Play some water polo in Virginia Beach
© April 15, 2009
By John Streit Correspondent
Water polo has been a fish out of water in Hampton Roads.
The Beach Parks and Recreation wants to change that by forging a path for the sport by offering "Water Polo Nights."
Spearheaded by Carol Fernheimer, a parks and rec supervisor, and longtime player Kent McKee, the program is held at Bayside Rec Center the first and second Fridays of each month before moving to Princess Anne Rec for the third and fourth Fridays.
Parks and Rec wanted to revive the sport locally after a failed attempt to offer an intertube form of the game several years ago, Fernheimer said.
Sixteen people - some first-timers, some former European semipro players - showed up at Bayside Rec on March 6. Played between teams of seven, water polo is a blend of swimming, basketball and soccer.
There were several reasons for the program's instant draw, according to McKee. The military has transplanted thousands from regions where water polo is commonplace, such as the Northeast and California. The game is also played in the D.C. area, and several state colleges have club teams.
McKee, 25, is a Chesapeake Beach resident who instructs newcomers and officiates the games.
"A lot of people played backyard-style, in the pool with no rules," she said. "This is a chance to play the actual structured sport. So far, it's been received really well."
The Tidewater Water Polo Club gained steam after its inception in 1999. The club competed against teams from the Southeast but the largely military membership disbanded after massive deployments following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
And while Water Polo Nights are hardly as competitive as the old club, it's a step in the right direction, according to former club member Marcio Soza.
"I have not been able to find any pools in the area that will let us practice, so as of right now the only option is Water Polo Nights," Soza said. "If we could find a pool, we would have a better opportunity to form a proper club and be able to host tournaments, clinics and a developing program for younger players."
According to Fernheimer, Parks and Rec hopes to keep the program running through the high school swimming off-season, which stretches from March until October.
"This is somewhat of a trial between the two centers, to see how it goes," Fernheimer said. "I can see a small league forming, but that would require our numbers at least doubling."
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