Water Polo Question
February 11, 2009 11:34 PM   Subscribe

My son wants to play water polo in his freshman year of high school this August but has never played. Does he have a chance of making a team. What kind of training is done to start this sport... swimming laps? treadmill..??
posted by Chele66 to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (11 answers total)
I have no clue for water polo but during my freshman year I started playing lacrosse. Probably half of the freshman that went to tryouts had never picked up a lacrosse stick before but all of us 'made' a team. Granted, all of the new people made it onto the JV squad which had an oversized roster and the coaches ran all of us into the ground for the first month to weed out the people that didn't have the commitment. Once we were in though practice gave us all the skills and conditioning we needed to play the game. By junior year most of us had the skills, strength, and experience to make it onto the varsity team.

I have no experience with water polo but I'm just giving you this anecdote that a lot of kids tend to start the less popular when they start high school so he probably won't be the only new player. This is all assuming that water polo isn't a major past time in your city that has little leagues for water polo starting in kindergarten and that there's enough demand for more than just a varsity water polo team in his school. I'd assume as long as he can swim and is mildly athletic he shouldn't have too much of a problem picking up water polo with proper coaching. I'd at least check your local rec centers to see if there are any water polo clubs that could help your son before school starts next year.

Good luck, and hopefully someone else can fill you in on more water polo specific information.
posted by woolylambkin at 12:34 AM on February 12, 2009

I wouldn't worry about it. Even the super-snooty New England prep school I briefly attended didn't seem to have any particular expectations for incoming water polo players. You weren't even allowed to be on the team until high school anyway, so there really wasn't any way for the kids to come in with experience.

If he's really anxious about his chances, there's no reason he shouldn't just talk to the coach. August is awhile away, plenty of time to do whatever training is suggested - and expressing early enthusiasm can't hurt him.
posted by bubukaba at 12:40 AM on February 12, 2009

i agree, given the relatively low level of popularity of water polo, i'm sure the coach will be happy to have a team!

having played water polo however, i suggest doing tons and tons and tons and tons of swimming. And if he is a lil heavy, all the better! there is NO better workout the water polo i think. I used to practice treading water 40 minutes at a time (since games were four 6 minute quarters) to build my stamina. I also played goalie on a good team so i did a lot of treading for that reason as well haha. I also lost 20 lbs by the end of the season! Power to him, it's a really fun sport, very challenging, and great exercise!
posted by FireStyle at 1:32 AM on February 12, 2009

At my old high school the water polo coach would make his team tread water holding a brick above their head.
posted by PenDevil at 2:57 AM on February 12, 2009 [3 favorites]

Top two things that are the hardest to learn for water polo:

1. Egg-beater: (YouTube: 1, 2, 3)

2. How to dribble

Then find a couple of articles on the web about positions for offense/defense (eg. the hole-man, points, drivers, etc), 6-on-5 play, fouls. It's a bit complicated and the play is unlike many other sports (eg. most of the action happens while the clock is stopped). The wikipedia article is pretty good.

Best of all, tell him to have fun. I played for 10 years and I loved every second and I have a lot of warm memories.
posted by i_am_a_Jedi at 3:48 AM on February 12, 2009

YOu guys obviously aren't in an area where there's hard-core water polo. F;rinstance, in the richer 'burbs of St. Louis, it's what gets played. I tried out my freshman year of HS and was the only person in tryouts that didn't have a couple years under his belt. (didn't even remotely make the team.)

In answer to your question, do a ton of laps, and learn the eggbeater. Do eggbeater until you cramp up. With a brick or something else heavy over your head.
posted by notsnot at 4:11 AM on February 12, 2009

Oh, and from my cousin who *did* make the team...grow out your toenails, and sharpen them.
posted by notsnot at 4:12 AM on February 12, 2009

Best answer: I played water polo for three of my four years in high school. My experiences are not universal, of course, but they seem fairly representative of what it's like, based on conversations that I've had with other former players.

If your son's high school has a large water polo team, he'll probably be stuck playing Junior Varsity during his first year. At my high school we practiced five hours a day, five days a week. That was two hours before first period, all of sixth period, and two hours after school. We were also expected (although not strictly required) to be on the swim team during the off season, so that we kept conditioned. Two days a week we would do an hour of weight training for strength.

The suggestion of having him learn to eggbeater (and practice holding a weight over his head) is a good one, but he won't be ready for the weight immediately. When he's first learning to eggbeater, have him practice dipping his hands briefly in the water and then holding them out of the water until they get dry, then repeating. Once he's mastered that, alternate between having him hold the weight and trying to get his arms as far out of the water as possible. This is especially useful if he's going to be in a goalie position. I played goalie my junior and senior years (I have uncommonly long arms), and if he's doing that a good excercise is to stay in the goal and keep his fingers touching the top of the goal (but not grabbing it) as he eggbeaters from one side to the other.

His passing and catching skills will need to be developed. A water polo ball might look like a volleyball, but it's not. It's much harder, and that needs to be respected, or he'll hurt his fingers (the only time I've ever been knocked unconscious was by a water polo ball). The key to catching the ball is not to try to grip it, but to give it a cradle while your hand moves back to absorb the ball's momentum. When picking up the ball from the water, he needs to always remember to reach from underneath the ball; if the ball goes underwater, it's a turnover, and the opposing players will make sure that his hand forces the ball underwater if his hand is coming from above. Have him practice this.

Knowing how to score is important, so practicing both "wet shots" and "dry shots" is something that he'll practice a lot. A dry shot involves lifting the ball up out of the water and throwing it, while a wet shot typically involves swimming with the ball in front of him towards the goal and the throwing/pushing it into the goal straight from the water.

The advice to grow his toenails long and sharpen them is not just useless, it's actually detrimental to his chances. Even if you're comfortable with the notion of playing slightly dirty (and most water polo players are), the refs typically check everyone's nails before each game, and they'll either make you trim your nails or eject you from the game if they're not happy with what they see. This means that the only place his razor nails will be effective is during practice, which will only piss off his teammates.

That's what he should expect. Here's what you should expect:

Your grocery bill is going to go through the roof. Your son is going to be burning a lot of calories, all the time, so expect him to be ravenous. He'll sleep like the dead, and his waking hours he'll spend constantly trying to put food in his body. Cut back on his dairy and increase his consumption of bananas; leg cramps can make practice miserable, but they're easily avoided if he pays attention to his diet.

Hope this was helpful to you.
posted by Parasite Unseen at 9:43 AM on February 12, 2009 [2 favorites]

Yes, it all depends on where you are as to his chances of getting on the team. I, too, wanted to join the waterpolo team in high school (Why? I still don't know - I had never heard of water polo before high school). I don't remember if there were try-outs, or if you just signed up. Water polo was largely unknown in my area, and the women's team hadn't even started when I first started playing, so we had co-ed teams (this changed in the 2nd year, with a huge influx of players). The schools in my area all had Frosh-Soph, JV and Varsity teams, and most new kids started on Frosh-Soph, maybe on JV if they were really fast swimmers or they had some previous experience. I lived in Santa Barbara, CA. But if you went a few hours south, water polo and swimming was serious stuff, and kids played well before they started high school. We had fun, but we always lost to those teams. I'm sure there were try-outs there.

Swimming a bunch before the summer training is great. Learning to egg beater and dribble is fantastic, but not 100% necessary if there is no try-out type situation. Why don't you call the sports program at the high school and see if you can talk to a coach? They'll give you a better idea of what to expect. If your son wants to talk to some students who are currently playing, ask if you can bring him by the swimming training (swimming is usually required for off-season training). You can play other sports in the off-season, but swimming is obviously preferred.

Tell your son to have fun. I'll second Parasite Unseen - lots of eating, lots of sleeping. Once school starts, tell your son to be sure to start homework right after school, if there's a gap between school and practice. Otherwise, he might not have the energy after practice (especially in the beginning).
posted by filthy light thief at 11:00 AM on February 12, 2009

We'd do eggbeater with bricks too, but sometimes my coach had us try some other (fun?) variations. We'd sometimes have to wear sneakers, or take one or two gallon-sized milk containers, fill them with water, and hold them upside down over our heads until all the water drained out.

The best preparation would be lots and lots of swimming. Have him practice swimming the crawl stroke with his head out of the water as well. It's a lot more tiring than swimming with one's head down.
posted by Thoughtcrime at 11:56 AM on February 12, 2009

Response by poster: Thank you all for your great answers. I could have searched forever and never got the advice that I got from here.. Thank you again.
posted by Chele66 at 12:51 AM on February 17, 2009

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