It's the sport where one of the fouls is termed ‘brutality’ and where athletes are required to wear padded headgear. And now, there’s a game for children.
Don’t worry, says USA Water Polo. It’s fun, non-contact and set in shallow water. And it might just be event owners’ best bet for harnessing the enthusiasm of a younger generation. In fact, it could bring in a whole new group of players and parents.
SplashballTM, USA Water Polo’s introduction-to-water polo program, relaunched this month with a refocused approach on skills and water safety. According to the governing body, the game is designed for children ages five to 11 and brings all the fun and exciting aspects of the sport to a format – well, how do we put this? It’s a format parents and pediatricians will be comfortable with.
SplashballTMteaches children the principles of the game (passing the ball, defending the goal and scoring) but allows them to sit on a water noodle rather than doing the more strenuous eggbeater kick, if they’re not quite ready for that. It also removes some of the aggression from the sport. (More on that later).
And – from an event owner perspective – it allows children to have their own practices, scrimmages and games on the same days as their older sibs’ events – something that can play well into a current schedule. It can build new players, generate enthusiasm and get kids interested in a sport they might never have considered otherwise.
Best of all, says USA Water Polo, it’s affordable. The reformatted program will offer an annual athlete membership of just $10 for the entire calendar year. It will feature water polo and swimming content from Olympians such as Brenda Villa and Genai Kerr alongside education promoting a healthy diet, physical fitness and fun.
Event owners will find it the program easy to implement. USA Water Polo has a dedicated SplashballTMwebpage (SplashballUSA.org) includes the SplashballTMcurriculum, a coaching manual (including eight weeks of coaching plans), introduction-to-refereeing materials, and game/skill cards. It also offers a testing mechanism to allow participants to earn a certification of completion.
The program actually made its debut a few years ago and the sport has seen measurable growth as a result.
“We want that growth to continue and it starts with SplashballTM.” said Mark Carney, USA Water Polo director of sport growth. “With added tools for ease of use offered to coaches and administrators, quality instruction from Olympic champions—plus a low barrier to entry thanks to discounted memberships—we are excited about what this program can do for the next generation.”
Water polo, which has variously been compared to football, basketball and soccer, . is a great workout but it’s generally known for its aggressive and often violent play. (Want an insider’s view? There’s a great one right here.)
So, um, what makes it a good choice for kids?
For one, it teaches teamwork. For another, it teaches sportsmanship and the importance of knowing the rules of the game and practicing good water safety techniques. SplashballTMallows children to become comfortable in the water and with the principles of the game before progressing to another level.
In addition, says USA Water Polo, SplashballTMhas its own membership for both participants and program facilitators (coaches, administrators, parents and referees). The athlete membership is available for players 11 years old and as mentioned, it costs $10 for the entire calendar year. The membership includes several member benefits including electronic versions of Skip Shot Magazine, USAWP updates, promotions, access to our continuing education materials, and (something parents may be happy about) insurance coverage.
Coaches, by the way, need to maintain a certification and have other safety credentials, including CPR/First Aid and more. (This may or may not be encouraging to parents).
Interested event owners, program directors, coaches and others can register their programs with USA Water Polo at the 2018 Splashball Administrator Program Registration. (There are also online video tutorials, a “how-to” brochure, and details on club models on the website.)