Water polo. A very underrated sport, but also a very misunderstood one. When I started at university, I was keen to get into as many sports clubs as possible – to make the most of Stirling as a sporting university. I had been swimming competitively for a decade and fancied a change – although I never discovered water polo straight away. I dabbled in everything from fencing to kayaking before returning once again to the pool. Having only ever played during our fun session before the holidays, I didn’t have a clue what water polo was or how to play. However, it didn’t take long before I was totally hooked.
Often when I tell people that I play water polo there is a mixed response. Most assume it is a posh school sport simply due to ‘polo’ being in the name. Others ask how the horses get into the pool. (Hint: that joke is not funny anymore.) Some, who have heard of the sport, simply ask “is that not quite violent?” To which the answer is yes, yes it is. However, the majority of people are unsure of the whole concept of water polo.
So here goes. I shall do my best to sum it up without having to get into the rules (many of which I’m not really that sure of myself, to be perfectly honest.) In essence, water polo is a combination of netball and rugby relocated into the pool. Two teams play against one another, attempting to get the ball in the opposing teams net at the other end of the pool. With a goalie and six other players in the pool at a time, it is a contact sport in which you can get away with almost anything providing you keep it under the water. (Okay, not anything, but I really feel for the refs who stay on land and attempt to oversee what goes on under the water.)
In my opinion, there is no easy way to describe the sport in full and uncomplicated way, or without putting people off due to the attractive headgear. So let’s just agree that to really appreciate water polo you have to see it or, even better, just give it a go. In my debut appearance for the club, I had a slight grasp of the concept of what I was supposed to do and zero knowledge of the rules. But I did have the most supportive, helpful and friendly team you could ask for. Going into my first game, all that mattered was going for it and having fun. I think, for this very reason, not knowing the rules really helped. It meant I didn’t overthink and I wasn’t afraid of breaking any rules. Instead I was free to have a shot, and with he support of my team and their helpful hints along the way I soon grasped the basic rules and am now, two years on, seen as an ‘experienced’ member of the team.
In my humble opinion, there is no better way to be introduced to a sport than by being thrown in at the deep end. (Which, in this case, can be taken very literally too.) It may look violent, aggressive and come with a high risk of drowning, but I can assure you it is 100% worth it. While in the pool it comes across as vicious, the amount of polite apologies that fly around the pool is heartwarming. We may attack one another but it is all in the name of the sport, and once you’ve been to a few sessions you really do find your feisty side pretty quickly. Now, I’m not going to pretend it’s the sport for everyone. If you don’t like contact or are afraid of balls flying at you then maybe it’s not for you. However, I’m confident that there are so many of you out there that would fall in love with it, if only it were more widely known and appreciated.
I can only urge everyone out their to give it a try. Swimmer or not, handy with a ball or not, co-ordinated or not, you can give it your best shot. And you may be surprised. I’m not here to advertise or recruit, but over the last two years, water polo has become a huge part of my life, and I want to share it. It may be vicious, it may be a tad dirty, but the sense of team is worth every scratch and every bruise. Win or lose, the Stirling Uni team will be dancing (and yes, I do mean that literally.) A match isn’t just about the time spent in the pool; it’s the travel, the group warm up and the tunes. It’s the laughs and the tears, the jokes as well as the hard training. It’s the nights out and the nights in. The sore legs from S&C and the sore heads from the night before. The gossip and the serious pre-match talks. I may not be a star player, our team may not win every match, but I can guarantee a laugh and friend. Besides, where else is shouting at one another and playing dirty encouraged?
A sneak peak into the training of my team through a promo I made for this years recruitment event