Among the many swimming-based activities you can offer, few are more physically taxing than water polo. While possibly more intense than what the casual swimmer might be looking for, water polo is a great offering to attract some of your more competitive athletes.
“Of the many aquatic programs we offer to the community, water polo has been one of the smaller niche programs — yet it has a lot of potential,” said Cathy Smits, the aquatics facilities supervisor for the Provo Recreation Center in Provo, Utah. “In the past, we’ve also offered ‘Junior Polo’ to involve children to feed into the sport.”
Making the sport accessible for interested members is the first key to success, especially since water polo won’t naturally attract as many participants as free swim times. Knowing this, the Provo Rec Center has specific times blocked off for water polo in its pool.
“We provide the balls, caps, goals and venue, up to five lanes,” explained Smits. “We allow any member or non-member who has paid admission to drop in and play on Tuesdays and Thursdays, from 7 p.m to 8 p.m.”
In fact, in Smits’ experience, this free play style facilitates a sense of inclusivity. “The players unite amongst themselves to practice drills and set up matches,” she shared. “New players, at any level, are always welcome.”
Even though the sport is popular among a consistent following, the Provo Rec Center has still found success drawing in new participants through its marketing strategies, which incorporates a variety of platforms. “We use digital signage, social media and our website to advertise the program,” said Smits.
However, in spite of the engagement the Provo Rec Center is able to achieve through its water polo offering, the execution hasn’t always been smooth sailing.
“There are a few challenges for the program — it requires a lot of time to set up, especially in the transition from swim team to water polo,” said Smits. “Our staff must remove three to four lane lines, assemble and install the goals, and put in lanes and remove goals at the end.”
But if you have the available space and can invest in some of the basic equipment, water polo can be an effective method for drawing in a new demographic to your aquatics department.