At first glance, water polo seems like an easy enough concept: you pass a ball around a pool, keeping it away from the other team while trying to score on their net. It’s basically a variation on the games of keep-away that kids play at pool parties.
But after observing a game of water polo for a couple minutes, you’ll see that it’s more than child’s play. And you’ll realize that there’s a reason why players wear those hat things on their heads.
The UBC Water Polo Club knows firsthand the talent needed for such a demanding sport. Swimming non-stop, warding off pesky defenders, avoiding the ball whizzing by your head and ultimately not sinking is easier said than done. But in their recent performance at the 2012 Spring Fling Tournament at the UBC Aquatic Centre, the UBC club has made these tasks look standard.
Squaring off against teams from around B.C. and several competitive high school teams from Oregon, UBC had stiff competition as they headed into their summer season. However, they proved that their water polo program is elite, finishing with two silver medals and one gold.
Yet their results shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise. Despite being a club, they put in extensive work throughout the year.
“Over the past two years, we’ve had a pretty consistent five practices a week,” said James Baylis, past president of the club and current member. “It’s about nine and a half hours a week.”
There’s no lack of games either. There is a tournament first thing in September that showcases the stronger players in the program, and there are usually two or three formal inter-university tournaments throughout year involving UBC, SFU and UVic.
“We’re also trying to set up [matches every two weeks] being hosted by SFU or us. There’s some good inter-university competition,” said Baylis.
However, despite the intense practice schedule and the amount of games, the club is very welcoming towards newcomers who are interested in strapping on a water polo cap and seeing what it’s all about. There are a large number of players who have played on the provincial water polo team before coming to university, but there are also plenty of opportunities for new students who want to learn.
“We have two practices a week for novices,” said Baylis, who noted that if one can swim, then they can get started with the sport. “It’s really a great opportunity, especially for first-years. We’re mostly social.”
The team is known to hold many social events, as evidenced by the beer garden and BBQ for both participants and spectators at the spring tournament.
With a balance of hard work and fun for players of any calibre, it’s no surprise that the club is making significant strides forward.
“It’s about the third year of pretty massive growth for the club, so things are going to get pretty exciting. We usually have huge recruitment in September.
“We’re kind of developing UBC Water Polo as a bigger place for [students to play after high school]. There are people coming to UBC not necessarily to play water polo for us, but having the club is a huge plus for them.”
With more and more students coming on board to strap on the cap, the UBC Water Polo Club is looking to move off of the ‘Sports people don’t really know about’ list and emerge as one of the more popular clubs on campus. So far, they seem to be doing all the right things.