Waterpolo looks like one of the most relaxing things you could ever hope to do with your time. You get to splash about in the water and play a gentle game of catch… right? Not quite. A lot of people do love Waterpolo and would jump at the opportunity to play professionally, but it’s certainly not an easy career choice!
What Is Waterpolo?
Waterpolo was voted the world’s toughest sport, above rugby and even boxing! Waterpolo players are not allowed to touch the floor of the pool at any point during the game, which means that they must tread water for the entire length of the match. If that wasn’t difficult enough, they also have to have the speed and agility to move through the water while controlling the ball or trying to take it from a member of the opposing team.
It is a game that will leave you battered and bruised and needs an incredible amount of stamina as well as the ability to work well as part of a team.
The game is thought to have originated in Scotland in the mid-19th century as ‘water rugby’. Men’s water polo was first played in the Olympics in 1900, but women’s water polo didn’t become an Olympic sport until the 2000 Sydney games after political protests from the Australian women’s team.
If you want to make a career out of waterpolo, the most important thing that you can do is join a team! If your high school has a water polo team then this is the best bet for getting scouted by a college team, or if they don’t, you could join a recognized water polo club locally.
Joining a team isn’t just important for getting noticed by a college scout, it’s also the best way for you to practice playing as part of a team as much as possible. Your coach will be able to help you with your technique, and your teammates could be potential contacts in your future career. Plus, it’s a great way to make friends and stay fit, so if you enjoy it there’s really no reason not to.
NCAA Water Polo
The college league for waterpolo is called the NCAA, and if you can play in the NCAA, you are putting yourself in the best possible position to get noticed by a scout or an Olympic coach. You are also giving yourself valuable experience of what it’s actually like to be a professional athlete, as college level athletes will travel the country and play against other teams.
The sport isn’t as big in the US as it is in Europe so there aren’t as many college teams as there are for other sports. There are 58 women’s programs in the NCAA, and 39 men’s programs. This means that competition for scholarships is pretty fierce. However, the fact that the sport is not as popular as other sports, like football, for example, does mean that you will probably stand a better chance of getting a scholarship based on waterpolo than on any other sport.
As well as giving you valuable experience of playing the game at a high level, Waterpolo Scholarships will help exponentially towards the cost of your college education. Provided that you have the right grades and you are a talented waterpolo player, organizations like ASM can help you to secure a scholarship at a college. On average for each client, they secure $30,000 per year, which will certainly help you with your tuition!
Getting recruited to a college team is all about building relationships, so be proactive. Do your research on which schools with waterpolo teams you want to play for and reach out to the coach. Be persistent and be sure to show them why you would be a recruit once you have built rapport by sending across your scores and record. You could even send video footage of you playing to really wow them.
Be Prepared to Move
Most of the colleges in America that have a waterpolo team are in the northeast, or on the west coast. If you are serious about playing for a college team, then you will need to choose a school that has a water polo team and that will mean moving to those areas.
For your career post college, the better men’s waterpolo teams are located in countries like Croatia and Hungary because the sport is much more popular there. For women, the US teams are actually pretty good. Sorry men, you may have to do a stint abroad if you want to make it!
Get a Degree
As with any other sport, the career of an athlete comes with an expiry date. Even if you make it all the way to the Olympics (wouldn’t that be amazing?) chances are that you aren’t going to have earned enough by the time you retire to mean that you never have to work again.
If you are passionate about waterpolo, you absolutely should pursue it, but you also need to think longer term. Leverage your waterpolo scholarship to get yourself a good quality degree which you can use to turn into a career later on.
The obvious career choice for a retired sports professional is to become a coach. You could work in a school or in another community organization, teaching the sport to up and coming stars and sharing your love of it with them.
If you want to be a coach you will need a teaching degree, and you will probably need to have a credential in a core subject like English, Maths, or Science. Use your time at college to get qualified and chase your Waterpolo dreams at the same time, and then you’ll be set up for life.
Start Your Own Business
If you don’t like the idea of teaching, you could always work with athletes in another way. For example, Olympic medalist Terry Schroeder got a chiropractic degree and set up his business, while coaching a college team in his spare time and holding summer clinics in Malibu for young polo hopefuls. If you use your time at college wisely, your waterpolo talent could mean that you’re set for life.