Like any great team, the boys water polo squad at The Bishop’s School boasts a complete lineup of talented players, from its drivers straight through to its defense. With any top team, there is always an anchor. For the Knights, that anchor is goalie Zealan Hoover.
Hoover, a 6-foot-3 senior captain, has helped the Knights, the four-time defending CIF San Diego Section champions, get off to yet another stellar start with his play in the cage.
“He’s a pretty talented goalie,” Bishop’s coach Jim Fales said. “When he came into our program as a seventh-grader, he was a big, tall kid but had never played many team sports. He hadn’t played much water polo, so the way he’s progressed through our program has been pretty amazing. He’s just a hard-working kid with great leadership qualities.”
Hoover’s play in goal is just the beginning of the story, though. While he said he dedicates four to five hours nearly every day to water polo - either for his high school team or the San Diego Shores club team - Hoover also is heavily involved in activities outside sports.
Perhaps his most notable achievement, and one that won’t soon be forgotten at Bishop’s, was his successful effort to organize a day focusing on human rights issues at the school last January. With the help of a handful of other students as well as teachers and administrators, Hoover spearheaded a year-long effort that resulted in the school canceling classes one day and bringing in 40 guest speakers from around the country to examine issues of human rights.
Some of the issues they looked at were genocide in Africa and the violence in the Middle East.
“It was something he dreamed up,” Fales said. “It was really impressive. It was a tremendously productive day for everybody.
“I’ve been at Bishop’s for 20 years, and I can honestly say I’ve never seen a student do something that has had an impact on the entire school like that.”
The day included small-group discussions, larger presentations, debates and forums that involved everyone at the school.
Hoover said some of the speakers he helped recruit included a former member of President Clinton’s national security board, President Carter’s special advisor on women’s affairs, a justice of the Superior Court of California and the executive director of the ACLU.
One of the highlights was a debate over civil liberties and national security, which Hoover recognized as a hot topic currently in the United States.
“It was something I got interested in after an internship in the ninth grade at the University of San Diego’s Croc Center,” Hoover said. “I started to get interested in human rights and some of the big issues around the world. I decided it would be really good to spread awareness to my peers at school.”
Hoover worked on the project for a full year.
“There was a lot of pressure on me, because it was the only time the school had set aside a full school day for a student event,” Hoover recalled. “I wanted to make sure it came out alright, but also wanted to make sure it was a success for the purpose I was working toward, which was to educate people.”
Not surprisingly, Hoover is hoping to pursue a career in politics. He plans to major in political science, and possibly double major in international relations.
He is looking at plenty of schools on the East Coast with strong political science programs, though he hasn’t ruled out staying closer to home.
For now, he’s focusing on his schoolwork and helping the Knights to yet another successful water polo season. He said he loves the sport, but it’s only a small part of his life.
“I joke that water polo is my girlfriend, because it takes up a lot of time but I love it,” Hoover said. “We have an amazing group of guys who are all my best friends.
“It’s a great outlet, too, to be able to get away from schoolwork for a while. I wouldn’t be able to do as well in school and everything else if I didn’t have a chance to push myself physically every day.”