Why Play Water Polo?

25-07-2017: Waterpolo: Hongarije v Rusland: Boedapest (L-R) during the waterpolomatch between men Hungary and Russia at the 17th FINA World Championships 2017 in Budapest, Hungary Photo / Foto: Gertjan Kooij
Photo Courtesy: Beeldboot.nl\Gertjan Kooij

By Alice Reeves-Turner, Swimming World College Intern.

Water polo is renowned for its fast-paced, aggressive nature, however relatively little is actually known about this niche sport by anyone other than those who play it. Water polo teams and governing bodies are working tirelessly to improve knowledge of the sport and encourage all ages and genders to enter the pool.

Swimming World Magazine talked to some of Loughborough Universities Students Waterpolo club to discuss why they started water polo and why they think you should to!

Ben Ray

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Photo Courtesy: Stasja Illic

“I am a member of the U19’s Great Britain squad training for our European Qualifiers in May this year, I have played for my country in Lithuania, Romania, Malta and Croatia and I have loved every minute of it. I started water polo at the age of 12. Before this I was a swimmer, but decided it wasn’t the sport for me as it lacked the action I was looking for. In my opinion, not enough disinterested swimmers try water polo, it was one of the best decisions I ever made!

I am currently studying at Loughborough on a sports scholarship and have had the best time playing water polo here and I would encourage anyone considering coming here to play polo to do so!”

Charlie Carr

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Photo Courtesy:Charlie Carr

“I started water polo in my second year of university after a friend (another former swimmer), encouraged me to do so when she found out how much I missed being in a pool. I was previously a national swimmer and competed until I was 18. However, after sustaining injuries in my knees and back I eventually stopped swim training altogether.

When I started at Loughborough I had been out of swim training for over a year and doubted I would make the entry times; so by my second year I took my friend from the polo team’s advice and trialed for Waterpolo. This was one of the best decisions I have made in years. Not only do I still get to train with swim sets, but I have also gained new skills in a fantastic sport that I originally never thought I would enjoy or be good at. Along with combining my skills in swimming with water polo I have also gained an amazing set of friends and teammates who essentially became a second family. I highly recommend water polo for any ex-swimmers or people who wish to be part of a tight team.”

Thomas Prayle

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Photo Courtesy: Stasja Illic

“I started water polo when I was about 12. Previously to that, I had been a competitive swimmer, though in honesty I was starting to get tired of it, so I tried out a session or two of water polo at my school and was then advised to join a club. Shortly after I signed up at Lancaster Water Polo Club and began to add polo in as an additional session weekly to keep myself going in aquatic sports. Gradually I began to trade off swim sessions for polo sessions until by the time I was 14, I’d switched completely to polo. I represented Great Britain in Under-18 water polo and England during an international training camp in Croatia. I am the current men’s captain for Loughborough University water polo team.

I’d highly recommend picking the sport to any swimmers that are thinking of dropping out of sport entirely. It’s a fantastic way to keep active and you won’t be going in as outright beginners due to your aquatic background. I’d suggest over half of Loughborough’s water polo players have come from swimming backgrounds and have changed to water polo, with all that I have asked saying they are very glad to have made the switch. Some players have even come from the AU (elite) swim programme and joined the polo team halfway through their uni career. Of those, a few that have openly stated they wished they had done it years earlier. Water polo is a truly enjoyable sport that anyone can get involved in. Due to it being a team sport, you find yourself becoming a member of a new family of teammates.”

Tash Jones

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Photo Courtesy: Stasja Illic

“When I was really young, my sister and I spent our summer at a fun water polo camp whilst our parents were at work. Although I found the camp to be very enjoyable, I was already doing four sports at a high level so couldn’t fit Waterpolo in. This was until the guy who ran the summer camp happened to start swim coaching at my club – I was around 11. He remembered me mainly due to the fact that I had been relatively good at water polo as I had the right build for it with my stupidly-long, ape arms. He suggested I come to his mini polo club, which eventually led onto me trialling at Sheffield where I was asked to start training with the Sheffield junior squad.

Water polo has a very nice development system which I worked seamlessly through. The system begins with junior mixed, to junior girls, to regional to national training camp, to GB trials, to Sheffield ladies, where I played national league division 1 and became part of a team of undefeated champions of championship 1, and then to Loughborough which is my current and probably team I’ve most enjoyed playing with. This is due to the support and friendship in the team and because I can come out of a training session thinking I’ve just laughed and had fun the whole time then look back and realise I swam a million lengths and took a hundred shots and worked so hard without even realizing. Loughborough polo has given me to confidence to become top scorer and a better player than I thought I was due to the supportive environment.

I think I continued waterpolo for several reasons, mainly because I love it and after playing lots of sports I know no other sport which makes me so happy! Also because (despite lots of people saying differently) it helps my swimming develop and continue. It’s a sport you can never feel for a second you’ve completed; there’s always a new challenge.

I would recommend this sport to anyone at all! After being at Loughborough and seeing players who had never played before become so great, it’s clear that water polo is a sport anyone can conquer as long as they enjoy a challenge. It’s a great and under-appreciated sport which I hardly know anyone who has played is able to walk away from. It allows a long of people from different backgrounds to use those individual talents in so many different ways. If you’re a swimmer, you’ll be an amazing wing player. If you’re big and strong you’ll make a great pit defender. If you have a strong throw from any sport, you will be great on top.”

Chris Ray

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Photo Courtesy:Stasja Illic

“I started playing polo when I was about 11 or 12 – nearly 10 years ago! I was a strong swimmer from a young age competing for my school and was a member of my local swim club, but I found swimming up and down a bit boring! I first started to play polo at senior school mostly because I needed the exercise and after a couple of years playing at school I became part of a regional training centre (RTC) and started playing for City of Manchester. We did very well as a school and as a club winning all 3 ESSA and NAG tournaments and more recently, I had the opportunity of a lifetime to represent my country at my age group European Qualifying tournament in Antalya, Turkey. This was an amazing experience and privilege to represent GB at the sport I love! I am currently a member of Hucknall water polo club where I play in the National League and I play for my university club – Loughborough! I have also done my fair share of coaching and captaining at all levels which has given me so many transferable skills – great for my CV!

I would definitely recommend getting involved in the sport there are so many great opportunities to meet new people, get in some exercise and, of course – have fun!”

Stasja Illic

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Photo Courtesy: Stasja Illic

“I have been playing water polo for around 10 years now. I swam before this since the age of 4, both competitively and uncompetitively and trained volleyball prior to waterpolo. I started my waterpolo journey with the Serbian club Partizan which was the champion of Serbia’s National league two seasons in a row. I then transferred to Red Star Belgrade, who were the champions of Serbia’s National League four seasons in a row for both junior and senior selections.

The year I transfered to Red Star I was invited to play for the Junior Serbian National team for the first time. I competed in European Championships in Istanbul (2013), and Europian Championships in Ostia (2014). Throughout these years, I trained with the senior Serbian national team and competed in numerous international tournaments . At the end of 2014, I moved to Switzerland where I had the opportunity to train with Lugano men’s team. In summer 2015, I represented Serbia in Summer Universiade in South Korea where I had the opportunity to play with teams from all around the world. In October 2016, I moved to England and enrolled Loughborough University team with which I compete in BUCS and UPOLO for two seasons and captained for one season. At the same time, I got invited to be a member of Hucknall water polo team for which I compete in UK national league.

Water polo teaches you to be a member of a team, love water, to be strong, as well as waking up your inner competitive nature and building a strong passion inside you. It makes you feel an incredible, hard to explain, feeling that only people who play water polo feel.”

Leo Jaggs

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Photo Courtesy: Leo Jaggs

“I used to be a pretty high-level swimmer, representing GB at junior level and swimming for my first three years at Loughborough University. I struggled to balance the 20+ hours of swimming training per week with my academics and social life, so decided to quit at the end of my third year. For my final year, I wanted to take up a sport that was fun, satisfied my competitive edge and kept me fit, but also gave me enough time to fit in my academic work. I settled on water polo, and I love it – it’s like an odd mix of rugby, handball and swimming. Polo is a minority sport in the UK but it’s fun, dynamic and physically challenging, plus the social side is great too. I’ve enjoyed it so much I plan on joining a club after I graduate, and I recommend that anyone who enjoys swimming but wants something a little more exciting to give polo a try!”

Heidi Walsh

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Photo Courtesy:Heidi Walsh

“I used to be a swimmer, however I couldn’t get into Loughborough swim team but wanted to continue swimming. I also wanted a more fun alternative to just doing laps on laps. I’m now on the GB freestyle kayak team and the GB U23 rafting team and find that water polo is a great way to keep my fitness up locally when I can’t travel to train for my other sports/when it’s too cold to train outside.

I would recommend waterpolo to anyone because its a great way to have fun when doing sport. You often don’t realise just how hard you have worked because you’ve been enjoying yourself. I love the combination of swimming and ball sports as I love playing netball/basketball. Being an ex-swimmer, water polo plays to my strengths.”

To learn more about Loughbrough Universities students’ waterpolo visit, like and follow their social media:

Twitter- @lborowaterpolo    Instagram- @lborowaterpolo     Snapchat- @lborowaterpolo     Facebook- @loughbroughwaterpolo