Soccer with a Splash
By Lauren, age 19, California
Sweet Advice Featured Columnist
School is starting again soon. Can't find a sport that fits you? Do you like soccer, but hate running? Want a sport that is great for your health, but also a ton of fun? Water polo is the sport for you!
Water polo is often unheard of and is confused with many other sports. You may be asking, What do you do play with? An inflatable horse in the water?* When I started high school I was on the long list of people who had never heard of the sport. I had heard so little about it that I didn't even consider seeing if I would like the sport. Even when I did join I was against being on the team. But as a competitive swimmer for my high school I was told that in order to practice year round I had one option - join water polo. Although I was forced, I am glad my coach insisted.
So what is this wonderful sport I keep talking about? Well, let me explain. Water polo is a soccer-like sport in a pool with a bit of a twist. Unlike soccer, you use your hands and you get to wrestle a bit with your competitors.
Let me explain the game for you. Water polo is a team sport comprised of seven player teams. Each team has one goalie, three offensive players, and three defensive players. Unlike soccer, however, in water polo offensive and defensive players are interchangeable. The goal of the field players is in 30 seconds to get the ball into the opposite goal while guarding off your opposing team's players.
Sounds easy and kind of boring, right? But if that were the case, do you think I would tell you about this sport? No! Unlike most other high school team sports, you are able to fight and wrestle with your opposing team. As an offensive or defensive player you are required to push against and "guard" off the other team from scoring, often ending in an underwater fight. These fights are often fun. Who doesn't like to fight a bit with someone and not get in trouble for it, especially if you are having a horrible day?!
Water polo not only lets you get your frustrations out in a productive and safe way, but it is also one of the healthiest activities you can participate in. Water polo puts little pressure and pounding on muscles and joints, unlike a running sport, while using just as much energy, if not more. "In an average game [a] water player will swim 2 to 3 miles", amounting to running 6 to 9 miles.** Also, in an average hour of playing or practicing a player burns anywhere from 590 to 863 calories.***
I can't forget to mention one very important piece to the enjoyment of this sport, the team bond. After so many hours of swimming behind someone, wrestling with them in practice, becoming up close and personal, and learning to trust your teammates, you can only imagine the close knit bond water polo teams build.
So if you are looking for a fun fast paced sport check it out. You may just come to love the sport like I did.
** Mindy Solkin: http://www.marathonguide.com/training/coachmindy/crosstraining.cfm
*** Statistic from: http://www.nutristrategy.com/activitylist3.htm
More About the GameWater polo is a game with seven players on each side (one goalie and six field players). There are two goals, one on each end. The goals look very much like small soccer goals that float on the water. It is played in a pool where you cannot touch the bottom. You can only touch the ball with one hand at a time, and you have to tread water for the whole game. In an average game water polo players swim 2 to 3 miles.
One of the most unique things about water polo is how the refs affect the game. In a normal game there are probably 100 fouls. Fouls are very normal and just make it so the defender has to back off of the offensive player for 3 seconds and let him or her have a free pass. There are ejections, game majors, and brutalities. Ejections are for over aggressive fouls. When you get an ejection your team is down a person for 20 seconds. Each player can only get 3 ejections before (s)he is game majored, which means that (s)he can no longer play in the game. Brutalities are for punching someone in the face above the water or obviously hurting someone with only the intention of injuring them.