Why Do Swimmers Love Water Polo?

Back story time: When I was in high school, a group of us on my club team liked to play water polo so much that we would meet up on Saturday nights in the summer and play for hours even after a ten practice week. We would even go to the pool at 6 am during our two week off season just to play a little. I should mention that while I say we were playing water polo; it was far from legal water polo. We played full contact, the only rule is to not drown each other. We would stand two yellow kickboards against each other to make our little goals until one of my friends and his Dad made a set of homemade goals for us to use. During the season, it didn’t happen very often but when it did, we loved it.

I wanted to see what it is exactly about water polo that made most of us like it so much. Is there something more to water polo than just getting to play a fun game? So, I did some very scientific research (aka an Instagram story post) to hear from some of my swim friends about their thoughts on water polo.

One of the most popular responses when I asked why people loved playing water polo during swim practice was… *drum roll please*… because they didn’t actually have to swim laps. I know this must really come as a shock to some of you. Sometimes swimmers just need a little break from the constant back and forth up and down the pool. Water polo is such a fun break from the monotony. But please, let the monotony be the only thing you break while playing water polo. One time in high school we were playing a game, and one of the guys walked away with a broken nose. We didn’t play for a while after that…

You know how swimming can sometimes feel like an individual sport? I will be the first to tell you that it’s a team sport, but some days lap after lap after lap you feel like it’s just you. It’s just you and the black line at the bottom of the pool. Playing a game of water polo changes that immediately. Suddenly you’re playing on a team, and it is clear that one team will come out on top. This is the one time you get to be on a team bigger than a four-person relay team and it is awesome.

Classic water polo at swim practice things:

  • The kickboard goals- The classic two kickboard leaned precariously against each other to make a goal. They are hard to set up, and easy to knock down if you can actually hit it. The kickboard goals make for a small target.
  • Caps vs. no caps- It is inevitable that this is how the teams will be differentiated. Especially if you are playing with far more players than a real water polo team would have. I always hoped to be on the caps team just to be able to keep my hair out of my eyes.
  • Coach Referee- Your coach’s all-seeing eyes that are usually used for catching you sneak an extra breath off the wall will get to come into play in a new role.

At some point in any swimmer’s career they will get to play water polo at swim practice. It may only be once per year, but it will be so fun when it finally happens. Maybe some swimmers only like it because it will get them out of swim practice, but if you’re anything like me, I looked forward to it all season.

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26 days ago

Water polo is a brutal sport, aka underwater MMA. As a swimmer who made his way to the pool because he sucked at any sport involving throwing or catching things, I never saw the attraction of water polo. Give me the orderliness and non-combativeness of a good set of 400 IMs or 1000s any day over that punch & kick fest disguised as a game.

About Mary Northcutt

Mary Northcutt

Mary is a former 6-time All-American swimmer at Carson-Newman University. She technically was a 50-freestyler, but her favorite events were relays. She wrapped up her swimming career at the 2020 Division II National Championships in March. Since then, she has recently started her first year of Physical Therapy school at …

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