Student athletes bond over the physically taxing game in which strength, stamina and skill are key.
By Rachel Muir
It’s not for the faint of heart—or body.
“Water polo is one of the most physiologically challenging sports around,” says Scott Reed, coach of the GW men’s and women’s teams.
For the nearly 45 minutes a game typically lasts, players tread water and swim the length of the pool, all while trying to score points—or stop opponents from scoring—by throwing a ball in the opposing team’s goal. The sport’s rules and play draw on basketball, soccer, swimming and rugby.
“The hardest parts about playing water polo are the physical demands it places on your body and the aggressiveness of the sport,” says Emily Chereson, a senior from Erie, Pa. “It’s different than any other team sport, because players are in constant motion. You have to tread water the entire time you play.” Athletes need to be strong and have excellent hand-eye coordination and ball-handling skills, not to mention outstanding swimming and endurance abilities, says Reed, who is in his 11th season coaching at GW.
And in water polo, referees are outside the pool, making it difficult for them to spot fouls. “Anything underwater, including kicking, punching and scratching, is typically not seen by the refs and so is fair game,” says Chereson.
Nick Archambault, a senior from La Jolla, Calif., first played water polo at age 12 and “instantly got hooked.”
“I enjoy everything about the game of water polo,” says Archambault, adding that it takes “an incredible amount of conditioning to stay competitive at the college level.”
During the season—for men, September through November, and for women, February through April—players train for 20 hours a week during the academic year. “A typical day of training starts with a rigorous swimming set, then we move on to passing and shooting, next is a team drill, and lastly are the dreaded leg workouts,” says senior John-Claude Wright. Originally a competitive swimmer, Wright first tried water polo as a teenager when his family moved to Massachusetts from Jamaica, and he never looked back. “I love the team aspect of water polo,” he says.
It’s a sentiment echoed by the other players. “The thing I enjoy most about playing at GW is the experience of having a team around you at all times,” says Archambault.
“During the season you spend countless hours with your teammates practicing, playing and traveling to games. I enjoy the bonding experience that comes with team sports, which is one of the reasons I got into water polo in the first place.
“Playing water polo at GW has been, and still is, a great experience,” he says.
The men’s team began its season Sept. 5, while the women’s season starts in February.