Sheffield water polo club hunt for new members as team evolves

Coaches, volunteers and members of the City of Sheffield Water Polo Monsters, pictured.
Coaches, volunteers and members of the City of Sheffield Water Polo Monsters, pictured.
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Ask people to describe how a game of water polo works and many might draw a blank when it comes to this competitive sport.

The seven-sided game, played by swimmers in a pool, is somewhat reminiscent of a game of football where, using water as a pitch, players throw a ball into their opponents’ net.

City of Sheffield Water Polo Academy, pictured before their game against Hucknall

City of Sheffield Water Polo Academy, pictured before their game against Hucknall

And it is a sport that has a vast history spanning over 100 years, with one leading club here in Sheffield.

Players from the City of Sheffield Water Polo club split their time between Ponds Forge and Graves Tennis and Leisure Centre.

The club was formed in 2001 from one of the country’s oldest water polo clubs, the Sheffield Dolphins and the Sheffield Sharks, and since has been awarded ‘Beacon’ status, an accolade that puts them in the same ranks with Sheffield’s swimming and diving clubs.

After receiving funding in 2014 from Swim England, the club were able to set up a team for younger children, and are now on the hunt for more members.

City of Sheffield Water Polo Academy v Hucknall Academy. Sheffield's Louis Russell, pictured

City of Sheffield Water Polo Academy v Hucknall Academy. Sheffield's Louis Russell, pictured

The club itself is divided into three sections - with players categorised not necessarily by age, but ability.

Younger children join the ranks with the Monsters, who train at the Graves Leisure Centre, which is itself split into five tiers. The senior section, at Ponds Forge, is made up of four teams - two men’s and two women’s.

Monsters’ coach Gabby Williams said: “That’s formed of any ages after the junior teams which are under 12s, under 14s and under 16s. When they’re around 14 or 15 years old they start training with the seniors at Ponds Forge so they get used to playing with them. It’s invite only, and this way they get experience.”

Donning a numbered or coloured cap and swimwear, players must tread water in a game that typically consists of four quarters, lasting around eight minutes each.

The City of Sheffield Water Polo Women's A team

The City of Sheffield Water Polo Women's A team

Throughout the years, the club has had numerous players be selected to represent the North East region and England.

More recent successes include Connor Carpenter who played for Great Britain with the under 19s, and Joel Abbott and Chris Armstrong who, as part of a team, were crowned winners of the EU Nations Water Polo Tournament in the Czech Republic last month.

Development is key in the club, which sees many players go on to become coaches. While you might think such a large team of varying ages and genders struggles to work in unison, Gabby begs to differ.

“Everybody in the club gets on, our ethos is that we’re a club and we’re a team.”

One of the City of Sheffield's Water Polo junior teams

One of the City of Sheffield's Water Polo junior teams

The younger sections recently took part in fundraising efforts, which saw them raise over £1,600 for Sport Relief and new kit.

Gabby added: “We are always advertising for new players. And we’re always open to new people coming in and joining.

“We welcome all abilities and all ages, all genders. We are an evolving club.”

The game is not just for swimming novices, but some ability is key.

”Obviously they need to be able to swim,” she explains. “But even some of the younger ones who have been through that aren’t as strong, they learn to swim through water polo.”

FACTFILE

The City of Sheffield Water Polo Men's A team

The City of Sheffield Water Polo Men's A team

Water polo has been played at the Olympic Games since being introduced in 1900, which saw men’s water polo become the first team sport at the games held in Paris.

However it wasn’t until more recently at the games held in Sydney where women’s water polo was introduced as a sport around 18 years ago.

The City of Sheffield Water Polo Women's B team

The City of Sheffield Water Polo Women's B team