Nurturing Water Polo Through Tough Times: The WPP Challenge

Joan Gould
Water Polo Planet

No doubt about it, the US is facing the toughest economic challenges I have seen in my lifetime and most experts say the worst is yet to come.  As economic stress hits the state and local levels, we are beginning to see athletics as one of the first targets for cost cutting in public schools as well as universities and city recreation departments.

The same economic stress is also hitting the pros -the NFL has cut their staff by 15% and the Commissioner has taken a voluntary pay cut. NASCAR (yes, folks, the largest cash generating “sport” in the US) has lost 30% of their funding (Ford and GM) and several top names will not be seen on the racetracks anytime soon. We are bound to see major problems hit MLB in the coming months as season ticket holders back away from the box office and blue collar workers stay home and listen to the game on the radio.

As we become more enmeshed in public, private and personal disaster, it is important to give some consideration to the sport of water polo-a sport that provides much to all of us. In a word, NOW is the time that calls for all of us to start giving back a little and help keep the growth and progress going. For those of you who say “easy for HER to say”..I recently joined 9 million people on the unemployment line so I’m “on the dole” (my kids expression) and very sympathetic to the plight of everyone.

Fortunately, in water polo, we are only 4 years removed from being a totally volunteer organization so all of us remember HOW we can help…and now, more than ever is the time we need to help conserve every $ possible in our high schools, clubs and USAWP. Lets take a look at a few areas where each group of us can start the giving back…this is by no means the entire list, just a starting point. If you have any other ideas, post them on the Message Board and lets share the wealth. We are a pretty bright group of people.

HIGH SCHOOL PLAYERS: Be part of the Solution: Take a few hours to take online referee classes at Water Polo Academy and start refereeing the little kids. Those 8 and 9 year olds think you guys are The Real Deal…These kids have no idea who Aaron Chaney is but put a Junior from CDM on a 10u game and those kids think you’re the Polo Gods. Take a few minutes after the game and talk to the kids a little bit…build their excitement. Not only will you give back and feel good but you’ll make a few bucks refereeing-it’s a win/win for everyone.

COLLEGE PLAYERS: Take 2 hours a week and volunteer to help coach an age group team in your area.  2 hours a week is not the end of the world and you will be a de facto ambassador for your school with the kids as well as the parents. Work with the kids and if you really want to be a superhero, show up for a game once in a while.  Think how you would have felt when you were 10 to have a real college player in a real college shirt work with you once in a while.  The kids will become instantly more committed, more enthusiastic and you’ll have that feel good feeling…and who can put a price on that?

REFEREES: Take a Beginner to the Game Day:  We are training 30-40 beginner referees a month in Water Polo Academy and every one of them needs to work on deck with an experienced ref. Call Mike Reid or Don Holbrook at SCAF or your Referee Zone Chair and volunteer to take a couple of one ref age group games.  Ask SCAF to give you a beginner trainee to work the other side of the pool with you. Help the trainee through the rough spots and give him a chance to feel comfortable before he is thrown to the wolves alone.  Support him positively.  It will not overtax anyone to do this a couple times a month and you will be part of the solution to the huge referee problem that we have in every part of the country.

PARENTS: Well, I’m one too and as usual, this is where the buck stops…so there is simply no end to what we, as parents can do.

Be part of the solution… help the sport to flourish through the next 2-3 years. I promise you, we are headed in the right direction and the little extra bit of work from all of us will pay dividends for all of the kids down the line.