Scott McCall said Bob Pollitt’s footprint can be found across the Valley.
One look around the Merced College pool deck on Saturday afternoon confirmed that as the whose who of Merced County’s water polo and swimming communities gathered to pay homage to the former Blue Devil coach.
Between the former players, fellow coaches and their families, 400 people turned out to see the MC pool renamed the Bob Pollitt Aquatics Center and the unveiling of the school’s new scoreboard. The ceremony was held between the Blue Devils’ annual alumni water polo games.
“It’s such an honor for them to be here and it’s so nice to be able to see them,” Pollitt said. “As I said earlier, so many friendships, lifelong friendships have developed right here on this pool deck through our aquatics programs. And I’m always pleased to see how that camaraderie still exists today, as you can see, how many are talking and having a good time.
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“At one time, other than Atwater, we had every high school in Merced County, including Los Banos, where the coaches swam or played water polo here at Merced Collge. It’s really a humbling experience.”
McCall, MC’s current men’s water polo and swim coach and a former player under Pollitt, said he and former women’s water polo and swim coach Bill Halpin had been discussing dedicating the pool to Pollitt the last five years. With the help of former Merced College president Susan Walsh and the support of current president Chris Vitelli, the dream finally became a reality.
“Initially we planned to keep it a secret, but as word spread more and more we decided to just go ahead and do what was best for Bob’s family,” McCall said. “You never know what you’re going to get with something like this. There were a number of people that RSVP’d on Facebook, but there’s also a lot that don’t have that social media presence. As an event for him, I figured there would be a good turnout because he created so many relationships with people he coached and meant a lot to them.
“It’s been a while to get this whole process going and get the scoreboard. Usually to get board approval for something like this it comes from a huge donation or the result of a death. I’m glad Bob and his whole family got to be here to see it. I think it’s a special day for him.”
While anyone who knows Pollitt will tell you he’s not comfortable in the spotlight, it was the relationships he cultivated with his players that he cherished.
They clearly cherished it too, as the line of well wishers was still going strong 10 minutes after the conclusion of the ceremony. The line was equally long at a book set up near the pool’s entrance where people could sign their names and share an old memory.
“The thing about Bob is, there isn’t a finer person,” Halpin said. “When I coached with Bob, which was a real honor, he really taught me that winning wasn’t the only factor in being a successful coach. He had such great relationships, not just with his players, but with the opposing coaches too.
“Whenever we went to state water polo or swimming, the Southern California coaches would always come and talk to Bob. And if there was a situation or something that needed to be discussed, they always wanted to know what Bob’s opinion was. That’s what I learned as a coach was more important than winning and that’s where Bob was always the best.”