend his share of track meets this season and lend his support from the stands.

Harrington recently completed his 23rd season of coaching basketball; he served as a Naperville Central assistant for three seasons while attending nearby North Central College.

Several concepts from basketball and soccer, which Harrington coached as an assistant for a handful of seasons, overlap with water polo. That leaves vocabulary as the primary hurdle.

Harrington knows he’ll yell “weak side” instead of “help side” soon enough, and that adapting to his newest sport will be no different than past fish-out-of-water-polo experiences.

“Really, to me, all of my coaching jobs are so similar,” Harrington said. “Whether it’s a sport I know and love or it’s something I’m just getting into, I feel like I have something to offer and I have a lot to learn, and that’s a great balance to have.”

An understanding wife completes the ensemble.

“She knows that this is what I do and she knows that she’s super important to me. We find a way to make it work,” Harrington said. “She is so supportive of the fact that I pretty much choose to work 12-hour days for the most part. I always joke and tell her that she’s probably more fond of me because I’m not around all the time. I’m not as charming as she thinks I am.”

Off the top: North boys and girls swimming coach Rob Rooney sported a rather formidable beard at the start of the recently completed boys season.

He was much more closely shaven by the state series, which concluded with North’s eighth-place finish at the IHSA state meet Feb. 23 at New Trier.

Showing solidarity with his swimmers, Rooney had his head shaved as part of his sport’s traditional rite of postseason passage.

“The boys were all talking about it and I kind of told them about midway through the season that we were united as one,” Rooney said. “I walked in the bathroom and started shaving. It was right in front of them. They didn’t even know it. I came around the corner and I was half bald.”

Rooney said he last had his head shaved “a good five or six years ago.” As a result, he’s a bit fuzzy on how long it will take for his locks to return.

“I have no clue,” Rooney said. “As long as it does come back, I don’t care. That’s the key. It’s got to come back.”

• Kevin Druley is a sports writer for the Kane County Chronicle. He can be reached at 630-845-5347 or

North girls water polo starts strong
ST. CHARLES – Sarah Stern (four goals) and Nicole Guyett (three) paced the St. Charles North girls water polo team to a 12-2 victory against Schaumburg in its season opener Monday.

Lauren Gonsalves added two goals and three assists for the North Stars, who outscored the Saxons, 8-0, after halftime.

– Kane County Chronicle

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