No Whistle? No Pool Space? No Problem!

Water Polo programs across the country often find themselves struggling for the pool space and equipment they desire to train the way they would like to. Aquatic directors sometimes have the difficult job of partitioning pool space and funds out to multiple teams which all share a single facility at similar times. 

Unless a Water Polo program is lucky enough to have a large, multi-pool complex to call home, they might have to share a single 50m pool or smaller with swim teams, diving teams and the public. While a 20 or 25-player Water Polo practice may be comfortable with 7-9 lanes in the deep end of an olympic-sized pool, in some cases only or 3 or 4 lanes are available at a given time. In the summer, a swim club that switches to long-course training may have to practice at the same time as a water polo program. I have personally coached in facilities where it was not viable to use a whistle during certain portions of practice, or at all on some occasions. Perhaps only one wall of a pool may be used to place a goal, preventing a full course from being set up. Maybe, your club currently only has one goal to begin with! There are countless “what-if” scenarios that could be presented when it comes to describing less-than-optimum situations on deck.

Make no mistake, these are barriers to success that programs across the country face on a daily basis. Some might be fixable by altering practice times, implementing dry-land training, or simply having a respectful conversation with an individual in charge. Afterall, it may not be clear to someone unfamiliar with the sport why some of these aspects of training are important. Despite the inconvenience these restrictions may cause, they should not become excuses for poorly planned or executed training sessions. If it is not possible to change the rules or situation a program might find themselves in, the next best approach is to adapt and overcome. 

The goal should always be to get the most productive practice you can out of the time, equipment and space you have available for use. If any of these factors become restricted, creative problem solving becomes vital. For example, in the aforementioned case where my whistle use was restricted, I either used a whistle which had a different tone than those used by the lifeguards or I simply utilized exercises and drills where a whistle was not necessary. It may take some time, money, or effort  to make a lasting and effective adjustment. However, there is almost always a way to work around frustrating and sometimes illogical barriers placed in a Water Polo program’s path.

The more practice I have solving these problems as a coach, the easier it becomes to simply adjust fire and remain focused on trying to facilitate a quality training session. I have learned first and foremost to be a proactive problem solver by explaining the needs of the program respectfully and ahead of time with someone in charge of the facility or the lifeguarding staff. This is particularly true in parts of the country where water polo is not as commonplace; those people may just not be familiar with what Water Polo actually entails. 

If getting ahead of the curve in this manner proves unfruitful, I have found it very helpful to be candid with the team, and explain to them why we may have to conduct practices in an unorthodox manner. This helps players manage their expectations when it comes to the types of exercises that they may be asked to engage in, or think ahead of time about other personal adjustments they may want to make. As a coach in this situation, It helps to always have a library of useful drills on-hand which utilize a half-course set up, or which have many players utilizing one goal simultaneously. This way, the usefulness of pool space space and equipment can be maximized.

It is imperative to maintain the proper frame of mind when addressing situations like these. Once, I saw them as nuisances which could only negatively impact what would otherwise be a higher quality training cycle. While this can certainly still be the case, as a coach or team leader it is incredibly important to maintain a positive mental attitude. Practically speaking this means thinking about situations you cannot control as positives instead of negatives. Choose to treat them as opportunities to train harder than normal, rather than responding to them with resentment. 

It is possible that your rival team, whoever they are, gets brand new caps or balls every season while you’re stuck with old, barely functional ones from half a decade ago. They might have a newer, larger facility all to themselves. They may have all the newest training tools and unlimited deck space to store them for easy access. In the end, it doesn’t really matter. The playing field will be level when it comes time to compete.

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