The Daily Gamecock

'If you’re competitive, it’s the best sport for you': Gamecock Water Polo Club uses comparison to help illustrate the sport

<p>FILE — The Gamecock Water Polo Club at Auburn University for the Chris Young Tournament on Jan 29, 2022.</p>
FILE — The Gamecock Water Polo Club at Auburn University for the Chris Young Tournament on Jan 29, 2022.

The Gamecock Water Polo Club often has to help break down the sport of water polo to give a better understanding to those who might be interested in the club.

“Not that many people know what water polo is,” club president Joseph Benoit said. “I’ve had people ask me 'how do they get the horses in the water?' ... to which you respond, 'Nah, we just use sea horses.'”

Joking aside, Benoit said the sport is relatively unknown in the United States depsite its massively popularity in eastern Europe. This worldwide popularity shows off how established the sport already is.

“It’s really kind of a brutal sport, if I’m being honest,” said Benoit. “Similar to the level of intensity as hockey.”

Those who are familiar with hockey may be able to understand the intensity of the sport. Jockeying for position; using a unique, tiring movement style and having a small goal to score on over extremely close defenders are all similarities the two sports share. However, the intensity wasn’t the only commonality water polo shared with another sport.

“The fun thing about water polo is, other than just being in the water part, it is a lot like other games,” club member Andrew Hogan said.

Hogan described water polo’s field of play as being similar to that of a basketball court. In basketball, a team would have a center inside the paint with perimeter players along the arc, water polo teams have their players surround their center in the middle. They do this for the same reason basketball teams do it — to get an easy score by the goal by a mix-up of passes inside and outside the middle.

Hogan also compared the sport to hockey because of the similar penalty system, and then soccer because of their similar transition games.

Other members felt that endurance from other sports was the biggest skill that transitioned into water polo.

“I was a distance swimmer, so my endurance has been my best part for me, at least,” club member Nate Windham said. “Having the ability to be able to work out and endure a 32-minute, all-intensity workout in competition is huge.” 

Vice President Ben Kistler also emphasized that endurance is a big thing athletes can use to their benefit in transitioning to water polo, where you’re constantly floating. Despite this, he said swimming isn’t really a prerequisite to join.

“When I first played water polo, I had not done swimming,” Kistler said. “It just helps. Like with everything you, build off of it.”

For those who are completely unfamiliar with water polo, the club broke down the game to a few key points: constantly treading deep water, playing with a team of six field players and one goalie, attempting to score goals by throwing a water polo ball into a net and moving across the field.

As for the club itself, they’ve already been able to compete in two competitions so far this school year. In the fall semester, it hosted a tournament, and this semester compete in a tournament at Auburn. Additionally, the club regularly practices in Charleston with the South Carolina Master's water polo team, the states only professional water polo team.

The club itself is still a relatively new club, having been restarted in the 2020 school year after a small break. The club’s members are excited to welcome in new players of all experience levels, hoping they can enjoy the sport as they do. 

“Come on out and give it a try,” Hogan said. “If you’re competitive, it’s the best sport for you ... I struggled with it my first two weeks and then I never stopped playing. Once you get used to it, it’s the best sport.”

For those interested in joining, the water polo club meets from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Solomon Blatt Physical Education Center swimming pools.