Thursday, 8 September 2011

Waterpolo: take two

One week on from my first session, and on Wednesday night I am back in the pool for another go at waterpolo. I have to admit, I was less than enthusiastic: having found my first taste of this sport totally exhausting. But for the sake of my Gold Challenge, I bravely put on my waterpolo hat and I dived right in.
Unexpectedly I find that I am already much improved. In the first half of the session, which focuses primarily on swimming drills, I find that I am struggling less. The huge challenge of swimming with my head out of the water, while trying to keep the ball between my arms, seems to come easier, even though my speed leaves much to be desired. In one particular drill (arms do front crawling, legs do frog-kick) I seem to have found my niche, and I quickly adopt the style for the rest of the session.

The focus of the session was learning to defend the ball. While in possession, you swim into the man marking you while keeping the ball on the surface of the water at arms length and away from your opponent. This is a contact sport, you are allowed to lean, push and grab hold (underwater) of the men marking you. In fact, the captain explained to me that I should use the opponent as a floating device! Likewise the man trying to get the ball off you is allowed to hold, block or pull you underwater while you are holding the ball. So the trick is to quickly let go of the ball, tricking the opponent into fouling you. It's a sport of quick reactions!

In waterpolo standing on the bottom of the pool (if shallow) or using the sides to float is not allowed. Thus for most part of the session, I was using my legs furiously either to tread water, propel myself forward, or trying to leap out of the water for a shot. This is really hard work! At some stage, practising the sort of rapid change of direction that's required and it's totally new to me, I had the worst cramp imaginable in my left calf.

I was going to call it quits for the night, clearly exhausted, but at this stage the captain wanted us to practice game strategies, thus I was required to make the numbers up. We practice strategies for when there is a man up. Compared to the week before, when I struggled not to drown, I actually enjoyed myself a little. It helped matters dramatically that I managed to score a goal by deploying a cunning and totally unexpected (for my level of skill) feint. I was however too knackered to keep tally of the score, so in the end I couldn't tell if my team won or lost.

Each session last an hour an a half, so technically I've undertaken the three hours of coached activity required to complete a sport. However I am not done with waterpolo yet, I think I might well come back for some more, once I've duly recovered. The guys in the team have been extremely friendly and patient with me (even after some pretty shocking passing). I feel that the quick bursts of activity geratly improve my general swimming stamina, and a hotly contested game is hundreds time more fun than an hour long swimming session just looking at tiles, length after length.

Oh, and the water polo caps are so dashing. Kidding...

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