Water Polo Making a Bigger Splash

Sports Planning Guide brings you information on Water Polo in the United States.

While many sports’ national governing bodies are working to expand their game around the globe, USA Water Polo is only concerned with growing its sport at home in the U.S. The ability to play outside year round, a culture based around an active lifestyle and the sheer number of pools in California has made the state water polo’s biggest domestic supporter, but USA Water Polo is working to spread out.

A Water Polo Pool Diagram

A Water Polo Pool Diagram

“About 75 percent of out membership is here in California, and we feel like there is a lot of room for expansion outside of California,” said Claudia Dodson, director of club and member programs for USA Water Polo. “Recently we’ve been focusing on the Midwest, the Southeast, the Southwest—we work hard to bring events and bring education through coach training, referee training and player clinics.”

While large events like the Junior Olympics, which features 550 teams, over 8,000 athletes and 30 venues, need to be hosted in California so enough pools are available, USA Water Polo hosts smaller events in states like Nevada, Colorado, Indiana and Ohio. The organization is looking to host more events across the country going forward.

“We are working hard to take the game across the country and to create meaningful playing opportunities for players and our members outside of California,” Dodson said.

Water polo enthusiasts hope that continued success for the U.S. in the Olympics will get more people interested in the sport. The U.S. women’s team won gold last year in London for the first time since women’s water polo became an Olympic sport in 2000.

Claudia Dodson USA Water Polo
A lot of people come to water polo because they are injured in another sport and they are swimming or in the water for rehab. Then they find that they enjoy water polo.

“I hope that it translates into memberships,” Dodson said. “I certainly know that there was a lot of media attention given to the sport after our women won gold. Our individual women athletes are still getting a lot of speaking opportunities and are using the gold medals as a platform to hold player clinics and to do speaking engagements. Let’s hope we see it translate into increased membership, but I’d certainly say it has raised the level of awareness for our game.”

USA Water Polo’s membership base is growing steadily, especially at its younger levels, and currently is made up of just under 40,000 members. Similar to the rapidly growing sport of lacrosse, water polo takes a wide range of skills that translate from a variety of different sports. While most converts to the game come via swimmers who are frustrated with their times or want to play a classic team sport, the game is also seeing former soccer and basketball players quickly have success due to understanding the spacing and offensive and defensive strategies present in all three sports.

“Another thing is that actually a lot of people come to water polo because they are injured in another sport and they are swimming or in the water for rehab,” Dodson said. “Then they find that they enjoy water polo.”

Photo by Jonathan Moore

Photo by Jonathan Moore

Instead of just being satisfied with treading water, USA Water Polo has big goals going forward.

“I would personally like to see it in every high school in the [U.S.] that has a pool,” Dodson said. “We would also love to see a 10 percent growth in our membership every year for five years. That would be a dream come true.”

For athletes who have never tried the sport, longtime water polo players will all tell you the same thing − just give it a shot.

“It’s a hard sport to understand when you just look at it, but once people play the game, more often than not they are hooked,” Dodson said. “They just get in the pool and actually play the game and after one tournament they’re hooked. They love it, they have a good time. It has a social side, it’s physically demanding and it takes processing abilities—you have to think quickly. It’s a challenging game, and most people who try it love it. Polo in every pool. That’s our goal.”

To learn more about USA Water Polo, visit usawaterpolo.org.

About the Author

Daniel Morrill is a senior Journalism major at Taylor University in Upland, IN. He started working at Premier Tourism Marketing in May of 2012 as an Editorial Intern and regularly contributes to Leisure Group Travel Magazine and the InSite Sports Newsletter.

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Water Polo Making a Bigger Splash
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Water Polo Making a Bigger Splash
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Sports Planning Guide brings you information on Water Polo in the United States.
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Sports Planning Guide

2 Comments on Water Polo Making a Bigger Splash

  1. If you are going to be successful in getting polo into that many high schools, we MUST involve the NCAA. Compare the number of college soccer programs to the pitiful number of polo programs.

    Expand the opportunities to play in college (especially on scholarship) and we will drive more interest in our sport.

  2. Page Remillard // May 14, 2013 at 5:51 pm // Reply

    If USWPA was honest in it’s own self-evaluation it would acknowledge this article could have been written 40 years ago … Nothing has change aside from the apdoption of Title IX and our (USWPA) commitment to women’s water polo. Our world domination of the women’s game, including in Europe where the stellar players of the men’s game learned their craft, is a attribute to hard work, quality coaching at all levels AND because Europoe fails to embrace a Title IX community culture.

    As long as USWPA continues to chase the principal of success (a “gold medal” for men) while ignoring that which has kept the sport out of many pools across the country currently hosting swim teams, they are destin to continue to fail and possibly lose International Olympic Committee support. As long as you call USWPA a national sport, but govern it with a California strangle hold, you can reprint this article in 2053.

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