Remember the Alamo, Remember Goliad, and Remember the Way Water Polo Was Played

Richard Hunkler, PhD.
Water Polo Planet

If you don’t think most of today’s water polo games are not boring then you have been hit in the back of the head by Segesman too many times. People hardly ever see a natural goal, or shots from the 2 meter position, once one of the most exciting shots in all of water polo is almost nonexistent, and the number of drives rivals the number of blocks made by an age group goalie whose team is scrimmaging a senior national team. Many games are less exciting and less productive than watching a barber cut hair or watching a person paint the yellow stripe on a highway. Going to a son’s or daughter’s game should be a joy not a chore. At least the spectators shoud be treated to a game with consistent and understandable rules. Also if you were to poll the fans at a water polo game you would find that nepotism and close friends of the players abound! Spectators of other sports have the same type of fans but the stands are not dominated by such fans. Also a sport based on generating revenues solely from friends and family is NOT a healthy spectator sport.

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Are these Fans at a Water Polo Game?

Do we really believe a static game with umpteen thousand ejections, an infinite number of holds on the perimeter, and mud wrestling at the 2 meter position is better than a dynamic game with umpteen thousand natural goals, an infinite number of drives from the perimeter, and rather than mud wrestling at the 2 meter position – more scores from this position? ‘Movement’ is an integral part of all major team sports such as football, basketball, , hockey, lacrosse, soccer and the only exception is baseball (baseball fanatics will deny this as well). Why did the gate keepers of the water polo rules decide to divorce the rules and their interpretations from ‘movement’? If this was not enough they also went to bed with LEN and physicality and I am talking about physicality for physicality’s sake not physicality for an advantage. This type of physicality is not only a “movement” killer but it is also a young player and sport killer.

We need much more “movement” in today’s game. Look at some of the synonyms for the word “static”- inactive, motionless, stable, stationary, still, and unchanging and some of the synonyms for “dynamic” – active, alive, operative, potent, powerful, intense, fierce, energizing, and activating.  In a static game you can win games with three players, a good goalie, a good 2 meter player, and one good outside shooter but in a dynamic game without blatant holding you need all seven players to be good. Let us make the game of water polo once again a seven player dynamic game where skills are just as important as size and smarts and quickness are more important than strength and physicality. For all you physicality aficionados in the 40’s, 50’s, 60’, 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s water polo has always been considered one of the toughest sports in the world. It will still be macho to play water polo even when “movement” is a top priority as it was in many of those years.

This Is the Way You Want to Play the Game?

We don’t even have to change the water polo rules to create a dynamic game. All we have to do is apply the existing rules. Here is what we need to do to create a dynamic game with lots of movement: 1) STOP the mud wrestling at 2 meters; 2) STOP the blatant holding on the perimeter; 3) STOP the cheap shots and 4) create and make public a consistent interpretation of existing rules.

The first two suggestions can be implemented by having the referees apply the existing FINA and NCAA rules. The third suggestion can be enforced by having the referee blow his or her whistle when he or she sees a punch or kick not just to the face of a player but to anywhere on the body as well. A body punch can be as harmful as a face punch. After the whistle is blown the player who threw the punch or kick is immediately red carded and, what is just as important, the coach is also red carded. If a coach cannot control his own players then he or she doesn’t deserve to sit on the teams’ bench. When the coach’s own bull is gored then and only then will cheap shots really be stopped.

 Now the fourth suggestion will take a greater effort than the first three suggestions. A committee will have to be appointed to create the interpretation of the existing rules. Use these interpretations to create an online course of the interpretations and then require not just the referees to take the course but also require the coaches and players to take the same course. Since the required course will be online everyone will be able to take the course on a home computer in a reasonable amount of time. For those very few that do not have a home computer they can take the course at the local neighborhood library or at a computer café. First of all this means that people on the FINA TWPC will no longer be able to change the interpretation of the rules for each major tournament because everyone will know the interpretations of the rules. And lastly, having the players and coaches take the online course of rule interpretations is a very small price to pay for trying to make rules consistent not just in the USA but all around the world. Of course the referees will still receive on deck training and if you want they can be required to take a test but a test that is graded using the correct answers.

I would like to close this article using several quotations: “Challenges can be stepping stones or stumbling blocks. It is just a matter of how you view them” by an unknown person; “I am only one; but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; I will not refuse to do the something I can do” by Helen Keller; and “When the One Great Scorer comes to write against your name, He marks, not that you won or lost, but how you played the game” by Grantland Rice. Remember the person or persons who controls the interpretation of the rules controls the game and the person or persons who controls the game controls the sport. Finally, isn’t it time for the current players, coaches, referees, and fans to take charge of the interpretations of the water polo rules because FINA and LEN have shown us they can’t do it?

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