It is important to recognize that not all athletes at Bates compete under the NCAA Division III banner. Last year, the Bates women’s water polo team, a club sport, succeeded at defeating all the teams in Maine during a weekend tournament held at Bates’s own Tarbell Pool, earning them the title of Maine State Champions. This year, the team is coming back with a splash, as experienced team members and beginners alike come together for some fun competition in the pool.
The women’s water polo team began informal practices in February; however, they were not able to begin using the pool until after February break. Now, with access to the pool, a normal day of practice for them may include dry land work, swim sets, and general water polo skills such as dribbling, shooting, defense, and practicing formations. All of these skills are brought together during scrimmages, which are held every Friday.
On March 3-4, the women’s water polo team competed in their first two-day tournament at Yale University, where they proudly beat Bowdoin in an exhibition match 5-0. This tournament proved challenging for the women’s water polo team, because they only had five days of practice in the pool preceding this event.
“The way our schedule worked out coming back from February break, we had done some really casual team runs and team lifts… but we don’t have pool time until after February break, and so we only had literally five days of practice before our first tournament,” team captain Ashley Kulesza ‘18 says.
This would be tough for any member of the team, no matter their experience level. However, as many of the team members this year are beginners, it proved especially challenging.
“When you’re coming in with a young roster with a lot of beginners who don’t necessarily know the sport… it’s really rough getting in your first game and not really knowing what to do or what to expect,” Kulesza says. “As much as we had this barrier, I’m really proud of how it all happened. I saw so much talent and hustle that weekend that I’m really excited for our next few tournaments, and having these weeks to actually practice and get some experience and game time in scrimmages will really help our outcomes and record, I think.”
It is interesting to note that the women’s water polo team does not have a coach. Instead, team captains come together to discuss expectations for the team and help teach beginners. As a club team, this sport is meant to be competitive, but also fun. Since there is no coach, captains and team members with relevant experience are instructional during training.
“Sam Tyler is our varsity athlete swimmer who has been really great stepping up and helping us really focus on [our technique],” Kulesza says. “You swim on a swim team, and it’s about time, but you swim in a water polo game, and it’s about being fast, but also about swimming smart. She’s been really awesome about coaching us through how to swim smart and to get in shape for water polo.”
Water polo is a tough sport. Swimming and treading are important, but these tasks take on a whole new level of difficulty when one must also maneuver the ball around the pool and into the net.
“If you’re not an aggressive person or a strong swimmer, just that physicality of the sport can be tough for people,” Kulesza says. “I think that’s the most difficult aspect, but it’s also a really fine aspect if you get into it and have that mentality.”
The women’s water polo team is always open to new people who would like to try out the sport. Practices are held from 6:30 to 8 p.m. in Tarbell Pool Tuesday through Thursday, and team scrimmages are on Friday at 5:30.
“Anyone who is interested can just show up any day and hop in with us,” says co-captain Margaret “Meg” Robinson ‘18. “All it takes is a swimsuit and little toughness, and we can teach you how to play!”