Pacific student-athlete works to grow and diversify water polo
First-year University of the Pacific water polo student-athlete June Akpata ’24 and her sister are determined to help others get the opportunity to play the sport they love.
Akpata and her older sister Ginika have created 6on5.org, an organization dedicated to helping water polo grow in Connecticut, where her family lives, and beyond.
“We have started an organization that refurbishes water polo and swimming equipment—water polo balls, caps and swimming suits, for instance—so that young people can have access to the things necessary for them to play the sport,” Akpata said. “We also emphasize people helping sponsor young athletes with club memberships. We want to take the financial obstacles away and help grow and diversify the sport.”
Akpata and her family lived in Long Beach before they moved to Connecticut when she was 15. Ginika plays club water polo at New York University. While growing in popularity, water polo is not as prevalent on the East Coast.
“We have been around water polo and swimming all of our lives,” June Akpata said. “We want to give back and help others.”
She is studying remotely from Connecticut, majoring in biological engineering, and is anxious to head west to the Stockton Campus, where she will compete in both water polo and swimming.
“I was recruited for water polo, but I asked if I also could also be with the Pacific swimming team,” she said. “The coaches are so great and accommodating. I am really looking forward to heading to campus when it is safe to do so.”
The sisters’ cause was helped recently when June and Ginika were invited to tell their story on a national water polo podcast by journalist Greg Mescal.
Ginika said on the podcast that they are placing emphasis on helping young people of color get involved in water polo.
“We grew up in the sport rarely seeing people in the pool who look like us,” June Akpata said. “There are not very many Black water polo players, and we want to change that.”
One exception is superstar Ashleigh Johnson, the starting goalie for the United States National Team, which won the 2016 Olympic gold medal.
“I was in a Trader Joe’s back here on the East Coast and she walked into the store,” Akpata said. “I couldn’t believe she was here. I had a picture taken with her, and it was such a great moment. She has done so much to help the United States excel and diversify the sport.”
The organization’s name—6 on 5—signifies a power play, where one team has the advantage of an extra player because of a penalty on the opponent.
“Our aim was to create a name that would signify that anyone who wants to get involved in the sport can start with an advantage,” June Akpata said.
Akpata said she has talked with water polo Coach James Graham and swimming Coach Katelyne Herrington about 6on5.org. She is hopeful that it could one day become a bi-coastal or national effort.
“We really are just at the starting stage and getting our first donations of equipment,” she said. “But we are determined that this will be a long-term, lasting effort and not just something that starts but doesn’t continue. It is essential that we get the word out about our efforts.”
For more information on how to help:
· Visit the web site 6on5.org
· Email firstname.lastname@example.org
· Email email@example.com