Creating Broad Based Interest

Discussion of USA Semi Professional League
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Joined: Tue Apr 15, 2008 7:04 pm

Creating Broad Based Interest

Postby Missy » Fri May 21, 2010 1:18 am

This is a very noble cause and I hope you are successful. I think the most difficult thing about promoting water polo as a sport that can be monetized (specifically as a spectator sport) is that it is not interesting for non-players to watch. To me, it is riveting but to my non-player friends, it is boring. They don't understand the nuances. They don't understand why there is constant fouling that is not being whistled and constant whistling that doesn't seem to to completely make sense. Doubtlessly, the could eventually learn how to watch the game but there is no motivation for them because it is not fast moving, there is not a lot to watch beyond heads above water and the investment required to learn to appreciate the game doesn't seem worthwhile to justify.

Everyone in the sport wants to be involved at the elite level. Who wouldn't? It is beautiful thing to watch a powerful player receive a perfect pass as a result of a fantastic play and score off of it but that is not going to bring water polo to the level of popular or semi-popular levels that it would need to support paid American players. What we need is more of a grassroots movement to popularize water polo. It is kids, parents and masters that have to drive the interest of water polo to the level that would sustain a professional or semi-professional level. It is the only way to educate enough people about the sport where there could be a large enough support base that could begin to merit a semi-professional league. This is a long term endeavor.

This is not to say that what you are doing is bad or wrong by any means. I just think it is important to keep it in perspective and to attack it in an integrated way that will increase the chances of long term success. That kind of effort requires a concerted effort at every level. I think it is particularly inspiring when high level players reach down to the intermediate level and when intermediate players drop in and play or help coach lower level players. This brings excitement and love of the sport and inspires players to excel. Much of this needs to be done for the love of the sport and not for any expectation of pay. And, yes, I do more than my part.

In terms of our national organization, I believe Water Polo USA needs to have a lot more resources available for free for any Water Polo USA member that wants to start a polo program. These should be organization plans, cost worksheets, marketing resource prototypes - whatever - with no strings attached. Water Polo USA seems to be very short sighted in terms of these things. Most polo programs are started by a volunteer and resources are too scarce to do the work or pay for someone to do it so the idea ends there. We need to create the base and there are sufficient entry barriers to the sport that our national organization should be making it easier to start teams rather than making it more difficult.

Anyway, I love to see promotion of the sport that I love. I hope that it is successful and that some of my input has been of use to you. Thanks for doing this :) I hope that more people post their thoughts and ideas here in order to keep moving towards the idea of water polo as a mainstream sport in our country.

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Joined: Wed May 19, 2010 6:53 pm
How are you connected to water polo?: Fan

Re: Creating Broad Based Interest

Postby NWL » Fri May 21, 2010 4:10 pm

Very good point Missy. This is something that we are preaching. Water Polo is boring sport for non players. Sometimes even I cannot sit and watch the game. Especially when there are a lot of calls by referees, and most of them questionable (final four in Naples in every game there was 20 exclusions on average). People get confused what is exclusion and what is a foul. When newcomers to this game ask me about that issue I just tell them that what matters is when ball goes in the goal. They shouldn't worry about anything else. If you came to our exhibition matches you would see what we are trying to do different then the other leagues and associations. At every game we had entertainment for the fans. We had public announcer, live music, synchronized swimming, raffle and stuff giveaway. After the game kids were able to interact with the players and get autographs. All of that was accompanied with food and drinks. Our idea is to give best possible experience for the fans.

From our mission statement that you can find on our web site (

"The mission of the National Water Polo League is to provide our Clubs and their players an opportunity to participate in organized water polo in a setting that promotes growth, fellowship and the best possible competition after player college eligibility has expired.

* To our fans we will provide a fun and enjoyable atmosphere that is family oriented and encourages the principles of honesty, integrity, and good sportsmanship through example.

* To our sponsors we will provide a business plan that will help market their products and services and build business opportunities.

* To our teams we will provide an environment that fosters the development of team spirit through the commitment of the group to the above values and principles, emphasizing the involvement of the entire team and community in a surrounding that encourages camaraderie and a commitment to common goals.

We believe we can best accomplish our mission through a unified effort toward mutual trust, honesty and integrity between Clubs, Fans, Sponsors and communities."

We strongly believe in all of this. As a former player I wish I had the opportunity to play in a league like this and as a parent I wish that my son can watch high level water polo and fall in love with this sport just like I did.

looking forward
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Joined: Fri May 21, 2010 3:24 pm
How are you connected to water polo?: fan

Re: Creating Broad Based Interest

Postby looking forward » Sat May 22, 2010 7:30 pm

First, I want to congratulate the NWL for getting as far as they have with their efforts to bring a professional water polo league to the US. I've been to two of the three exhibition games and they've been terrific. What I've noticed about the NWL is that they never stop trying to make this better. They're always asking questions, always looking for answers, always trying to find anything that might help them and they aren't afraid of anything. They are patient, and maybe for that reason alone, this league will eventually succeed.

Creating broad based interest is a process and it will take time. Water polo isn't like other sports. We have basketball courts at our high school so we teach basketball in PE. We have swimming pools, too, but do we teach water polo? The problem is that with a sport like water polo we are starting from below ground level. But, it's not about teaching the game. Believe it or not, understanding and/or knowing how to play a sport is not why most people love the sports they love.

Ask a basketball fan why he loves basketball. Does he talk about strategy? A favorite play? Football fans, especially women who "love" football (it's not because they played in high school or college), why do they love football? Or baseball? Women don't play baseball. Women play softball, right? NASCAR? How many of us have ever driven one of those things? Why do we love the sports we love?

We "buy in" to the athletes and the teams. We associate. We become a part of the experience by attaching ourselves to Kobe or the Dodgers. Even if we've never shot a basketball we love the feeling of jumping out of our seats when Kobe nails a 3-pointer.

The question is, how do we "buy in" in the first place? This is where water polo doesn't always reach its full potential. Fans need to make connections. They do this when they are given information that they can relate to. For instance, names and cap numbers. Those should be made available at every game. Hometown, high school/college, stats, mini biographies with information that relates to the sport. The college teams do this all the time. It's a single sheet of paper, xeroxed. You might even get a local vendor to pay for it if you include his ad. I will admit, however, putting something like this together takes work and organization.

Expecting fans to know a game like water polo first and then get into the players and teams is putting the cart before the horse. Fans need to pick a favorite player (whatever the reason, maybe he went to the same high school as their cousin) and feel a connection. The fan will focus on the player and then have a place from which to begin to learn the game. This is how it works. If they like the goalie they will learn the game from the goalie's perspective. If they like some field player, they will learn more about why the field players do certain things or not. One thing is for sure, it's a process and it won't happen right away.

Finally, with all that said, I look forward with great anticipation to the next NWL game. Good luck. I'm behind you 100%.

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