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Growing the game

The Dalhousie Water Polo Association is trying to grow the game at Dalhousie University and throughout Nova Scotia.

“We would really like to expand in that there is nobody for us to play in this province,” said the club’s President, Annie Chinneck.

Dylan Samson who is a part of the club, said when he joined 10 years ago there used to be a league in Halifax they competed in, now Dal is the only water polo club left in Nova Scotia.

The Dal water polo association has about 20 players, both students and non-students, because they are a tier-two club and don’t need only Dalhousie students to be a part of the club (so long as they have a student majority). They’re a tight-knit community; before practice they find themselves splashing each other and laughing. They also go out every Friday night after practice.

The group is trying to get more players to play but haven’t been successful. They hosted a beginner’s night early in the semester where a few people came out but none of them stayed. They’ve also tried bake sales and posters in the past to spread the word.

They’re also trying to grow the sport in Nova Scotia overall. Being the only adult team in the province, they have to compete against teams in other provinces just to get external competition.

“Some of our former players are trying to spearhead teams in New Glasgow and Truro,” said Chinneck. “Predominantly for younger kids who will then become our age and play us.”

Dal’s coaches, Julien Lavoie and Mark Pannell, are active outside of Dal. Both sit on the board with Water Polo Nova Scotia, they also coach kids programes and take members of the Dal club to help out. They’re one year into their plan to grow the sport and they hope to get another team started this summer. They want to keep good coaches at the youth level. Their ultimate goal is to create a Nova Scotia provincial team that can compete at nationals.

“We’re trying to use the knowledge from Dalhousie to get it out to the rest of Nova Scotia,” said Pannell.

Being a good swimmer is necessary in order to play.

The coaches estimated people should be able to swim 100-200 meters non-stop. They say the practices are not that intense and they are happy to teach anyone how to play.

“We’re open to everybody, the only thing we ask is you know how to swim,” said Lavoie. “We are open to everybody, we take all skill levels, they don’t have to go to Dal … we’re trying to be the next (adult) progression for water polo Nova Scotia.”

It is a physically demanding sport. Lavoie and Pannell say athletes will swim around five to six kilometers each game. This is on top of throwing the ball, jostling for position in front of the net, and playing defense.

“You use a lot of muscles all the time because you are trending water with your legs, abs, arms – so it’s a full body workout,” said Chinneck.

Lavoie also mentioned that during games they have lots of subs so people can take breaks during competitive games and that this is a “‘safe environment”’ to learn.

Samson himself joined without much athletic experience. He knew how to swim but his only sport attempt prior to water polo was volleyball. He thinks if he could end up playing anyone can.

“As long as you have a bathing suit, and are comfortable getting in the water and swimming, we can teach you everything.”


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