Barnet Borough Council has signed up to the Give it a Go scheme to encourage more people to take up sport. Reporters Anna Slater and Natalie O’Neill headed down to Queen Elizabeth Boys’ School, in Queens Road, to join Watford Water Polo Club and try a sport they had never played before. Here’s how it went...
When I signed Natalie and I up to play water polo, I had visions it would be similar to the games of Marco Polo I remember from my childhood holidays in Spain.
I was so, so wrong.
Let me start by telling you I am not the world’s best swimmer. When I step into the water, it’s not exactly the most graceful of scenes. The Anna Crawl, they call it.
But the good thing about Barnet Council’s new Give it a Go scheme is that you don’t have to be talented at something to, er, give it a go.
After hearing stories from friends about how violent it can be, I asked water polo instructor David Shepherd to “go easy on us” and luckily, he agreed to put us on the children’s team.
“In this day and age, it’s important to get children to try out as many different sports as possible. This is a unique way to get fit and they all love it – we can’t get them out of the pool at the end.
“The good thing about water polo is that you don’t have to be a champion swimmer to do it. There’s actually nothing violent about the way we play it here,” he said, as we stood by the poolside in our bikinis.
We dived (well, Natalie dived – I sort of fell) into the pool and David began talking us through the rules of the game.
It’s played in the deep end, so you need to know how to eggbeat. It might sound ominous, but it’s actually similar to treading water and really easy to do.
We joined in with some warm up exercises, where we had to swim with a ball out in front of us to work on different ball handling techniques.
I was breathing pretty hard after the first few laps, but I soon found my flow, and began to really enjoy it.
By this point, we were feeling energised and all of our previous fears about the sport had gone.
Natalie and I were really looking forward to playing a game of our own, and our competitive sides shone through when we were split into separate teams.
The sport is like a cross between football and basketball, and each team has to try and score into goals at the opposite end of the pool.
Everything in water polo is one handed, so it took some time to ignore the impulse of catching with two hands while trying to eggbeat. Multitasking is not my forte either, but I soon got the hang of it.
While swimming towards our goal, I spoke to some of the welcoming players who were more than happy to gush about how fantastic the club is.
Zack Kovacs and Max Cohen, both ten, came running towards me after the game was over to praise the club.
“It helps us strengthen our leg muscles and just generally let off steam after school, we love coming here,” they agreed.
At eight-years-old, Bryce Myburgh is one of the younger players. He said: “It’s tough but that shouldn’t scare people away, because it’s really fun.”
He’s right. Even though I’m not the best swimmer, Natalie and I both agreed the sport gave us a bit of a buzz. I’d definitely recommend it to anyone who wants to get into shape, or generally try something new.
Oh, and in case you’re wondering – Natalie’s team won. The one with me on it didn’t stand a chance. Sorry, guys.
*Water polo is open to people of all ages and everyone is entitled to a free six week trial. For more information, visit www.giveitago.org/